When Whole Foods​ Aren't Enough

Scavenging the internet, there’s no shortage of healthy recipes, superfood smoothies, and articles promoting the benefits of eating whole foods. While eating vegetables and leafy greens can be incredibly beneficial to our health, the issue arises when we think that our plant-rich diets mean that we don’t need to take supplements. Of course, in a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to take supplements. However, in 2019, I believe it is near, if not entirely, impossible to do this to get all of our nutritional needs met from our diets.

Problem 1: Loss of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients in our fruits and vegetables.

Throughout the last tens of thousands of years, humans have incidentally been stripping away essential nutrients by breeding more palatable fruits and vegetables—increasing sweetness and decreasing bitterness in our diets. The fruits and vegetables we know and love today are much lower in vitamins, minerals and healthy fats than wild fruits and vegetables, and unsurprisingly, significantly higher in sugar.

As an example, the wild plant purslane has six times more vitamin E and 14 times more omega-3 fatty acids than spinach, and seven times more carotene than carrots. Wild apples, too, have on average 475 times more phytonutrients than modern varieties. The reality is that most of us don’t have access to wild plants like this, hence why supplementation is a good idea. To learn more about how nutrition has shifted over time, and how to maximize the bioavailability of nutrients in our food today, I highly recommend picking up Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson.

Problem 2: Chemical farming has destroyed our soils. 

Healthy soils put the medicine into our food. Unfortunately, chemical farming has left our soils so depleted that the nutritional value of our foods is a mere fraction of what it used to be. The fruits and vegetables that most of us have access to are simply not providing us with what we would find if we were to research their respectful nutritional profile (especially when it comes to non-organic, conventionally grown produce).

Some of these foods, like non-organic strawberries, cucumber and kale, are actually harmful to our health due to the egregious amount of pesticides used which can significantly disrupt our gut microbiome. As we have all been exposed in one way or another, certain gut support supplements can be incredibly useful, such as l-glutamine and beneficial probiotics. RESTORE is another product that I’ve used for a while, designed to restore your gut microbiome and protect it from even more harm from certain environmental contaminants in our food, water, and even air (more on this below).

Problem 3: Environmental conditions, toxins and pollutants.

Our nutritional needs have never been higher due to pollutants in our air, water and food supply. This, in addition to fluorescent lights, high-stress, lack of sunlight and our general disconnection with nature, affects our bodies in countless ways. It is not surprising that the vast majority of the American public are deficient in both Vitamin D and magnesium—perhaps the two most important nutrients for health and longevity. With so much detracting on a daily basis, our bodies need maximal nutrition in order to be able to heal from these unnatural conditions and substances—hence a heightened need for many important nutrients via supplementation.

This isn’t to say that you can get the benefits of eating well from supplementation. In fact, eating a plant-rich, whole foods diet and supplementing is essential to do together—especially to the extent that eating whole foods is preventing you from consuming processed, inflammatory foods. I often see signs such as “do no harm” and “leave no trace” on hiking trails, because when left alone, nature can rebuild and heal itself. Our bodies are the same in many ways, and for that reason, removing unhealthy foods is just as important than (if not a prerequisite to) the addition of superbly healthy foods or supplements. (Of course, being careful about which supplements we introduce is a whole other topic. For an overview of my top recommendations, click here.)


Joe DiStefano

Joe has been a wellness and performance coach for over 15 years. His teachings focus on engraining profound mindset shifts, giving individuals the courage and the tools to align their actions with their objectives throughout daily life.