Do I Supplement or Eat Real Food?

Do I Supplement or Eat Real Food?

I want to eat healthy, but I recently learned that our soils are depleted of nutrients. What supplements do you recommend in place of minerals and vitamins? – Jen W., Email

First and foremost, it is important to know that as a result of today’s agricultural advances, we have a greater variety and abundance of produce than ever before. Fruits and vegetables are available in abundance and remain some of the most nutrient-dense foods around. Matter of fact, some plant-based foods yield more minerals: carrots, for instance, supply 75 percent more beta carotene today than they did 30 years ago.

What many people aren’t aware of is that even though growing crops tends to wear out the soil – our farmers, government, and scientists make it a priority to replace lost minerals to improve and maintain soil quality.

To bring more clarity to the relationship between our soil and the produce we consume, consider this: plants don’t grow properly if nutrients in the soil are inadequate. Surprisingly, vitamins are created by plants. But, minerals (i.e., potassium, calcium, iron) come from the soil. The point I am making is that when minerals aren’t present in the soil, the plant may droop, fail to flower, and could die. Or the fruits and vegetables that are produced may not be sold because of poor appearance.

You may be thinking, “If our soils are so great, why is it so popular that our soils are depleted?” There are studies that have concluded that some crops have demonstrated small declines in certain minerals, while others have not. What many of these studies fail to shed light on is how nutrients can vary from one batch of produce to another, depending on the weather and other factors. It’s not surprising that soil depletion is a common subject when vitamins and mineral supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry.

Then you have the advocates of organic produce who make a compelling case that organic is more nutritious. The fact is this: organic may be healthier for the environment, but non-organic still supplies similar levels of vitamins and minerals.

Bottom line: eat a variety of fruits and vegetables and avoid being influenced to supplement your nutrients out of fear that our soil has been damaged. Again, we have a greater variety and abundance of produce than ever before.


Robert Ferguson is the Health Ambassador of Stayhealthy, Inc., founder of Diet Free Life, nutritionist, fitness professional and Board Member on the Presidential Task Force on Obesity for the National Medical Association. He’s been dubbed the “America’s Fat Loss Coach and is considered a leading voice on wellness and weight loss.

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