The answer to this question is : Yes, no, and, maybe.

I often get this question from my patients. Let’s say for example I figure out a patient needs zinc to help alleviate their problem. They’ll also ask, “what foods are high in zinc.” After listing those foods for the patients, I continue to explain that in order to get a therapeutic dose of the necessary nutrient(s), one almost always has to take supplements. Let me explain the reasoning. Of course you can get nutrients from eating food. However, make sure that you are eating organic foods because the soil on conventional farms is often extremely depleted in nutrients. You can read more information on this topic in the book Empty Harvest, by Dr. Bernard Jensen and Mark Anderson. It contains excellent information. Studies comparing foods from organic farming and conventional farming show that organic farms harvest foods with a significantly higher nutrient content. Check out this article’s abstract from the Journal Of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. Also, click here for referenced information on the health benefits of organic foods. And read this article which talks about what may be the most comprehensive study to date on the topic.

Additionally, it’s often simply not practical to get nutrients you are deficient in through food, because of the amount of the nutrient that is required. A big reason why supplements don’t always have the effect people are expecting is because people are not taking therapeutic doses. Let’s use zinc as the example. It’s not uncommon for me to find that a patient needs to supplement with 30mg-90mg per day. I’ve even gone higher depending on the condition and the person. To get that amount from food, you would have to eat about 6 medium oysters (76.7mg); 30-90 ounces of dry roasted almonds (30-90mg); 18 ounces of beef shank (53.4mg); or 7 and 1/2 cups of fortified breakfast cereal (38 mg). I think you see my point. Also, you would have to do that for at least 30 days, depending on how deficient you body is.

Still, there are more complicating factors with having to rely solely on food to obtain therapeutic doses of nutrients.  The main one is digestive function.  Please note, the phrase “you are what you eat” is not entirely true.  A better phrase would be “you are what you digest and absorb,” as the late, great George J. Goodheart, Jr., DC, DIBAK (founder of Applied Kinesiology) used to say.  Therefore, if you have absorption and assimilation problems, it will be much more difficult to extract nutrients from your food.  Fortunately, supplements are simpler compounds and don’t need as much processing as food in order to get absorbed and used effectively.

In conclusion, I am a huge advocate of getting nutrients from the foods you eat!  It’s just not always possible.  Then again, I find that my patients who consistently eat a very good diet do not need many supplements.  Two companies that make extraordinarily high quality supplements that I often use with patients are Standard Process and Thorne Research.

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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