As far back as 1946, the government published a recommended balanced diet based on The Basic Seven (yes, food groups) which evolved into several decades of “food pyramids” and in 2011 “My Plate” was introduced. The good news is with this evolution and the introduction of My Plate, the identified food groups have been reduced to 4—vegetables, fruits, grains, and proteins—with dairy on the side, literally.
For years, our primary care physicians have pointed us to these public health guidelines as the answer to nutrition and wellness. Follow these guidelines, we’ve been told, and you won’t need to supplement your diet—you won’t need vitamins.
Not so fast. A recent New York Times Magazine piece explained clearly how we have been “Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food” and how we have been doing it for a while. This means that despite a “balanced diet,” chances are you are not getting the nutrients you need. Most of the produce we consume is “relatively low in phytonutrients” —the biological properties in fruits and vegetables that keep us healthy and allow our systems to function normally. Phytonutrients with the anti-cancer, anti-oxidant , anti-inflammatory, pro-metabolism effects are the antidotes to the common so called “Western Diseases”.
The concept of designer fruit and vegetables is traceable to European settlers who were complicit in making corn taste sweeter and more homogenized of color. The bottom line is that food isn’t what it used to be 10,000 years ago, it isn’t even what it was 50 years ago. And while the settlers modified corn for taste and aesthetic the biggest distortion of natures balance may be in big food company’s mass production of food for global markets. The foods we eat, because we don’t consume wild grown vegetation, no longer contain these potent life preserving nutrients found in exotic “heirloom” vegetables or “superfoods”.
To be certain, there are specific herbs and nutrients that can be targeted to treat illness and I use them to help my patients every day. But the wake up call is that even if you are healthy, we humans evolved in concert with vegetation that was rich in vitamins and nutrients that are no longer present in concentrations high enough to void off illness, enhance longevity and combat environmental assault of the modern age.
All of this is to say that taking a good multivitamin that contains all of the active co-enzymes with antioxidants and phytonutrients to complement your diet is a really good idea. With regards to your diet, I would recommend you make a great effort to consume vegetables that are fresh, organic and rich in anti-oxidants and phytonutrients. Brightly colored veggies have higher concentrations of antioxidants and large quantities of herbs, scallions, arugula and blue / purple berries (e.g. Acai) are rich in these disease-preventing compounds that will give you a fighting chance at living a longer and healthier life.