The Standard American Diet (SAD) is lacking in many vital nutritional components. Being largely composed of prepackaged, convenience foods with few naturally grown food products; this diet has contributed to an epidemic of not only obesity but also extreme nutritional deficiency. While many commercially available vitamin and mineral supplements exist, they are manufactured in an artificial way that reduces bioavailability and promotes chemical contamination. As Americans are not likely to return to eating home grown food directly from their garden, the solution to the nutritional deficiency of America can be found in Whole Food Supplements which are vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient rich products made from actual food concentrates.
The Problem with the Standard American Diet
In the first part of the 1900's most Americans ate a healthy, whole food diet because they had no choice. All food was grown either by the family or obtained from immediately local sources. America in the 1900's was a largely agrarian society with most people living in rural areas and able to grow their own food. During the last century, a massive migration to urban areas has occurred. This has meant that even if one has the desire, most people no longer have the ability to produce self grown food. Either because there is no land or because many do not know how, very few people have a garden and even fewer produce protein in the form of dairy products and animal husbandry.
In spite of this developing migration, during World War II, families were encouraged to have a "victory garden". This was not to ensure that Americans had a great diet but actually to ensure that American families could feed themselves at all, while allowing most of commercial food production to be sent to the troops overseas. That was the last period in history that America got most of their nutrition from locally grown food.
Beginning around the 1950's, Americans did begin to recognize the value of vitamins and minerals within their diet. This was discovered because more and more pre-prepared, highly processed food products became available and nutritional deficiencies began to emerge.
After the end of World War II, many families became two-income families. In addition, many more single parents are now raising children by themselves. This means that in most homes, all of the adults present in any one household are likely employed outside of the home full-time leaving little time for food preparation alone much less any time for food production. America has become a convenience food nation consuming much of the diet from unnatural food sources.
Prepackaged and easy to prepare food products are just that, food "products". Though they may contain carbohydrates, proteins, fats and some "essential" nutrients, they are not real food. The entire food supply chain is rife with contamination and chemical processing and many Americans are unaware of how little nutritional value the food that they consume every day contains. So much publicity and education has focused on the so called food pyramid. The governmental and educational agencies that have devised the perfect American diet have never truly addressed the lack of nutrients, other than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of basic vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, Vitamin D and Calcium.
While these RDA levels of vitamin and mineral consumption may be an absolute bottom line essential to avoid obvious diseases of deficiency such as scurvy or rickets, they are hardly adequate and do not reflect but a small portion of the nutrients contained in whole food, necessary for promotion of health and prevention of disease.
A Crisis in America: Obesity and Other Diseases in the Face of Malnutrition
The main focus of the American diet in recent years has become reducing fat and increasing carbohydrates in the diet. This stream of thought was intended to reduce the growing epidemic of obesity but over the past 20 years, obesity has risen into numbers that appear to be a crisis for Americans. In fact, over the past 20 years the number of adult Americans who are obese has risen by 60% to an unprecedented level of almost 35% of American adults being considered obese. A much worse situation is that a similar number of approximately 32% of American children qualify as overweight or obese. For the first time in American history, the life expectancy of these children may be lower than that of their parents or grandparents.
This has led to an epidemic of heart disease, diabetes and other weight related problems occurring in record numbers not only in adults but seen in children as young as 18 months of age. Additional diseases that may be related to a lack of appropriate nutrients other than simple vitamins in American diets may include a wide variety of conditions ranging from immune disorders implicated in conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus and Cancer to psychiatric and neurological conditions such as ADHD, Autism and Depression.
Most people believe that obesity occurs simply because people eat too much. While that is true in part, obesity also results from continuously consuming the wrong types of food. In the 1900s when Americans were consuming a largely natural, whole food diet directly from farm to table, obesity was an extremely rare occurrence.
As our diet has changed from an agrarian society's nutrient rich food supply to the urbanized highly processed, artificial foods, our total food consumption has risen. This is in part because, though the body gets more calories from more food, it is still starved of nutrition causing one to eat even more. In addition, in our sedentary lifestyle our bodies actually need less food than when we lived and worked each day on the farm, yet we still eat more because of lack of proper nutrients, abundance of easily obtained processed food and other psychological conditions such as stress eating. In the end, America has become a nation of people who are obese but still malnourished and disease ridden.
An Attempt to Fix the Problem
The ideal diet truly would be that of returning to whole food "farm to table" eating where families either grow their own food and prepare it within minutes of harvesting or at a minimum obtain locally grown food from the market and prepare it within a day or so of harvesting. In today's society this is no longer possible. Even when fresh vegetables and fruits are consumed as a large portion of the diet, our nation's food supply is contaminated by the use of pesticides, herbicides and hormones and much of the nutrient value is lost by transportation of the food crop from thousands of miles away. Food is harvested before it is truly ripe, irradiated, stored cold and transported across states, nations and even oceans before it arrives in our grocery stores as tasteless, substandard, nutrient poor produce.
Many people are attempting to eat only organic, locally grown produce for this reason. While this may be an improvement over the nutritional value of the standard American diet, it is nearly always much more expensive and therefore unaffordable for many and unavailable for others as most markets do not focus on obtaining such products. So this effort, while valiant is still not enough.
