It’s fair to say that most of you reading this article won’t be starving in the conventional sense of the word – even if you are reading this during the dreaded 3pm slump.
So it may surprise you to be told that many people nowadays are starving on a full stomach. This contradiction makes sense when you realise that while we are fuelled by plenty of food and ‘calories’, we are often deficient in all the little players of nutrition – the vitamins, minerals and secondary nutrients that provide the keys to our body’s proper function.
There are several reasons for this:
- Increased stress demands
- Soil degradation
- A longer ‘food chain’
- Lack of variety in food choices
In the modern world we are surrounded by stressors, and unlike our ancestors roaming the savannah thousands of years ago, we are not always able to simply respond to the stress and then relax. In other words, we are surrounded nowadays by paper tigers that we can’t run away from!
This results in higher levels of residual stress which drives a ‘fight or flight’ response within the body. This can be very exhausting. We require increased levels of nutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium and zinc to effectively recover from these stressors.
Our foods are considered to be much lower in nutrients than they were several decades ago due to intensive farming practices and the use of simple NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium) fertilisers which do not fully replenish the micronutrients in soil. As a result, we need to boost our nutrient intake.
Longer Food Chain
Many vitamins and minerals begin to break down when exposed to heat, light and air. This effect increases over time and, with farms now further away from markets, there is a greater degradation of food nutrient content.
Lack of variety
Many of us don’t have a very varied diet – especially with respect to vegetables, herbs and berries. Often we routinely eat only three or four types of vegetables, many of which have very similar nutrient profiles. Decades ago, through choice and necessity, people ate a greater variety of seasonal foods grown locally or in home gardens.
I remember that my grandparents would include foods like nasturtiums, coltsfoot, hawkweed and dandelion from out of the garden. Basically if it was edible, we’d eat it! These foods were not only readily available but extremely nutritious. They are packed with B vitamins, potassium and other nutrients as well as being gently medicinal and cleansing. We now miss out on the benefits of many of these traditional foods.
There are several ways that we can increase our nutrient status.
1. Eat 6 servings of vegetables per day
With our depleted soils, the first thing we do is to simply eat more vegetables! And try to vary the vegetables from time-to-time.
2. Eat two to three serves of berries per day
Berries are Nature’s multi-vitamin. They are packed with the highly antioxidant compounds that help to reduce free radical damage associated with the visible signs of aging, and, the effects of inflammation associated with disorders like cancer, heart disease and metabolic syndrome.
3. Use a quality greens product
Quality greens products are a great way to pack more nutrition into our daily diet.
4. Eat organic where possible
Organic foods provide higher levels of the secondary antioxidant nutrients that support health and vitality.
5. Make super-smoothies
Smoothies are a great way to increase nutrient content. Start with a quality protein and then add any number of berries, vegetables, greens powders and/or berry powders along with healthy fats like macadamia oil or coconut cream for improved brain health and energy.
About the Author:
Cliff Harvey is a naturopath and registered clinical nutritionist with a clinic on Auckland’s North Shore. Cliff also lectures on the topic of sports nutrition at Auckland’s Wellpark College and runs education programmes for trainers, coaches, naturopaths and nutritionists. He is pursuing research at AUT University in the area of nutritional metabolism.
Over the past 15 years Cliff has worked with many high-performing athletes competing at Olympic, world championship and Commonwealth Game level.