Climate change was once considered the mad mumblings of a few crackpots. Now we know that, alongside glaciers melting and crazy weather patterns, climate change is a real threat. Similarly, taking vitamin supplements has been refuted for many years, being seen as a ‘have’ by those in the alternative medicines industry.

However, we now know that today’s soil lacks many of the vitamins and minerals necessary for our healthy growth and survival. These days it is believed we need to eat five times the amount of vegetables daily than our grandparents did to get the same benefits.

What is more, recent studies suggest that not only is the soil depleted but also the glyphosates in some pesticides now stop the plants themselves from producing the same nutrients and phytochemicals they once did.

One of the ways we can remedy this deficiency is via supplements, but which ones, and when? As Yolande Waho, a naturopath in Papamoa in the Bay of Plenty, explains, herbs on their own aren’t always powerful enough to compensate for what we no longer receive from our food.

Three important supplements

“In general, the three most important supplements I recommend are zinc, vitamin D and magnesium. Zinc is really limited – it’s very hard to get from our diet. Our vitamin D is depleted due to the lack of sunshine on our skin because we’re using sunblock and sitting in the shade. And we’re not eating full-fat dairy products – we are being depleted of vitamin D by low-fat diets.”

Yolande says the way we operate in the western world is inherently stressful.

“Magnesium in our bodies is depleted by stress and if we live in the western world we have a stressful lifestyle – so it’s always being depleted. We get magnesium from dark green vegetables and we’re not getting enough of those in our diet.

“And calcium actually depletes our levels of magnesium. A problem of Western medicine has been, until recently, an overemphasis on our need for calcium. So many people are supplementing with calcium and we’ve been doing it for decades – the calcium is depleting the magnesium and now we know it’s vitamin D that makes our bones strong – it’s a vital factor in bone strength. We now know you can’t just add heaps of calcium and you’re sorted – too much calcium can cause a whole lot of other problems like heart problems.”

Food-based supplements best

Yolande says that while the soil and quality of our food isn’t ideal, it is still better to have food-based supplements than to take one vitamin in isolation.

“You can add things like molasses, which has many vitamins and minerals all working synergistically together. Liver is another thing more people have begun eating more of recently because it has so many dense nutrients in it.”

So if we need to take vitamin supplements to stay healthy, which vitamins should we take, and at what time in our lives?

“It doesn’t so much depend on what age or gender you are but more on what conditions you’re presenting with,” says Yolande.

“When it comes to vitamins and supplements, it is better to go to a professional – firstly because you don’t want to blow hundreds of dollars on your journey to sort out your health. A practitioner can assess whether it is, say, adrenal fatigue or depression. Or perhaps it is something in their diet they are reacting to.”

Yolande’s tips

  • For kids: Vitamin C for extra immune boosting, and vitamin D for bone growth.
  • For working people: Magnesium and a vitamin B complex to combat stress.
  • For seniors: Zinc and selenium, to guard against the diseases of old age.

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