Nearly every week another article emerges warning consumers about the futility of ingesting vitamins and minerals, as well as many other food supplements. These articles, usually written by physicians and science professionals, suggest that ingesting various vitamins and minerals is not only a complete waste of money but can also possibly produce long-term negative health effects. Such assumptions are based on the notion that everyone can obtain all the nutrients needed to sustain life from a balanced diet. And therein lies the problem. When I've given nutrition seminars in the past, my first question to the audience was by a show of hands, how many people ingest a balanced diet? The response was that about 75% of the hands were raised. I then asked, "How many of you ingest at least 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables? This question resulted in about a third of the room raising their hands. Finally, I asked, "How many of you ingest foods from the dairy group, such as about a quart of milk a day or enough cheese to meet the daily minimum requirement for calcium? Now about two people raised their hands. The simple truth is that while it is possible to obtain all required nutrients from a balanced diet, in reality, few people consume such diets. Many people avoid dairy foods and don't consume enough fruits and vegetables. While five servings a day of fruits and vegetables is considered the minimal amount for health, the ideal intake of fruits and vegetables is nine to eleven servings and day. I'd wager that few people other than vegetarians consume that much fruits and vegetables.
There are other notable problems associated with the balanced diet concept. For example, some nutrients are in short supply even if you consume a balanced diet, which by the way involves ingesting foods from several food groups, such as protein foods, essential fats, and unrefined carbohydrates that supply sufficient fiber intake. One example of a nutrient that is hard to obtain from food alone is vitamin D. If you depend on food sources alone for vitamin D, you would have to be ingesting a lot of food, since food sources such as egg yolks contain tiny amounts of the vitamin. The most reliable source of vitamin D isn't even food, but rather exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. But even that is conditional. The sun must be in the right place in the sky to deliver the correct spectrum of UV radiation. During the winter at northern latitudes, the sun may be out, but it's not at the ideal angle in the sky to deliver the optimal UV wavelength that will activate the production of vitamin D in the skin from cholesterol. In addition, if you have darker skin; are older; or are obese, even obtaining the correct UV exposure for the suggested 15 to 20 minutes a day may not produce enough . . .