The good news about the American nutritional situation is that it is quite easy to fix. Given appropriate nutrition, the human body has an amazing ability to heal itself. Many diseases and conditions caused by overconsumption and malnourishment can be easily corrected by supplementation with whole food nutritional products.
As Americans cannot rely on the food supply to provide adequate nutrition and also cannot count on the source, quality and purity of most commercially available nutritional supplements, the only answer appears to lie in whole food supplementation.
What is a Whole Food Supplement?
Whole food supplements are defined as nutritional supplements derived entirely from food. This is a much more natural and beneficial method of obtaining nutrition from food and herbal supplements alike.
Unfortunately, most commercially available nutritional supplements including vitamins, minerals and herbal products are made completely of single ingredient extracts or worse, artificially synthesized in a lab using chemical processes. While synthesized supplements may in fact provide basic vitamins and minerals known to be vital, artificially prepared products are missing many of the alkaloids, antioxidants and phytochemicals that are thought to play a major role in complete nutrition and disease prevention.
The same is true for herbal supplements and treatments as most commercially available herbal products do provide an extract or synthesized form of the primarily active chemical within the herb, they are still missing many of the synergistic ingredients thought to provide additional benefits of herbal and nutraceutical treatment.
Simply Taking Vitamins isn't Enough
Vitamins and Minerals are absolutely necessary for life but the RDA is generally both inadequate in its estimate and unattainable through the average American diet.
While many commercially available nutritional supplements are available at every corner, through necessity, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does little to regulate the manufacturing of food supplements such as vitamins, minerals and herbal products. The FDA cannot apparently manage even its' main tasks of regulation of the pharmaceutical industry and assurance of the safety of the American food supply.
In the last several years, many counterfeit pharmaceutical products have been discovered such as flu medication being sold online, manufactured outside of the United States was found to be gelatin capsules filled with sheetrock particles. In addition Americans have seen case after case of E. Coli and Salmonella contamination of both American and foreign farm crops such as lettuce, tomatoes, onions and peppers enter our grocery stores. Some of these products were even the so called "organic" products, purported to be safer than traditional crops.
Why a Whole Food Supplement
As there is inadequate supervision of the pharmaceutical and food production industries, there is even less of the nutritional supplement market. The average vitamin or nutritional supplement is manufactured using chemical synthesis and heat processing which destroys the nutritional value of the product within. In addition, many commercially available products are manufactured with fillers, additives, preservatives and other dubious chemicals. Whole food supplements are not.
Within the last several years, significant shortcomings have come to light in terms of foreign made food and health products. Many products have proven to be contaminated with not only the known chemicals that are present in the American food supply but also with much more dangerous unknown chemicals that should never enter the manufacturing process. The only way to ensure that this does not happen is to purchase high quality products from a company with a well established reputation for maintaining high standards of manufacturing and purity. As whole food supplements are natural products, it would be optimal if the manufacturer employed practices of sustainability and green policy.
The ideal food supplement manufacturer recognizes that vitamins do not exist in isolation. The nutritional value of whole food is due to the interweaving of the entire spectrum of nutrients with vitamins and minerals acting in a synergistic fashion with hundreds of other plant alkaloids, phytochemicals and enzymes. The cofactors and bioflavonoids such as terpenes and isoflavones present in whole foods and whole food supplements are integral in the process to restore biochemical balance to the body.
This is quite easy to identify when examining the label of a nutritional supplement, vitamin or herbal product. Though the FDA doesn't do an adequate job of monitoring the food supply or pharmaceutical industry, they have established standards of labeling which include appropriate identification of all ingredients contained in a supplement. Close examination of most regular supplements when compared to whole food supplements will show that most products contain synthetic vitamins, chemicals and filler products while whole food supplements contain natural vitamins and minerals obtained from concentrated food sources such as fruits and vegetables.
Supplements manufactured from whole food sources will contain not only the natural form of vitamins and minerals but also all of the important phytochemicals and phytonutrients important to restoration of nutritional health and prevention of disease derived from whole food concentrates.
Choosing a Quality Supplement
Whole food supplements are nutritional products which have been manufactured directly from food. Food grown in natural conditions is concentrated using carefully designed and conducted cold processing techniques. These methods allow the concentration of the entire spectrum of nutritional value without removing the phytochemicals, alkaloids and other valuable natural substances that ensure adequate nutritional support and help to prevent disease.
When choosing a whole food supplement one should ensure that the product is from a manufacturing company known to have a long standing reputation for quality and experience in whole food processing. The products should be constituted entirely of whole food products which have been refined using cold processing without the nutrient reducing effects of extreme heat, pasteurization and irradiation. They should also be free of artificial filler products and preservative chemicals. The manufacturer should have a process of testing for purity and guarantee of quality and ideally should offer a money back guarantee if one is not satisfied with the product. For the American consumer, optimally an American product will be purchased an in an effort to aid the environment, a company with "green" policies should be chosen to promote sustainability of the food supply.