Would you rather take a fistful of pills everyday instead of eating broccoli for dinner? If so, you aren’t alone. Data from the CDC shows that 87% of Americans aren’t eating enough veggies. As a culture, we simply don’t like to eat vegetables – and it has consequences.
Inadequate vegetable intake is linked to diseases like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and upwards of 6.7 million deaths yearly.
Can Vitamins Replace Vegetables?
Supplements cannot replace vegetables.
Supplements are meant to be used in addition to your diet. No pill can substitute for all of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients found in vegetables.
You could fill an entire cabinet with supplements and you still wouldn’t be able to replace all the nutrients found in vegetables. Even with “live” raw food supplements, some of the enzymes and nutrients are going to die during processing.
It’s much easier and cheaper to learn to like vegetables than try to replace them with vitamins. Start out with mild veggies like iceberg lettuce and work your way up to superfoods like kale and bok choy.
Top Supplements to Replace Vegetables
You can get these nutrients from non-vegetable sources too. However, chances are if you aren’t eating veggies that you’ll need to supplement them.
If you are eating enough fruit and whole grains, then you might be getting enough fiber even without vegetables. If not, your digestive tract will get backed up very quickly.
In addition to preventing constipation, we now know how important fiber is to maintaining gut flora. Microbes in our gut eat fiber. Without enough fiber, they starve and “bad” species of microbes can take over. These microbes can end up feeding on the lining of the gut!
Imbalanced gut flora is linked to heart disease, obesity, depression, autoimmune disorders, IBS, and much more. Eat your fiber to prevent this!
Vitamin K is mostly found in darky leafy greens. It is important for maintaining blood health and clotting. Babies are routinely given vitamin K shots at birth to prevent bleeding.
While not as well known, vitamin K is also important because it is turned into K2 in the body. Vitamin K2 works like “public transportation” to carry calcium where it needs to go in the body.
Without vitamin K2, calcium would harden in our arteries, leading to heart disease. This explains why a massive study published in the British Journal of Medicine found that taking calcium supplements increased the risk of heart attack or stroke by 20-30%.
It goes to show why whole foods beat supplements. Kale, for example, is great for bones because it contains calcium, vitamin K, and magnesium (which is also important for bones). Supplements can only do their best to imitate what is found perfectly balanced in nature.
Phytonutrients and Antioxidants:
Phytonutrients (also called phytochemicals) are chemicals found in plants. They help protect the plant from disease and pests. Many types of phytonutrients are also antioxidants.
It’s hard to keep up on all the different types of phytonutrients. Some of these have been extensively studied, such as lycopene and beta carotene. The health benefits of others are only now being discovered.
If you consume chocolate, tea, or wine, you are already getting a healthy dose of certain types of phytonutrients. However, there is no replacement to eating a wide variety of plant-based foods.
Even if you hate veggies, at least try to eat lots of berries and bright-colored fruits. These are great sources of phytonutrients and antioxidants.
Many phytonutrients die off quickly when exposed to air or processing. So, you’ve really got to choose your supplement wisely. Otherwise you will be consuming an expensive pill full of inactive nutrients.
You’ll usually find vitamin A formulated in multivitamins rather than a supplement on its own. However, it has become more popular for people to take vitamin A because of its skin benefits.
Before starting to supplement with vitamin A, consider eating more butter and oily fish instead. Remember that vitamin A is fat-soluble so you’ll want to take it with healthy fat to aid absorption.
If you are suffering from fatigue, anxiety, muscle cramps, and poor immunity, then potassium deficiency might be the reason. Try eating more bananas, oranges, and yogurt. Otherwise, you can take a potassium supplement to replace vegetables.
Magnesium deficiency is incredibly common and it might be the reason behind your irritability, tension, and insomnia.
Dietary magnesium is poorly absorbed in the digestive tract, so taking traditional supplements won’t help too much. Instead, it is better to get your magnesium through the skin, such as with an Epsom salt bath.
Fermented Cod Liver Oil:
FCLO is known as a potent anti-inflammatory agent which boosts immunity and overall health. It is rich in vitamins A and D, as well as Omega 3 fatty acids.
Because it is fermented, the nutrients in FCLO can be absorbed better than those in fish oil. Fermentation also means that FCLO is a source of vitamin K2, which is crucial for bone health – especially if you aren’t eating vegetables or other fermented foods.
Whole-Food Raw Multivitamins:
There has recently been a surge in whole-food, raw multivitamins. These multivitamins are made from plants which have had nutrients extracted and dried without using high temperatures to process them.
The idea behind raw, real-foods multivitamins is that all of the nutrients will be present – including those phytonutrients and trace nutrients which normally don’t get any attention. Raw also means that the nutrients contain enzymes needed for digestion and absorption.
There hasn’t been much research as to whether raw multivitamins are better than synthetic supplements. However, many people swear by these supplements. Just be warned that whole-food, raw multivitamins are rather pricy vegetable replacements.