Vitamins and supplements have obviously been around for ages, but a lot of us still don’t really know why we should be taking them nor which we should be taking depending on our lifestyle. We’ve teamed up with Vitl to give our Pocket customers all the information.
Let’s start at the very beginning; vitamins and minerals are known as micronutrients and are nutrients that the body needs to function normally. They have wide-ranging roles in the body from playing supporting roles in hormones (e.g brain neurotransmitters) and blood cell production, to helping our bodies transform the food we eat into energy our cells can use.
Vitamins and minerals are naturally found in food, with large amounts found in fruit and vegetables, wholegrains and animal derived products. Certain foods are very micronutrient dense, often dubbed ‘superfoods’ which was a hot topic a few years back. For instance, the large quantities of bioactive compounds place blueberries high on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index. This index rates foods based on their vitamin and mineral content, phytochemical composition, and antioxidant capacity. Other foods that are high on the list include kale, collard greens and watercress.
If I’m active, healthy and eating all my fruits and vegetables why would I need to supplement?
It’s a common question why someone should supplement when we can get nutrients from food. Let’s unpack a few reasons why we need to supplement:
A tomato or broccoli floret unfortunately doesn’t contain the same amount of micronutrients that it used to. With the global population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, soil degradation is becoming an increasing threat to the nutrient density of our diets. So eating a varied diet is not always sufficient in providing our body with the essential nutrients that it needs to function optimally.
Many people nowadays are living in sedentary lifestyles, with constant grazing habits, poor sleep regimes and with processed foods making up the majority of their diets. We think we’re all guilty of this increasing over the past year and a half. The typical diet is high in calories but nutrient poor. The diet is typically high in refined grains, sodium, saturated fats and falls short of important nutrients such as fibre, potassium, magnesium, vitamin D and calcium, leading to what we call the “nutrient gap.”
Along with our new sedentary lifestyles, who else can say they’ve had an increase in lifestyle stressors? *Raises hand*. Well unfortunately, mental, physical and emotional stress has been shown to affect absorption, digestive functions and cause inflammation. There are currently up to 300,000 sufferers of Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) in the UK with rising prevalence of this disease worldwide.
People are using stimulants such as coffee, tea, tobacco and alcohol more than ever. Of course this is dependent on timing, type/amount and frequency. As an example, caffeine can cause nutrient depletion of important nutrients like vitamin B6, whilst also interfering with nutrient absorption of essential minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium and B vitamins.
There are also times throughout our lives that our body requires more of certain nutrients that our typical diet can supply…
For example, you would need more folate and B12 during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and vitamin D and calcium during menopause for those aged above 50 years. For those with a very active lifestyle, you may need more magnesium, calcium, potassium and sodium for optimal muscle function. A tip for our female runners reading this - you may want to look at incorporating an iron supplement into your diet.
With the rise of more plant-based eating - which is undoubtedly better for the health of our planet - it is important to consider that some essential nutrients can only be obtained from animal sources, such as vitamin B12 and, to a certain extent, iron. So for our vegan and veggie readers, Vitl recommends monitoring your nutrient intake closely and doing a blood test regularly to check your levels.
Our genes can also play a role in how we metabolise certain micronutrients. Mutations in the MTHFR gene can be the reason for a folate deficiency, due to the lack of functionality of the enzyme involved in the production of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, the active form of folate.
Vitl tells us it is important to supplement our diets with high quality vitamins that can counteract all of the above mentioned points. We can achieve optimal health and healthy aging if we focus on optimising our environment, lifestyle and diet.
What is the Nutrient Gap?
We sometimes refer to the Nutrient Gap, which is the term used to describe the discrepancy between the foods we consume and a sufficient nutrient status. As mentioned above, with the global population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, soil degradation is becoming an increasing threat to the nutrient density of our diets. As nutrients are taken out of the soil through farming, they are not often returned - this is referred to as nutrient mining, which will in turn affect the nutrient value of the next harvest. With this and other processing factors, such as cooking, boiling, heating, freezing, blanching, etc., the nutritional value of our food dramatically decreases by the time it reaches our plates.
Vitl’s goal is to provide access to personalised nutrition to everyone. No seriously… we mean personalised. The quiz on the website is also so fun to take! By asking questions around diet and lifestyle, they are able to accurately determine which nutrients an individual may lack.
We are all biochemically unique & lead different lifestyles, which means a ‘one size fits all’ approach can leave our bodies lacking when it comes to nutrition. A personalised approach allows you to get the nutrients relevant to your body, and lead your optimal life.
Vitl can provide you with the essential nutrients required to fill this nutrient gap, and allow you to function 100% everyday.
Go ahead and take their free online health quiz to see your recommendations today, and you can also take their blood or DNA tests for a more in-depth analysis.
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