“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” HIPPOCRATES


This article explores the essentials nutrients needed for optimal health and how they can be obtained either from our diet or supplements. Plus, we look at the limitations of modern medicine and why we shouldn’t always rely on drugs to fix us.

In the 1930s, in order to better understand tooth decay, a pioneering dentist named Dr Price travelled the globe looking at the diets and lifestyles of remote communities. To his surprise, he found communities with none of the Westernised diseases people were suffering from in America. Amongst the places he visited, he spent time with Inuits, Aborigines, the islanders of Thursday Island and the New Zealand Maori. Part of his research involved shipping back the traditional food of these remote communities to his laboratory in America. There he tested them and found that when compared to the average dinner plate in the USA, they were on average:

  • Seven times richer in calcium
  • Four times richer in magnesium and copper. However, in some cases, the concentration of magnesium was as much as 20 times higher
  • Often 50 times richer in iron
  • Often 50 times richer in iodine
  • A far higher concentration vitamin C and B was repeatedly seen
  • Significantly higher concentrations of vitamin A, D and K

Did our primal ancestors take supplements? Of course not. So, ideally, I wouldn’t want to recommend them. However, even when we buy everything organic, eat very few processed foods, avoid the deadly CARBS, even when we are completely abstaining from added sugars and as best as we can avoiding toxins, our health is still at a slight disadvantage to our primal ancestors. You see, they ate hundreds of different plants, bugs, insects and animals and, as the seasons changed, so too did their food options. Their diet was far more diverse than what we eat today. Their soils were not full of toxins and chemically produced pesticides and they were not breathing in pollutants.

Ideally, just as our primal ancestors did, we want to get all of our nutrients from our food and not have to worry about the state of our microbiome. However, while our body has yet to evolve to be in sync with the world around us, so much has changed in Great Britain in terms of our food and our environment, that a life without supplements leaves many individuals lacking in various areas.

With so much of the nutritional value in our food being suppressed, we would have to eat copious amounts of some items just to satisfy our basic requirements. Even with some organic foods, the soil has been so badly depleted over the years, they aren’t able to soak up as much nutrients through their roots as they have done historically.

Our view on vitamins and minerals is quite straightforward. Eat as much organic and nutritionally loaded, naturally dense food as possible and then supplement to meet any dietary shortfalls.

Author Patrick Holford 

Author Patrick Holford

I will often ask my students; do you know why we need to supplement? The normal response is that the soil is no longer good, and we don’t choose the right foods, all of which is true. But I actually think there is a much simpler and obvious answer. And that is that we don’t eat enough. We eat a fraction of the food that our distant ancestors ate, before there were cars and fridges. We talk a lot about the Mediterranean diet, where the average man in Crete was walking seven miles every day, before cars and fridges. And without fridges, all of our food was fresh and organic, and we had to eat a lot more of it because we had to chop wood and fetch the water. And we moved around so much more. And all of this organic food, in probably three times the quantity, provided a far higher level in vitamins and minerals. A recent study at The Royal Society of Medicine looked at what a mid-Victorian worker diet provided in the way of micronutrients and it concluded that even if you or I wanted to achieve the same level of vitamins, essential fats, minerals, vitamin C for example, as a worker did in the mid-Victorian age, we would have to either supplement or eat two or three times the amount of food we do today.