During all the human history people did not take vitamin or mineral supplements because they did not exist. They got all their nutrients from food alone and they did very well, living to ripe old age without the crippling degenerative diseases that are so common today. But their diet was very different from the SAD (Standard American) diet that we eat these days.
People ate fruits and vegetables that were produced locally and harvested at the time when they were ripe. The soil was full of nutrients because it was fortified with manure, not chemicals. Farmers did not use synthetic pesticides or any other artificial substances. As a result, the fruits and vegetable contained high amounts of vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients. They were wholesome and nutritious.
Animals (cows, sheep, chicken, etc.) were raised cage-free, eating their natural food. This made them healthy and fit to eat. People used to eat the entire animal, including organ meats, because they are very high in vitamin, minerals, and trace elements.
Most of what we eat today is not grown locally but is brought from another state or even another country. Usually the fruits and vegetables are harvested long before they are ripe, to make sure they will not spoil during transportation. They are dosed with chemicals to make them look good. They do not contain the amount of nutrients that you would expect.
Another problem is soil depletion. Fruits and vegetables will only contain the substances that they get from the soil. Modern agricultural practices often leave the soil in very poor nutritional state, which means that the end product will not supply all the nutrients you need.
Standard American Diet contains many “foods” that are not real. They are highly processed, so many of the nutrients are lost. Some have no nutrients at all because they were made synthetically in a laboratory, like gummy bears, eggbeaters, soft drinks, and margarine.
A good example of processed food is white bread. Natural (whole) wheat has many good nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. But most of these nutrients are located in the bran (the tough outer part) and the germ (the part from which new plant will grow).
Both the bran and the germ are removed to make white flour, which leaves only the white part of the wheat. In the process, about 30 nutrients are removed, so the end product is nutritionally very poor. The flour is then bleached to make it look even whiter, which probably destroys some additional nutrients.
This product is so nutritionally poor that around World War II U.S. government got involved and forced the millers to add some synthetic vitamins to it. Since 1941 the white flour has been “enriched” with vitamins B1, B2, B3 and iron. In 1998 synthetic folic acid was added as well.
For many people, processed foods that have many calories but few nutrients are a major part of their diet.
What is the answer? Eat real food and avoid junk food. Do not eat foods that have been processed. It is OK to eat oatmeal, but not the cereal that was made from oats and looks like little doughnuts, because it does not have all the nutrients of oats. Eat steak or hamburger, but not cold cuts or hot dogs.
But even if you try your best to eat only good food, you will still not get all the vitamins and minerals you need because we have much higher requirements than people had in the past.
Our life is fast-paced, with lots of pressure and stress. There is increased pollution, with almost 80 thousand chemicals produced just in this country alone. There is electromagnetic stress, with radiation from cell phone towers, Wi Fi, and so on. Excessive noise is also stressful. We consume enormous quantities of drugs, which are synthetic chemicals that create toxicity.
The body needs extra nutrients to deal with all these stresses and even if you really ate a “balanced” diet it would not be enough. The demands of modern life go way beyond what diet alone can provide.