I am not a qualified human nutritionist but through researching this issue with regard to my own health here are a number of general points and tips that I hope will prove as equally useful for you as they are for me.
Nutrient Levels in Food
Firstly, although Organic food is theoretically produced using a higher standard of farming it has limitations. It takes less than 5 years for a non-organic farm to switch to being classified as organic and whilst I encourage this, it tends to guarantee the minimum usage of chemicals in food production more than a higher level of nutrient ingredients. Of course farms that have been Organic for much longer, or are bio-dynamic (eg according to Rudolph Steiner methods) should be producing food that is significantly more nutritious too.
So why is our food often nutritionally inferior? Well most commercial farming fertilizers are based on adding Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium which is where the N:P:K ratio displayed on fertilizer bags comes from. We all know there are many more nutrients required for good health and whilst farmers with stock animals go muck-spreading, if their stock animals' diet is somewhat lacking then it can't go into the muck. As was said as early as the 1930s in the USA
"Never have we been so well fed but so under-nourished."
A typical example of this is the comparative levels of Iron in spinach now compared to the days when the Popeye cartoon character was created to encourage children to eat spinach when the Iron levels made it rather less palatable than nowadays. Here is a chart for other mineral changes in core foods.
I think this makes mineral supplementation compulsory to optimise health. Tablet options are often made cheaply from grinding up mineral rocks which means that the content of the tablet will not be very absorbable by the body - this is termed bio-availability. Research shows that we need 64 minerals and trace elements for DNA to function properly. On the basis that DNA is fundamental to cell function and replication it follows that we need these 64 elements in our diet.
My personal favourite is Quinton Marine Plasma. It certainly made a huge difference to TD, my faithful dog, and saved his life when he was rapidly deteriorating with kidney disease. Having been on it myself I have definitely noticed health benefits I wasn't aware I needed. Although I regard myself as generally healthy I realised after taking Quinton isotonic for a few days that I was more focused in my work and have better concentration. I now take Quinton every day to support my cells and body to the best of my ability. Science is now realising that the balance of trace elements in supplements is important too. The interdependence of all the elements is the key to the correct functioning of metabolism. Supplementing one trace element in isolation just because some research says it's useful for a certain condition will upset the inter-relation of other trace elements reliant on it. Likewise each trace element requires the presence of others it interacts with to function too. Quinton is the only supplement that has all minerals and trace elements present and in the correct proportions to each other too. That is why it is the best. There is more information on Quinton and it's health wide-ranging health benefits on its own product page.
Protandim is the most effective supplements available that increases our own natural production of Super-oxide Dismutase (SOD) that fights oxidate stress = inflammation and helps prevent the more common degernative diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and cancer. It has proven and published research in various different fields. There is more information on its dedicated page.
So what about Vitamins? The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) often quoted next to the amount of Vitamins in a product was calculated based on the minimum requirements to sustain life in an average adult in the 1950s. As I mentioned when talking about pet carnivore nutrition, there is a subtle but very important difference between the amount of some nutrient needed to sustain life and the amount needed to enable an individual to thrive. I'm certainly not advocating that we should all go out and consume massive amounts of vitamins as overdose can create problems too, but in order to optimise health we certainly need significantly more vitamins than the quoted RDAs. Vitamins A,D,E & K are fat soluble and can be stored by the body. The B & C Vitamins are water soluble, required on a daily basis and excesses are excreted.
As an example, along with the "Cold and Influenza" Health Disk, high dose Quinton Hypertonic or Isotonic, high doses of Vitamin C (up to 2g/day), up to 10,000iu Vitamin D3 plus Protandim will blast a cold/flu out of my body in 48-72 hours without the need to take NSAID such as Paracetamol or Ibuprophen which only suppress the body's natural and beneficial reaction to infection which is to get hotter as the immune system gears up.
Dangers of Processed Foods
As a general rule processed and refined foods are one of the major causes of modern health problems. This is certainly true for both sugar and salt. Both are required by the body and indeed the value of salt was recognised in ancient Rome when soldiers were paid in salt - hence the derivation of the word salary. Food grade salt that is sourced from sea salt and natural mines such as those in the Himalayas contains many more minerals and salts than the refined sodium chloride we most commonly see, which is best kept for salting roads and footpaths. Again, the balance of minerals is crucial to cell function and supplementing with just Na and Cl in isolation at high levels on a daily basis will inevitably cause problems regardless of the type of food it is being added to.
