Just as with protein supplements, the majority of your vitamins & minerals should also come from whole food sources. However, With the hustle and bustle of daily life, it isn’t always easy to take in enough whole healthy foods each and every day. Multivitamins/ minerals can be a valuable tool in helping to prevent dietary imbalances, and ensure adequate intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Multivitamins are a combination of minerals and vitamins that are essential for optimal functioning of the human body. Various chemical reactions happen within each of us, every day that require a combination of vitamins and minerals for our bodies to function properly. By making sure that all essential nutrients are present, our bodies can function well and in a manner that promotes vitality, energy and good health. Though multivitamins cannot substitute a healthy diet i.e. real food, a good whole food multivitamin acts like an insurance policy by providing some of the nutrients essential for good health.
Why do we need a multivitamin?
Most of us in North America are eating plant foods grown in intensively farmed, mineral deficient soil, that has been sprayed with herbicides and pesticides (part of the reason cleansing is a good idea), and/ or animals fed feed, that has been grown in intensively farmed, mineral deficient soil, that has been sprayed with herbicides and pesticides. Even organically grown foods are only as good as the soil they’ve been grown in.
Why not just any multivitamin?
Most multivitamins on the market are made from isolated ingredients (i.e. ascorbic acid powder for Vitamin C), mixed up in a lab and pressed into the tablet that you ultimately consume. Another option is a whole food multivitamin. Whole food multivitamins are processed from, as you guessed it, whole foods. To use the Vitamin C example again, a whole orange (skin and all) will be processed in such a manner as to minimize the damage to the nutrients found within that orange, and contains all the nutrients that were present in the whole orange, many of which help with the absorption and assimilation of the nutrients within that orange. In a nutshell, your body absorbs more nutrients from a whole food multivitamin, than a synthetic one made in a lab from isolated ingredients.
When choosing a high quality whole food multivitamin, look for a company that has partners (farmers) that specialize in sustainable, organic agriculture practices. One such company is Megafood. You can learn more about the company and their products here.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 & Omega 6 are two fatty acids, essential to human life. Our bodies cannot manufacture these fatty acids, so they must be consumed, and in a specific ratio to one another. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) & DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are two Omega 3 fatty acids that have been garnering a lot of attention lately. Both of these omegas are found in fish and krill oils. Flax oil contains ALA (alphalinolenic acid), which the body must convert to EPA & DHA.
According to this PubMed abstract, the ideal ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6, is 1:1. However, the ratio of these essential fatty acids in western diets, tends to look more like 5/1–16.7/1, in favour of Omega 6s. Here’s why this is a problem; “Western diets, promote the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, whereas increased levels of omega-3 PUFA (a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio) exert suppressive effects.”
Omega 3 Fatty Acids (N-3) are considered essential, meaning that they cannot be synthesized by the human body and therefore must come from our diet. Common sources of Omega 3s include fish oils, algal oil, krill oil, and some plant oils such as hemp and flaxseed oils.
Omega 6 Fatty Acids (N-6) are also essential, but a specific ratio (approximately 1:1 or 2:1 in favour of N-6, depending who you ask) between Omega 3 & Omega 6 should exist. In North America however, we consume an overabundance of Omega 6 (sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil etc), creating a massive imbalance (15/1–16.7/1) between these two essential fatty acids. What are the potential consequences of this imbalance? The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health says;
“Western diets are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, and have excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids compared with the diet on which human beings evolved and their genetic patterns were established. Excessive amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as is found in today’s Western diets, promote the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, whereas increased levels of omega-3 PUFA (a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio) exert suppressive effects.” – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12442909
Hence the reason we’re told to take Omega 3s.
Fish oils contain the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), precursors of molecules known to reduce inflammation in the body. Fish oils have also been used in the treatment of diabetes, asthma, developmental coordination disorders, obesity, kidney disease, osteoporosis, certain diseases related to pain and swelling such as psoriasis, ADD & ADHD and preventing weight loss from muscle wasting, caused by some cancerdrugs.
Pressed from flax seed, containing primarily ALA (alpha-linolenic acid ) which must be converted by the body to EPA & DHA. It is thought that that conversion is inefficient, with men being able to convert more ALA to EPA & DHA, than women.