Minding the Gaps – The Modern Environment and Separation from Optimal Nutrition
For those of us who didn’t grow up in tandem with the world wide web, Smartphone in hand, the convenience and ease of access to information in the modern environment may seem especially wondrous. The upsides of consumer technology are many, including increased awareness of lifestyle factors in the promotion of health, vitality and longevity. No longer a blip on the radar of health professionals, discussion of ever-increasing research supporting the importance of diet and lifestyle factors is common. Thank you internet, social media, and tireless aficionados of the pithy tweet. # Salute.
However, awareness doesn’t equate to real-world change. While there are some encouraging signs (e.g. Canadians are now more physically active), the nutritional gaps remain glaring. Thus far, awareness hasn’t translated.
Today, 74% of the us did not meet minimum fruit and vegetable guidelines. Those over 50 manage only 0.8 servings of dark green vegetables and 0.5 servings of orange-coloured fruits and vegetables per day! Research shows marked increases in the consumption of ultra-processed, ready-to-heat dishes – while stables like unprocessed roots and tubers are trending down. A disconnect between how people think they eat (i.e. very well, lots of variety), reality (which is pulling up well short on goals of minimum recommendations), and little perceived need to make changes (most are confident with current dietary practices) compounds the matter.
The nutritional content of your produce is often not what it once was – whether through selective breeding, soil nutrient depletion or microbial alterations (researchers are not exactly sure why), the declines are as large as 40% lower vitamin and/or mineral content in select fruits and vegetables. Phytonutrients – health and vitality-promoting natural chemicals that give plants their taste, texture and colour – are also far less abundant vs. the foods of our ancestors.
If virtually every North American survey is correct, then we adults are living with relatively high stress and demands. Increases in psychological distress promote the likelihood of “comfort food” consumption. In this context, we face powerful marketing forces that encourage unhealthy dietary practices as a default. Considering the scientific research on the subconscious influence of marketing toward unhealthy choices, it’s a wonder we even manage to get 0.8 servings of deep greens!
Technology can be a double-edgesword. Personal devices can distract and erode mindfulness, diminishing awareness of dietary choices and increasing the likelihood that we fall prey to the Venus fly trap of marketing toward unhealthy foods. Our devices necessitate electromagnetic radiation (EMR) – the Wi-Fi elephant in the room. As researchers debate the health consequences of massive increases in terrestrial EMR, there is little dispute concerning its ability to increase oxidative stress. Throw in a chaser of the environmental pollutants we inhale and consume, and it is clear to see that the demands on our antioxidant defense system are higher than ever. The human antioxidant defense system is run almost entirely by dietary components.
Those drawn to natural health products typically have better lifestyle habits – more exercise and less ultra-processed foods – yet even they have been shown to experience nutrient gaps. Beyond vitamins and minerals, the most pronounced nutrient gap may be lack of colourful phytonutrients.
Supplementation with a colourful blend of whole-food-derived nutrients and phytonutrients can help fill in the gaps. But how to supplement when faced with a barrage of choices?
The choice can be simplified by narrowing the field down with scientific research. Choose a multi-coloured food-derived supplement (plants with the water removed) supported by human research. Ask a fundamental question: is there human research showing that the phytonutrients are actually absorbed, and do they go to work in antioxidant defense? Choose a formula with proven benefits that can actually be experienced – increased energy and vitality – while filling in the nutritional gap.
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