Is it possible to get all the vitamins and minerals we need from our food? There is no easy answer to this question because it depends not only on how well we digest and assimilate the food we eat, but also on the quality of the food. For example, the highest per portion sources of Calcium are kelp (1093 mg per 100 grams edible portion, or roughly 3 1/2 ounces) and Swiss cheese (925 mg/100 gm). A serving of either of these foods would generously cover the USRDA of 800 mg/day for both men and women in midlife. The question is now whether the kelp has been dragged up through toxic waters in the harvesting process; and whether the milk that the Swiss cheese was curdled from is contaminated by a cow fed on antibiotics and pesticide-laden grain…? Here is a place to consider juiced collard greens (about 12 ounces of the raw vegetable would give 800 mg of Calcium), turnip greens (12 oz), parsley (1 lb), dandelion greens (1 lb) or beet greens (1.5 lbs). Brewer’s yeast, as another example, is an excellent source of B vitamins, Phosphorus and Iron. But beware, many yeasts are also high in Lead. Organic nuts do not contain Lead, and are an excellent source of all the B vitamins EXCEPT B12 WHICH MUST BE SUPPLEMENTED in vegetarian diets. Try sunflower seeds, almonds, pine nuts, cashews or hazelnuts. Soak them first before blending or juicing; a small handful of each will suffice for the RDA of B vitamins. Other good sources of B vitamins are mushrooms, potatoes, leeks, elder berries, and soaked dry figs. Again, juicing is a terrific option because it concentrates nutrients. Almost a pound of mushrooms is required to provide the RDA of Riboflavin (B2), for example. Juiced, these would go down quite nicely with some beets, carrots and a slice of fresh ginger.
The question about digestion and assimilation relates to why juices are an important part of the optimal diet. All of us have eaten a great deal of processed food during the course of our lifetime, and most of us continue to enjoy the convenience of prepared foods to a certain extent. The whole “deal” about live foods is the ENZYMES they contain which allow the nutrients to be released into the bloodstream and into the cells. Prepared food (cooked in any way, canned, processed, or whatever you might do to it besides pick it off the vine, squeeze it and eat it) has no enzymes. None. At all. The two exceptions that we currently know of are freeze-dried foods, which retain a portion of their enzymatic activity which is released when ingested, and juiced foods, which are not heated, but merely pulverized so that the cell walls are opened, allowing the nutrients to spill out. All the vitamins, minerals, proteins and organic sugars found inside the plant cell walls are readily oxidized when exposed to air, so juices are best when imbibed soon after juicing. Juices made from fresh, organic produce not only give almost all the nutrients available in “vitamin pills” but also provide enzymes to enable the absorption of these nutrients.
However, please keep in mind that nothing is wrong with taking a high quality, throughtfully formulated vitamin/mineral supplement, particularly in times of extra stress or illness. Just remember to take them with a meal plus enzymes, or with fresh juices. Sometimes we might want to supplement with a specific nutrient which would be more easily accomplished with a pill than juicing. For example, to ward off a cold we might take 3 to 5 grams of Vitamin C daily for a few days. This would require 2-3 lbs of sweet red peppers, or 6-7 pounds of kale, parsely or collard greens, or nearly 20 pounds of red cabbage or strawberries each day! Clearly these food options are rather extreme, even when juiced.
If you wish to locate a high quality supplement, preferably one made from an organic food source, please consult a physician who has adequate nutritional training. A synthetic nutrient may well be better for you than one made from concentrated contaminated foods. Also remember that while fresh, organic juices are the closest thing we know to ultimate nutrition, they CANNOT provide all the fiber we need in our diets, nor the essential fatty acids. So keep eating salads, whole grains, cold- pressed flax seed oil and digestive enzymes — between juices.