One of the most common refrains you will hear in Total Health Breakthroughs is that we should mimic the diet and lifestyle of our Paleolithic ancestors. That includes what we eat, how we exercise and even our patterns of sleep (early to bed, early to rise).
The reasons are simple. Our genetics have evolved over many thousands of years to survive and thrive on a particular diet and way of life. Yet in the blink of an eye – at least in evolutionary terms – our diet and lifestyle have drastically changed. Our bodies are not equipped for these changes. The result has been an epidemic of obesity and degenerative disease.
By modeling the diet and lifestyle of our genetic ancestors, you have a very good chance of modeling their immunity to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia and more. These conditions did exist, but until the last century, they were exceedingly rare.
What about nutritional supplements?
The idea that we should mimic our ancestors prompted Rob in California to ask a question. “I understand why we should follow the diet we ate before modern food processing,” he writes. “But doesn’t that mean we should also avoid supplements and get our nutrients from food?”
It is a great question, Rob. The answer is yes… and no.
Without a doubt, the best sources of healing nutrients come from whole foods – fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, wild fish and seafood, and animals raised on their natural diet.
Many nutritional supplements contain the same healing nutrients found in food, but they are often delivered as isolated ingredients. Isolated nutrients simply do not work the same as when they are contained within a synergistic matrix of nutrients found in whole foods.
So clearly, the ideal situation is to get most of the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need from a widely varied diet of whole foods – just like our ancestors did.
Unfortunately, that is not possible in today’s world…
It is true that our Paleolithic ancestors were virtually free of the degenerative diseases that plague modern man. And of course, they did not swill down a handful of supplements every day. However, their food and game was produced from soils that were much richer in vitamins, minerals and nutrients than our soils today.
Numerous studies have shown that our agricultural soils have been drastically depleted of nutrients. Not surprisingly, the nutrient content of our commercial crops has fallen precipitously. A study by the Nutrition Security Institute shows that in the United States, the average calcium, magnesium and iron content in cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and spinach fell 81% between 1914 and 1997.
And do not think these important minerals are being replaced by fertilizer farming. Most plants grow just fine with nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium – so that is what Big Agriculture replaces. Never mind that humans require dozens of vitamins and minerals to remain healthy.
We have also found many new ways to destroy our health that did not exist hundreds or thousands of years ago…
Our genetic ancestors did not eat processed foods. They were not exposed to chemical toxins. They did not take pharmaceutical drugs. And they were not subjected to chronic stress.
The bottom line is that in today’s world, it makes perfect sense – in fact, it is critical – to “supplement” your diet with healing nutrients that have been proven effective.
This immune builder is virtually gone in most soils…
Selenium is a trace mineral that is essential for optimal health. And there is a good chance that you are deficient in it. In fact, most people are, because it has been depleted from most of the world’s soil.
This mineral makes such an impact on our immunity, that the incidence and mortality rates from several different types of cancer are closely correlated to the selenium content in the soil in those countries.
And the benefits are not just evident in population studies. Controlled trials show that low-selenium diets are associated with greater risk of just about every type of cancer. And selenium supplements have been shown to lower that risk.
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Most doctors and nutritional experts recommend 100 – 200 micrograms per day. That is a small amount, but it is difficult to achieve in the diet.
Good food sources of selenium include garlic, grass-fed butter, grass-fed organ meats and wild salmon. But the best food source, by far, comes from Brazil nuts, which contain about 70 to 90 micrograms per nut. If you want to optimize your intake of this vital nutrient, be sure to eat five or ten Brazil nuts each week.
This is one nutrient, that is so important (and so hard to get from most foods) that I also recommend it as a supplement…
But many people supplement with an inorganic form of selenium – like selenite or selenate – that is poorly bioavailable. The most effective form of selenium is one that is stored in your body’s proteins.
This allows your cells to easily access the mineral in times of stress – like when DNA is under free-radical attack or when an invading pathogen enters your body.
Look for a supplement that contains selenomethionine. This is the form your body can easily store and utilize. In fact, a placebo-controlled study in 120 selenium-deficient subjects found that the bioavailability of pure selenomethionine was almost twice that of selenite!
To Your Health
Jon Herring Editorial Director Total Health Breakthroughs