While we try to rely on fresh food sources to meet our daily nutritional requirements, it is often challenging to do so due to poor absorption as well as soil depletion. It has been found that using chemical fertilizers over many years can greatly reduce the nutrient level of most soils and crops. Studies show that many fruits and vegetables have lower levels of nutrients than they did fifty years ago.
Vitamins Minerals and Essential Fatty Acids
Vitamin B12: Crucial for the proper functioning of the brain, the entire nervous system, and the formation of our blood, vitamin B, plays an important part in the metabolism of every cell in our body. In the past, some non-animal items such as spirulina, chlorella, tempeh, miso, and even soil were considered as possible sources of B, but these have proven to be unreliable.
Calcium: Vital for the formation of strong bones and teeth, calcium is also essential for maintenance of a regular heartbeat and muscular growth. Rich plant food sources include dark leafy greens (broccoli, bok choy, kale, collards, turnip greens, dandelion), tahini, legumes, sesame seeds, almonds, figs, seaweeds, and unrefined molasses. Since the consumption of animal protein may increase calcium requirements, a person following a vegan diet may have much lower needs.
Vitamin D: Traditionally, people have looked to fish oil for vitamin D, which is needed to maintain proper calcium levels, both in the bones and in the bloodstream. However, the best source is sunshine. Ultraviolet rays trigger vitamin D synthesis in the skin. Sun exposure of just fifteen to twenty minutes daily (early morning or late afternoon) will help provide the body with adequate stores of vitamin D. For individuals with limited sun exposure, it is important to take a good supplement.
Iodine: Needed only in trace amounts, iodine helps metabolize excess fat and is important for physical and mental health. It is vital for good thyroid function, which in turn is essential for good health. The best vegetarian sources are dulse, nori, arame, vegetables grown near the ocean, and many vitamin and mineral supplements.
Iron: A trace element needed for the formation of blood, iron is vital for the health of cells and for the transport of oxygen to all parts of the body. The richest plant sources are sea vegetables, leafy greens, beets, cherries, lentils, legumes, dried fruits, nuts (almonds, brazil nuts, cashews), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame), whole grains, and blackstrap molasses. (Adding fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C to your meals enhances iron absorption. Dairy products, on the other hand, can inhibit absorption of iron.)
Essential fatty acids: Necessary for every living cell in the body, essential fatty acids help rebuild cells. Some excellent vegetarian sources are algaes, hemp seeds and oil, flax seeds and oil, primrose and borage oils, chia seeds, and most raw nuts and seeds.
Zinc: An essential mineral required for prostate gland function, growth of reproductive organs, and protein synthesis, zinc promotes a healthy immune system and healing of wounds. Found in kelp, nuts, seeds (especially pumpkin seeds), lentils, mushrooms, and brewer’s yeast.
Whole Food Supplements
To ensure nutritional support, complement your diet with a high quality, whole food supplement. Whole food supplements can vary in quality. The following are whole, minimally processed, and of excellent quality.
Chlorella: A single-celled freshwater grown algae, chlorella is a complete protein (approximately 58 percent), containing vitamins B, C, and E, beta-carotene, trace minerals, calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids. It is nature’s richest source of chlorophyll and commonly recommended to aid the body in the elimination of heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, and lead. (Broken cell-wall chlorella is nearly twice as digestible as other chlorella.) Chlorella is also excellent for regulating blood sugar.
E3Live: Minimally processed, aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA)—blue-green algae—this product contains high-quality amino acids, live enzymes, chlorophyll, minerals, vitamins, and essential fatty acids. ELive is very easily assimilated by the body. It is an excellent food to help heal and nourish your body.
Maca: Rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and iron, maca increases energy and supports the immune system. It is also a hormone-balancing adaptogen that helps regulate hormones in both men and women, reduces stress, and enhances the libido.
Full spectrum plant-based enzymes: The most popular enzymes found in natural food supplements, plant-based enzymes are useful in supporting optimal digestion. They are an essential supplement when consuming heavier foods (both cooked and raw).
Probiotics: A good bacteria naturally found in the body, probiotics help support a healthy digestive system. They can be found in Rejuvelac, live sauerkraut, and other fermented foods that contain active cultures. (Look for dairy-free probiotics.)
Spirulina: A tiny aquatic plant with a remarkable concentration of nutrients including protein (65 percent), beta carotene, B-complex vitamins, vitamin E, essential trace minerals, and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), spirulina is also a major source of iron and calcium.
Vitamineral™ Green: This product includes a full spectrum of naturally occurring, absorbable, and nontoxic vitamins, minerals (including calcium), and trace minerals. It contains no synthetic or isolated nutrients.
Schinoussa Sea Vegetables™: A raw superfood made with spirulina, chlorella, blue-green algae (ELive), irish moss, and dulse. This blend is clinically tested and proven to reduce free radicals within weeks if taken regularly.
Whole Foods to Include in the Diet
Bee pollen: A complete food said to contain approximately 185 nutrients, including twenty-two amino acids, plus vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, it is useful for treating fatigue, hay fever, sinusitis, environmental allergies, prostate enlargement, chronic infection, and nutritional deficiencies. (People who are allergic to bees should never take bee pollen.)
Chia seeds: The richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, they are also an excellent source of protein, minerals, fiber, vitamin B, and antioxidants. Eat one to two tablespoons of soaked chia seeds daily.
Flax seeds: High in lignans and omega-3s, flax seeds also provide excellent nutrition in the form of protein, lecithin, minerals, vitamins, and fiber. Flax is an important food to eat daily (soak and blend). One heaping tablespoon contains two grams of alpha-linolenic acid.
Garlic: Long known for its many health benefits and medicinal properties, garlic is an antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial agent and is known to expel intestinal parasites from the body. Garlic improves circulation and lowers blood pressure and cholesterol.
Hemp seeds: As a complete protein, hemp seeds are an excellent source of amino acids and have a well-balanced ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 essential fatty acids. Hemp seeds are excellent in salads and smoothies and can be made into a delicious hemp milk.
Wheatgrass juice: High in minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, and K, wheatgrass juice is very helpful in strengthening the immune system. It is also a powerful blood cleanser and can help remove toxins from the blood stream.
Dulse, wakame, hijiki, and other sea vegetables: Dulse is a whole food that is high in trace elements, minerals, and iodine. It is excellent for removing toxins from the body. Be sure to soak for one minute and drain before eating. (Store in the refrigerator after soaking.) Highly alkaline sea vegetables are packed with B vitamins, minerals, iodine, and selenium to support the health and proper function of the thyroid and adrenal glands. Rich in alginates, sea vegetables are useful in removing toxins from the body. They also contain cancer-fighting lignans.