Having touched the subject of sugar it brings me onto the subject of Aspartame. This is a man-made sweetener that has somehow managed to become included as an ingredient in a vast array of foods and drinks. It is ironic that it has done so under the guise of being a so-called healthy replacement for refined sugar instead of reverting to another natural unrefined sugar. Aspartame is not good for health and doesn't require very much to reach toxic levels - approximately the equivalent of 4 cans of diet drink a day is reportedly sufficient. Although not everybody drinks that many cans of drink, take a look at the ingredients of your "Diet" and/or "Low calorie" grocery products especially but even non-diet products are now containing it. Check everything you buy and you will be appalled at how many products include it. Aspartame toxicity has been blamed for a 4-fold rise in the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE). As you can see it is neurotoxic and has also been postulated as being a factor in Gulf War Syndrome. Likewise MonoSodium Glutamate (MSG) a commonly used taste enhancer, acts by altering your taste receptors and will also have other effects in your brain chemistry too - best avoided but a very common ingredient in gravy mixes and sauces etc - Ahhh .... no!!! One can only assume that the food industry itself is aware of the problems as some Manufacturers and products make a point of stating they are MSG-free ...
Without going into too much more detail, check what you are putting into your body. Look at the ingredients listed on your food before you buy it. It is easier and healthier just to stick to buying single ingredients so you know exactly what you're eating. The more natural it is the more likely your body can digest and process it for your health benefit. Use qood quality supplements in a form your body can most easily assimilate and don't do anything to excess. A higher protein diet is less likely to put on weight although unlike our carnivorous pets, humans have a carbohydrate requirement too (best consumed in complex carbohydrate form) and high protein diets necessitate a high water consumption to prevent urea build-up in the body. Excess carbohydrate is stored as fat, especially when combined with fat in the diet (eg chips are one of the worst foods for gaining fat and weight) so don't eat too much - simple sugars are the worst.
Having said that we need to be aware that Leptin levels help control cravings for simple carbs. Eating a small amount of simpler carbs once a week will make it easier to avoid cravings for the rest of the week.
Be aware that foods can have more health implications than just obesity etc. Wheat and dairy intolerances/allergies are much more common than most people realise and are certainly common factors in digestive disorders such as IBS, diverticulitis etc. Some people have found that their asthma improves considerably by stopping eating potato. If you suspect an allergy keep a diary of your food and symptoms and look for correlations.
How food is cooked can also have health implications. Microwave ovens work by super-heating water and fat molecules which then cook the proteins and carbohydrates. However super-heating fats creates changes in the fat molecules that doesn't happen with normal oven or hob cooking that makes them carcinogenic and increases the likelihood of cancer and other bowel diseases that are on the increase. The higher the power microwave and faster cooking you use the more likely this is. Is it any wonder that cancer generally and bowel cancer especially is on the rise with 1 in 3 or even 1 in 2 people expected to experience it at some point in their life. Just heating foods in a microwave are enough to alter the fat molecules in it so it's not OK to heat a baby's milk etc.
Other Dietary Options
Some people have gone the other way and only eat a raw diet - often described as a Paleolithic Diet. They claim to be more healthy with more vitality but of course the source of the raw food is very important. Other diets that have had very positive feedback include the "Eat Right for your Type" diet that recommends certain foods according to Blood type. However beware of believing that every food listed for your blood type in such generalisations is automatically good for you - we are still individuals too so become aware of how your body reacts to different foods.
Having said all this, enjoy your balanced diet 99% of the time and don't worry too much about eating something you think isn't totally healthy now and again. Worrying and over-stressing on little things brings it's own health issues and sometimes a little bit of what is bad helps to keep the body geared up to deal with it if you suddenly encounter a bigger dose!!!
If you'd like to know more about human health through nutrition and healthy exercise that doesn't require starvation tactics and endless hours on treadmills, rowers or cross-trainers etc I discovered an excellent e-book you can get online. It has saved me putting everything I know together into one coherent article because Mike Geary, one of New York's top personal trainers has already done it for me!
I can give this a personal endorsement as I followed Mike's advice strictly for 4-5 months a few years back. Within the first 2 months I lost roughly 1½ stone without really trying and I was leaner and more healthy than I have ever been before. All I can say is he really knows his stuff and if you follow the advice it's easy and it works. Click on the banner below to link to Mike's site.