According to Statista, the functional food industry (which includes vitamins, supplements and foods with added nutrients, herbs or probiotics) is projected to generate over 440 billion dollars in 2022 – and with good reason. Hectic lifestyles are common these days, and it's difficult for most people to squeeze in a relaxed, nutritious meal. Not to mention the fact that, as we age, our digestive systems grow less effective and we lose nutrient absorption. Simultaneously, on America’s farmlands, depleted soil results in our food containing fewer vitamins and minerals than it once did.
Are supplements the answer to all these problems?
I don't believe in magic bullets, but I do believe supplementation has its place. The Center for Disease Control reports most people don't get enough iron, B vitamins, antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, vitamin D, and minerals calcium and magnesium. People on special diets can especially miss out on vital nutrients. If you follow a vegan diet, for example, check out this article for nutrients you may need to supplement in your diet.
In my personal experience, eating a well-balanced, plant-forward diet is the foundation of health. I like to fill my plate with at least 50% vegetables, or even more if my body feels “off”. Eating organic, vibrant greens is especially important right now, as many of us are dealing with the “COVID-15” (that 15 pounds of weight gained via nervously binge-eating our COVID-19 food stockpiles)!
If you’re looking to get more vitamins and minerals into your diet, don’t go running to the pharmacy just yet. Instead, take a hard look at your pantry. Meal planning is a great way to make sure you have plenty of nutrient-dense ingredients on hand. It makes grocery shopping a lot quicker too! Of course we all love to snack, so don’t forget quick bites like raw nuts and seeds and fresh fruit. Skip the refined, overly processed snack foods, sodas, pasta, bread and baked pastries that fill you up with empty calories. With just a little more forethought, you will easily find nutrient-dense replacements for all those “guilty pleasures”!
If, after mindful examination, you find that you do want to incorporate some supplements into your routine, ALWAYS favor ones made from whole foods. A "whole food supplement" is comprised of a complex formula that includes whole food-based plant ingredients, plant extracts, and far fewer synthetic ingredients than conventional supplements. These are more effectively absorbed by our bodies, meaning you'll get better results for your money. A few great companies that offer this type of supplement are Gaia Herbs, Standard Process and New Chapter.
NOTE: Not all supplements are vegan or vegetarian friendly. Always read ingredients labels carefully!