You don’t have to go very far in a health food store, grocery store or feed store to come to the conclusion that Americans love supplements. They love supplements for horses and supplements for humans. Before even asking if any of the supplements on the market are necessary, it seems we should go back to the starting point and ask 1 simple question:

What is wrong with the food that we eat that could require even the most health conscious person (or horse) to need a supplement?

Healthy Food Aisle

Even those most conservative suggestions indicate that our soils have been depleted to the point where we would need double the fruits and vegetables today to get the same nutrients as 25-50 years ago. Dr John Berardi of Precision Nutrition suggests adults eat 10-15 servings of vegetables and fruits each day. Now I am pretty focused on eating whole foods, but I will admit 10-15 servings/7 days a week is pushing it even for this clean eating rider!

Let’s face it, between grab and go highly processed foods, most Americans are lucky to get in 1-2 servings of vegetables. The basic ingredients in most packaged foods (including those that come out of a drive-thru window) are corn, soy and wheat. Even in their whole unprocessed state, those 3 foods are very low on the ladder of nutrition density. The fact of the matter is our bodies don’t even recognize most of what we eat as nutrition-at least not on a cellular level, no matter how many claims are made on the brightly colored labels.

In addition to a foundation of fruits and vegetables, we also need a serving of quality protein (animal or plant based) at each meal. Women should eat about 20-30 grams per meal and men should eat about twice that amount.

A healthy plate rounds out with a daily balance of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fats. Contrary to popular belief, fat does not make you fat. A proper amount of healthy fat eaten each day is actually required for proper brain and nervous system function and hormone balance. Fat is also a valuable energy source.

So what exactly does it mean to eat nutrient dense foods?

It means you get the most nutrition bang for your calorie buck per serving. Nutrient dense foods give you a high amount of nutrition with only the necessary calories. Nothing more, nothing less. Spinach, broccoli, mixed berries, grass-fed beef, wild caught salmon, quinoa and even extra virgin olive oil and all examples of nutrient dense super foods.

The sad truth is that even if you were able to find and afford a diet of all organic nutrient dense super foods, it is still likely that you would fall short of your daily nutrient requirements for the reasons mentioned above. Exercise physiologist and nutritionist Daren Olien takes it one step further. He likens the current SAD way of eating (Standard American Diet) as putting dirty gas in a sports car and expecting it to run well! YIKES!

The results of the SAD?

The SAD way of eating results in decreased performance, decreased immunity, and an overall decreased quality of life. Obesity, Type 2 diabetes, increased risk of cancer/heart disease and pre-mature death (just to name a few) are just a few of the “side effects” of neglecting the high performance machine called your body.

Does this mean every person needs to go to the local organic health food store and spend what could be hundreds of dollars on well-advertised nutritional breakthroughs?

Not at all! In Part 2 and Part 3, we will talk about 5 essential nutrients for occasional or regular use, as well as suggestions on how to choose those supplements.

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