To Supplement or Not to Supplement-That is the Question

I was traveling in a third-world country, happily munching on a carrot I’d bought in the market when I realized it tasted NOTHING like my carrots back home! It was full of flavor and a deep orange color; it almost tasted like some sort of hybrid super carrot! I realized this is what a carrot SHOULD taste like!

This got me thinking about what else is missing from our food besides flavor. Ugh. Yep, there is mounting concern that the nutritional content of foods is impacted by soil depletion. Research has verified the decline in the nutrient content of fruits, vegetables, and grains over the past several decades. For example, a study of 43 different fruits and veggies published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2004 reported “reliable declines” in protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and vitamin C in 43 different fruits and vegetables between 1950 and 1999.

Ironically, in commercial farming’s lust to make the perfect carrot (for example), one that’s large, has a fast growth rate, and is pest resistant, they’ve proverbially crashed and burned. As Dr. Donald Davis of the above-mentioned study says, “…their ability to manufacture or uptake nutrients has not kept pace with their rapid growth.” Unfortunately, my bland carrot and each of its successive generations of scientifically modified super-carrots seem to be less and less nutritious, and I may add, delicious.

The issues stem from modern agricultural practices, such as monocropping, overuse of chemical fertilizers, and heavy tilling. These practices have all contributed to the depletion of soil nutrients and the crops that grow in them! Practices that damage soil health can diminish these microbial populations, impacting plant nutrient uptake. Healthy soil teems with microorganisms that help plants absorb nutrients. 

However, these factors are not the only ones that impact a person’s ability to get proper nutrition from the food they eat. Here are some additional reasons why some go lacking.

Dietary Insufficiencies

Poor Diet: The typical American diet is high in processed foods low in fruits and vegetables, and NOT the best choice for our nutrition.

Restricted Diets: People following vegan, vegetarian, or other restrictive diets may lack specific vitamins found predominantly in animal products, such as vitamin B12, iron, and vitamin D.

Health Conditions

Malabsorption Issues: Conditions like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and other gastrointestinal disorders can impair nutrient absorption.

Chronic Illnesses: Chronic diseases, such as diabetes or kidney disease, can affect the body’s ability to utilize or absorb vitamins.

Post-Surgery Needs: Individuals who have undergone bariatric surgery or other gastrointestinal surgeries may require supplements to compensate for reduced nutrient absorption.

Lifestyle Factors

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Increased nutritional needs during pregnancy and breastfeeding often necessitate vitamin supplements, such as folic acid, iron, and calcium.

High Physical Activity: Athletes and individuals with high physical activity levels may require additional vitamins to support their metabolism and recovery.

Stress: Chronic stress can deplete specific vitamins, such as B and C, necessitating supplementation.

Age-Related Needs:

Children and Adolescents: Growing children and teenagers may need supplements, such as vitamin D and calcium, to support their rapid growth and development.

Elderly: Older adults often have decreased nutrient absorption and may require vitamin B12, D, and calcium supplements to maintain health and prevent deficiencies.

Environmental Factors:

Limited Sun Exposure: People living in areas with limited sunlight or those who spend most of their time indoors may need vitamin D supplements.

Pollution and Toxins: Exposure to environmental toxins and pollutants can increase the body’s need for antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E.


Drug Interactions: Certain medications can interfere with the absorption or metabolism of vitamins, requiring supplementation to prevent deficiencies. For example, long-term use of proton pump inhibitors can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency.

The Impact on Our Health

As challenging as it can be on our wallets and our lifestyle, eating fresh fruits and vegetables and the fiber they contain is the ideal way to get our nutrition. As food’s nutrient density, which refers to the amount of nutrients per calorie, declines, we are encouraged to consume more food to achieve the same nutrient intake, which can be tricky (as much as I like carrots…) and impractical. 

To compensate for deficiencies in our food supply and our own ability to assimilate nutrition, we, fortunately, have quality vitamin and mineral supplementation available today. These supplements are rigorously tested and regulated to ensure they contain the stated amount of nutrients. They come in various forms, such as tablets, capsules, and gummies, making it easy to find one that suits your needs. They can help us get an adequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals despite the environment we live in!

And there you have it, folks. In our quest to create the ultimate super-carrot, we’ve wound up with vegetables that taste more like cardboard than culinary delight. So next time you munch on a carrot, just remember it’s not you, it’s the soil. Or maybe it’s both. Either way, you might want to keep that multivitamin handy. Bon appétit!


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* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.