In our rush to make our lives more efficient, productive, and pleasurable, we outsource our every-day, mundane tasks to someone or something else. We use credit cards to avoid counting money and holding on to change. We order our groceries online to be delivered so we can use our time doing something we want to do without wasting valuable time shopping. We order take-out, we buy gym memberships, we hire tour guides, we watch Netflix, we invest online, we donate to our favorite charity, we post on social media, and we take weight loss pills. Disposable income is a fascinating tool to help us live lives with more meaning and purpose. Or so we might think. It all sounds great on paper, doesn’t it?
What about natural supplements? We swallow vitamin D capsules so we don’t have to sit in the sun. We take a few capsules every day that we are told by the flashy bottle is “equivalent to 39 tomatoes, 26 carrots, 10 beets, and 11 bananas” instead of actually eating the whole foods. We take fish oil capsules instead of eating fish. It sounds right in line with everything else–efficiently boosting our health without actually having to do the work of sitting in the sun, eating a bunch of veggies, and eating salmon. After all, one unit of vitamin D, 1mg of phytonutrients, or 1 mg of omega-3 is the same however you get it, right?
This may sound very foreign to many of you, but it turns out that we can’t just take in extracts of vitamin D and expect to have the same outcome as those who get vitamin D from the sun. The same goes for calcium, magnesium, omega-3, and many other nutrients. For some reason, we think that “taking a short-cut” by taking supplements will lead to the same outcomes as those who take the long way. While it is true that taking vitamin D supplements reliably increase vitamin D levels more than the more unreliable sporadic exposure to sunshine, vitamin D levels alone do not tell the whole story!
For example, multiple studies spanning decades reveal that although it is true that increasing vitamin D levels lead to increasing overall survival from cancer, comparing health outcomes between those taking oral vitamin D supplements and those with increasing sunlight exposure reveal that health outcomes are superior when looking at sunlight exposure, despite it’s less reliable infusion of vitamin D into the bloodstream, compared to those taking oral vitamin D. Sunshine is not just for cancer, either. Reduced levels of diabetes, blood clots, and heart disease correlated with the amount of sun exposure, not vitamin D supplements. Get your vitamin D from the sun, if you can, because sunshine does a lot more than just giving you vitamin D!
Fish oil is another “short-cut” to good health we take. In fact, I take fish oil capsules every night before I go to bed. Yes, I too have fallen victim to this all too easy approach to good health. To be fair, I also eat salmon probably 3 times a week, so I’m also doing the “hard” work. When it comes to health outcomes, eating the fish and not the capsule, shows better health outcomes.
When it comes to eating your fruits and veggies, please, please, please don’t think that taking a bunch of capsules instead of eating the whole food is a good long term solution to good health! In reviewing concentrated fruit and vegetable supplements, like Balance of Nature, a company that produces and sells concentrated fruits and veggies in a capsule form. I found that although some studies show substantial increases in circulating antioxidants, these supplements are no replacement for the real deal–eating good old fresh fruits and veggies as a part of your every day healthy diet. And at about $85 a month for these bottles of concentrated foods, save yourself the money and just eat the real thing for a lot less.
Sometimes, we have to put in the work to get what we want, there are no short-cuts to good health, even if we have the disposable income to do it! Get some sun every day, eat whole fish 3 times per week, and eat whole plant based fresh fruits and veggies. Save your money for something else that will save you hours in a day, like hiring a personal assistant!