Supplements: Part of the Cure for Modernity
As a raw vegan chef, author and teacher, I’m often asked, “Is it necessary to take supplements if I’m on a balanced, organic raw food diet?” I used to assume not, based on the idea that a raw diet is the food that humans evolved to eat. Well, it turns out I was wrong. No matter how well you eat, I think it is essential to supplement.
Paleolithic humans foraged from hundreds of species of wild (unhybridized) plants that grew in rich soils that had never been farmed (let alone farmed with pesticides and herbicides). In modern society, the best you can hope to achieve is to eat all or mostly organically grown plants of maybe a few dozen varieties, most of which have been hybridized over generations to maximize appearance, size and calories rather than nutrition, and farmed on the same land over and over. Even with the best organic farming practices, minerals don’t just appear from nowhere…. Soil loses some of its punch with every crop unless some artificial or natural process replenishes the minerals (volcanoes, glaciers, etc.). In short, even the best of modern food isn’t anything like what our pre-agricultural forbears ate, and to get adequate levels of some nutrients, you’d have to eat more food than is humanly possible. Supplements are, quite literally, part of the cure for modernity.
But perhaps the main reason I supplement, in addition to those mentioned above, is that paleolithic humans did not evolve to maximize longevity, such as living into one’s 90s. (Their lives were so perilous that they rarely lived to be 40.) Over the years, many things break down in our bodies and don’t work as efficiently as when we’re young, and it’s accurate to say that this process is “natural”… except that we’ve made it worse with an unavoidable daily attack from environmental toxins. And so here, at least, is one instance where I’m more than happy to deviate from nature’s plan and use some nutritional science and technology to reach my goal of becoming a centenarian. In fact, I’m philosophically closer to being in the camp of Ray Kurzweilian (of “Singularity” and life extension fame). He takes hundreds of pills a day. Actually, I only take between 0-25 pills a day (sometimes more if I’m taking a lot of chlorella tablets), of up to 15 kinds, depending on what’s going on in my life. My husband does as well; a different set of supplements unique to his situation.
There are many things to consider with the art of supplementation, and a good place to start is with your doctor and blood tests. Every year I get the annual run-of-the-mill blood test for basics, and I also get a micronutrient test that my naturopathic doctor orders. We take these results into consideration, along with many other things. I’ll vary what I take based on my goal for longevity, the physical activity of my life, as well as whether I’m pregnant, breast-feeding, trying to conceive (fertility), stressed, ill, looking for more energy, cleansing, detoxing, hormonal and/or traveling (considerations: ease of packing, where I’m traveling and for how long). I also split up my supplements and take them in two or three batches throughout the day. Some are taken with food; some are taken on an empty stomach.
Although my supplement repository changes, there are some staples that I like to include “almost” always. I say “almost” because there are times when I just plain have a supplement-free day. The following is a list of supplements you’ll routinely find on my countertop or in my refrigerator (in addition to some food-source “supplements,” like Brazil nuts for selenium). I also include a list of supplements that I “frequently” have in my life. Remember, the items below are just a partial list of everything I take. Furthermore, I’m constantly researching and experimenting, meaning I’m always trying new things that I’m not ready to recommend yet but I may in the future. Note: If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, be sure to check with your physician or midwife before taking supplements.
I almost always take vitamin B12 (as methylcobalamin), probiotics, multi-vitamin, vegan DHA+EPA, vitamin D (I prefer D2 because it’s vegan and effective). I frequently take: digestive enzymes, chlorella, magnesium, vitamin K2.
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