By Juliette Bryant, nutritional consultant.
While great swathes of the UK population are suffering from food intolerances these days, another more hidden issue that is creating even greater problems for people’s health is nutritional deficiency.
There are a number of reasons why nutritional deficiency is on the increase. Some of the nutrients in our food, particularly minerals, come largely from the nutrients in the soil. But soil erosion and industrial-scale farming have led to a massive reduction in soil nutrient levels.
Another problem is that poor gut health leads to the poor absorption of whatever nutrients are left. This means it is not so much that ‘we are what we eat’ but rather ‘we are what we absorb’. But to make matters worse, many people are also over-indulging in processed food, which is often devoid of nutrients in the first place.
The University of Texas published a landmark study on the topic as long ago as December 2004 in the ‘Journal of the American College of Nutrition’. It studied US Department of Agriculture nutritional data from 1950 and 1999 relating to 43 different vegetables and fruits.
The study revealed there had been “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C found in our food over the last half century. It also showed that this situation was mainly down to agricultural practices designed to improve produce size, growth rate and pest resistance – but not nutritional content.
Meanwhile, Volkert Engelsman, an activist with the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements warned a forum at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome in 2014 that: “We are losing 30 soccer fields of soil every minute, mostly due to intensive farming.”
In fact, he added, most current farming methods are so destructive that they are leading to the serious erosion of our top soil, which could be completely depleted within three generations. This situation would inevitably lead to major global food production challenges.
So what key nutrients are people deficient in today and what we can do to overcome the situation? The first and most important piece of advice is, where possible, always seek to gain your nutrition from food sources rather than chemical pills as human bodies have a limited ability to absorb synthetic ingredients.
Here are some of the nutrients that you need:
Essential fats are vital for cellular-level processes to take place in the body and are key to brain and nerve function. The best sources are nuts, seeds, avocado, olive and algae oil, marine phytoplankton and oily fish – but do not eat too much of the latter as they can contain high levels of heavy metals. A vegan omega three supplement made from blue-green algae oil is another good source too.
It is important to consume a wide range of minerals for good health, although some are required in only very small amounts. Linus Pauling, who twice won the Nobel Prize, once said: “You can trace every sickness, disease and ailment to a mineral deficiency.”
Magnesium is a key mineral that plays in important role in mental and heart health, sleep and general wellbeing. It is also one that most people are deficient in – studies suggest this may be true of as many as 80% of US citizens. Magnesium can be found in whole grains, leafy greens and raw chocolate. I recommend a supplement called ReMag as it has a high absorption rate.
Iodine is an important mineral for your metabolism and is the key to a healthy thyroid. It can be obtained from sea vegetables such as seaweed.
Zinc plays a key role in supporting a healthy immune system and enables wounds to heal effectively. Good sources include pumpkin seeds, lentils, almonds and bee pollen.
Vitamin D has been in the news a lot lately. The short-sighted advice of the last 20 years that has told us to fear the sun has contributed to a chronic vitamin D deficiency in the UK. This situation is tragic as vitamin D is required for many cellular functions to occur. The best source is the sun, although during a UK winter, it is unlikely you will get enough. Some mushrooms if dried in the sun can be a useful source, but the latest advice is to take it as a food supplement from autumn onwards. I take Vitamin D3 with a K2 supplement throughout autumn and winter.
Vitamin C is another nutrient you may become deficient in due to toxins, stress, prescription drugs and smoking, but it is essential for the immune system and your general health. The best sources are rosehips, acerola cherry, amla, camu camu and lemon, but there are reasonable amounts in many fruits and vegetables.
Here is one of my favourite superfood smoothie recipes to give you a great nutritional boost:
1 cup of water
¼ cup of kale or spinach
1 tbs raw chocolate powder
1 tsp Juliette’s Kitchen supergreen mix (or alternative)
2 tbs omega seed mix
¼ cup of ice
Blend and serve.
Juliette Bryant is an author, nutritional consultant, superfood chef and presenter who runs courses, talks, workshops and retreats around the world. Her passion is helping people to thrive by showing them how to make delicious and healthy food. Juliette runs a busy practice providing nutritional consultations to individuals and businesses worldwide.
OTHER ARTICLES THAT MAY INTEREST YOU