While a lot of research has been done investigating how the nutrients in food impacts our health, there are probably many other nutrients and chemicals within food that we have yet to uncover. These may be impacting our health in unknown ways, ways nutrition researchers are continuously investigating. The magic of food, specifically whole, relatively unprocessed foods, is the synergy of nutrients interacting and working together within the body. That magic is something we do not get in a pill, shake or nutrient concoction sold on the shelves. There is no better source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals than those found in our whole foods. This is why I advocate food first.
Food first means we look to food to fuel our bodies for all nutrient needs before reaching for a supplement to nourish our body and aid our daily functions. Whether you’re an active individual or athlete, ensuring your diet has a balanced foundation should come before investing in a supplement protocol. What you may find is that your workouts or performance are not optimal due to an inadequate diet. Until that is resolved, your body cannot perform, recover and reap the benefits of your hard work. There is a place and time for safe and thoroughly researched supplements with evidence based protocols. Many athletes, active and health seeking individuals can benefit from these. For the majority of active individuals and recreational athletes, a properly balanced diet in line with your activity level can help you achieve and accomplish your goals.
Popular supplements like vitamins and minerals are useful when you have an inadequate intake from food and are directed by a health professional after a thorough analysis, typically of a biochemical marker (ie. blood sample or urine analysis). As noted in a meta-analysis by Farin Kamangar and Ashkan Emadi in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine, excessive intake of certain vitamins and minerals have shown harmful to health, including increasing risk for diseases in like cancers and cardiovascular risk, or lack benefits to health. By including variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, you will most likely get what you need.
Another reason why I advocate food first: the supplement industry is unregulated. What this means is that the ingredients the bottle claims to include is not overseen by the FDA. Many studies have revealed contamination, false claims, and that what was purported to be in the supplement was not actually in the bottle. This is especially true for sports supplements, an industry with a projected worth of $45 billion by 2020, according to Zion Market Research.
Here are some quick, general tips to ensure your diet is balanced:
- Incorporate nutrient dense fruits and vegetables into the majority of you meals. Most of our vitamins and minerals come from these, so add a variety that you enjoy.
- Consume enough protein from chicken, fish, beef, eggs, yogurt, beans and legumes, and soy products with each meal, especially with breakfast and with meals after your workouts. Protein is essential to help repair hard worked muscles.
- Include carbohydrate rich foods, especially on days you have a long or tough workout session, like rice, quinoa, whole grain breads, and potatoes. Carbohydrates are your primary fuel source, so ensure a steady supply throughout the day.
- Moderate fat intake mostly from plant based sources like nuts, nut butters, avocado, and oils. Fat is essential for your body to function and should not be ignored.
If you are seeking a more personalized approach to a food first, balanced diet, reach out to me on my contact page. Stay tuned for more nutrition for health and fitness each week!