As soon as you step into the world of nutrition, you come across a wealth of information about nutritional deficiencies that need to be addressed with supplements – such as Omega 3, zinc, magnesium and vitamins.
Bombarded with information from all sides, it’s easy to forget that we rarely find one nutrient that can work on its own without a sound nutritional background. Food is the only supplement that our body really knows, and we need to get used to the idea of avoiding supplements that it doesn’t need. So this week in The Mammoth Hunters blog, we’re giving you a little guide on how to stay healthy without supplements.
Basic principles to avoid supplements:
- Eat organic vegetables, sun-ripened, in soil that hasn’t been overworked. That way you’ll avoid additives, insecticides, drug residues and all the other poisons – and also get nearly all the antioxidants, bioflavenoids and vitamins that you need to protect you from the threats that surround you. On the other hand, plants that have been grown in a hothouse, under cover, not exposed to bugs, rain and wind – or in tired soil with little minerals – will leave us with the same deficiencies that they suffer from. Here’s a little video on organic vegetables:
- Eat free range, organic meat. Whether the fats we eat are good or bad for us depends, for example, on the movement of the animals and the food that they take in. Cows that don’t move about and are fed on silage tend to have a much higher level of omega-6 fatty acids than grass-fed beef.
- Variety is the spice of life: get as much variety as you can from the foods you eat, because each has its own advantages. There are thousands of fruits and vegetables, so why limit ourselves to lettuce, chard and spinach, or apples, oranges and bananas? A good way to have variety and avoid the nutritional supplements, is to eat what is in season, so you’ll have to ring the changes anyway. The same applies to meat: there’s another very complex world beyond a fillet of steak. And this includes other parts of the animal and other animals.
If you follow these three principles, and avoid food that contains anti-nutrients, your nutritional status will probably be quite good and you would not need to add supplements.
Even so, we have to be aware that world we live in, our social, cultural and working environment makes many demands on us. So it’s a good idea to add, as promised, a list of foods you can eat to avoid sport supplements, supplements to gain mass muscle or vitamin supplements.
#1 Chicken liver:
As we’ve noticed in a previous blog, the most nutritious parts of an animal are its organs. These are the most sought after by any meat eater, and the most valued. There’s just one problem for anyone wanting to include liver as a regular item on the menu, and that’s its high copper and Vitamin A content. That’s why, of all the livers, we find chicken liver the best to recommend for regular eating. It’s lower in copper and Vitamin A (though still a fantastic source), and a good source of folate and zinc. This helps you avoid quite a few supplements.
#2 Small oily fish:
Small fish such as sardines, small mackerel or anchovy are ideal for regular consumption because:
- They are found at the bottom of the food chain, which means they are a more sustainable source of calories and have accumulated less heavy metal.
- They can be eaten whole, which means that they supply calcium from their bones and micro-nutrients from the fish’s own food.
- They contain omega-3 in its most stable form, i.e not separate from its source (the fish).
- They’re cheap (at least for the time being).
#3 Brazil nuts:
Selenium is an unusual mineral. We need it, but its presence in food is entirely dependent on its presence in the soil and there is kind of a global shortage of Selenium. So even with some of the foods that are supposed to be selenium-rich, such as lamb’s liver, if the animal has been grazing on selenium-deficient soil, you can’t guarantee you will find it.
That’s why we recommend Brazil nuts. They come from a region notorious for its high level of selenium.
Since 2-3 Brazil nuts per day is enough to get an adequate level of selenium, we don’t have to worry too much about the phytic acid they contain, or their omega-6 levels.
When we talk about how the human race has survived through long periods of gathering and foraging, there’s a very strong view that one of the chief foods of our life as gatherers was shellfish. It’s essential to include them in our diet if we want to avoid taking supplements.
Oysters, for example, are an excellent source of Zinc. And mussels of Manganese. And a good source of iodine and Tyrosine at the same time.
Seaweeds are one of the main sources of iodine. As we saw in that article, iodine is vital for our health. It’s important to note that for us (Westerners) our gut flora are not so well adapted for digesting seaweeds as those of, for instance, the Japanese, so this shouldn’t be our only source.
We should get enough if we add a little to broths and the odd salad and stop taking iodine supplements.
#6 Fermented food:
Eat fermented food for an interesting source of probiotic bacteria that helps us to avoid prevention of supplements. They will also form an interesting substrate for multiplying the bacteria we already have.
So eat fermented food such as sauerkraut, kimchi or even the odd goat’s yogurt to bring in a range of different bacteria that you probably won’t get from probiotics alone. Saying this is the least obvious of the recommendations. Just as being alive means growing old, living together is an interesting source of probiotics: it’s thought that even kissing is a way of exchanging bacteria with our partners. So we wouldn’t have to stress on fermented foods to maintain a healthy mix of good bacteria in the gut if we were not living in such a hygienic world with its high level of antibiotics (and fridges…). This leaves us with three options (not mutually exclusive):
- Eat fermented foods
- Take probiotics
- Exchange lots of bacteria with various people …
Follow the one that is best for you.
- Eat a variety of real, fresh food.
- Add food that we have eaten in abundance for most of our history.
One small point to finish with:
In summer we feel like eating raw food, fruit and salads. In the winter we prefer hot food, with more broths. There are days when you feel an overwhelming desire to eat squid, and others when you may feel like skipping a meal altogether or just eating vegetables.
It’s controversial to recommend any particular meal.
It depends on the person and their circumstances, and the fact that, for instance, one minute they might be feeling fine and the next not so good. Water is vital for us, but it may contain toxins. So, whatever advice you read, you should always work within the guidelines set by your own physiology. It’s important to remember that our system has been highly conditioned to know what we need. Listen to what your body tells you (and of course that doesn’t mean have a cigarette if you feel like it). You’ll see that in time, with constant practice, you’ll be able trust your own feelings, more and more.