Supplementing, A Modern Day Must

4 reasons why it’s vital to supplement your diet

Every few months I spot a headline questioning the value of dietary supplements (“Billions Wasted on Supplements…”, “Are Supplements a Big Waste of Money?”), but as someone who has spent nearly 15 years reporting on the science of supplements, these headlines baffle me. There is a decades-long body of research conducted at universities and research hospitals worldwide that shows supplements, from vitamins and minerals to fatty acids and phytonutrients, are beneficial to human health. Indeed, the human body requires nutrients to stay alive—every biological process and body system runs on nutrients, and without them, things fall apart. Some argue that we get plenty of these nutrients from food, but that line of thinking is not a true reflection of our modern world. For example, an analysis published in 2020 of micronutrient intake among 26,282 American adults found “substantial” inadequacies in four key nutrients: vitamin A (45%), C (46%), D (95%), and E (84%) and zinc (15%).1

As our world has changed, so has the need for supplementing. Here are four reasons why it’s vital to supplement your diet.

1. A SAD Diet

Do you eat the recommended 2-3 cups of vegetables every day? How often do you eat wild cold-water fish like mackerel, salmon, and herring? How about pizza, tacos, bagels, or a quick meal on-the-go? (No judgement—my family has pizza and taco nights weekly.) The point is, it can be challenging to eat a perfect diet, and the truth is, most Americans don’t. In fact, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),2 only 10 percent of American adults are meeting the recommendations for vegetable consumption. The most common vegetable eaten? The potato, with most of the consumption coming in the form of frozen potatoes.3 Much of the population eats the “Standard American Diet” (SAD), full of refined grains, sugar, and highly processed packaged foods, which are devoid of nutrition. Dietary supplements are certainly not a substitute for a healthy, nutrient-dense diet, but they do fill in the nutrient gaps.

2. Plant Foods Are Less Nutritious Than They Used to Be

Even if you eat a mostly healthy diet, it’s becoming harder to get optimal amounts of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients from food alone. Scientists have known for some time that the plant foods we’re eating today are not as nutrient dense as they used to be. A study published in the early 2000s that compared USDA nutrient content data from 1950 and 1999 for 13 nutrients in 43 crops found that all 43 crops tested showed “statistically reliable declines” in six nutrients, including protein, calcium, potassium, iron, riboflavin, and vitamin C.4 Scientists have pointed to conventional farming techniques that deplete nutrients from the soil and rely on hybridized crops for increased yield over nutrient density as the main culprits. Climate change is exacerbating the problem. Recent research has shown that crops grown under high levels of CO2 lose nutrient content; corn, wheat, and rice—staple food crops for much of the world—contain less protein, zinc, and iron when grown under high levels of CO2. A study published in 2020 compared 166 years-worth of archived wheat samples and found that as atmospheric CO2 levels and temperatures have risen, wheat has lost protein, magnesium, zinc, iron, and potassium, while starch and glucose concentrations have increased. The researchers wrote, “The current study showed an overall decrease in all micro- and macronutrient concentrations in wheat grain over 166 years.”5

3. A Polluted Planet

Unfortunately, living in a polluted world is our reality. We are constantly bombarded with environmental toxins—air pollution, so-called “forever chemicals,” pesticides, endocrine disrupters, etc.—that deplete nutrients like vitamin C, which is rapidly used by the body when we are exposed to particulate matter, combustion smoke (e.g., smoke from wildfires and wood-burning stoves), ozone, and tobacco smoke. Dietary supplements will replenish what is lost, and give our bodies the extra protection they need to handle the constant exposure. For example, one study found that supplementation with vitamin C reduced the oxidation of fats and LDL cholesterol in those exposed to cigarette smoke.6 Other research has found that high levels of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA protect our brains and cardiovascular systems from the harmful health effects of air pollution.7 8

4. Optimal Nutrients for Optimal Health

Optimal Nutrients for Optimal HealthThere are some nutrients that we just can’t get optimal amounts of from food alone. Take vitamin D for example—there aren’t that many food sources of this important vitamin, and even when it is found in food, it’s in negligible amounts. Another important nutrient that is especially challenging to get optimal amounts of from diet alone are the omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA—especially the 3,000 mg daily dose that is recommended for the most health benefits. And consider the polyphenol resveratrol, which a body of research has shown to be beneficial to human health in a multitude of ways: the average amount of resveratrol found in a bottle of red wine is between .36 and 1.92 mg,9 meaning that you would have to drink hundreds of glasses of wine to receive the 500 mg dose found in one capsule. Sometimes, it’s necessary to rely on dietary supplements to obtain optimal health-promoting amounts of certain nutrients.

As you can see, a variety of factors are at play, creating the “perfect storm” in which dietary supplements have become a modern-day must. In addition to the reasons already covered is the idea of individuality—depending on your age, lifestyle, digestive issues, specific health issues, etc. your body may require more of certain nutrients. Simply put, when you invest in quality dietary supplements, you are investing in your health… for the long run.


  1. Reider CA, Chung RY, Devarshi PP, Grant RW, Hazels Mitmesser S. Inadequacy of Immune Health Nutrients: Intakes in US Adults, the 2005-2016 NHANES. Nutrients. 2020 Jun 10;12(6):1735. doi: 10.3390/nu12061735.
  2. Lee SH, PhD, Moore LV, PhD, et al. “Adults Meeting Fruit and Vegetable Intake Recommendations—United States, 2019.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Jan 7, 2022; Vol 71(1)
  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service…
  4. Davis DR, Epp MD, Riordan HD. Changes in USDA food composition data for 43 garden crops, 1950 to 1999. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Dec;23(6):669-82. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2004.10719409
  5. Mariem, S.B., Gámez, A.L., Larraya, L. et al. Assessing the evolution of wheat grain traits during the last 166 years using archived samples. Sci Rep 1021828 (2020).
  6. Miller CN, Rayalam S. The role of micronutrients in the response to ambient air pollutants: Potential mechanisms and suggestions for research design. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2017;20(1):38-53. doi: 10.1080/10937404.2016.1261746. 
  7. Chen C, Xun P, Kaufman JD, Hayden KM, Espeland MA, Whitsel EA, Serre ML, Vizuete W, Orchard T, Harris WS, Wang X, Chui HC, Chen JC, He K. Erythrocyte omega-3 index, ambient fine particle exposure, and brain aging. Neurology. 2020 Aug 25;95(8):e995-e1007. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000010074.
  8. Hoffman JB, Hennig B. Protective influence of healthful nutrition on mechanisms of environmental pollutant toxicity and disease risks. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2017 Jun;1398(1):99-107. doi: 10.1111/nyas.13365
  9. Weiskirchen S, Weiskirchen R. Resveratrol: How Much Wine Do You Have to Drink to Stay Healthy? Adv Nutr. 2016 Jul 15;7(4):706-18. doi: 10.3945/an.115.011627.