I am fairly sure cavemen did not have supplements. I have been wondering about this lately, and I am still not sure how I feel about supplementing. According to the Robb Wolf podcasts I have been listening to, he often says that when you look at the nutrients of a Paleo lifestyle, the minerals and vitamins we get look like we are living off multivitamins...if this is the case then why are people using so many supplements to get all the nutrients and minerals we should really be getting from whole food? I don't understand how people can preach Paleo and still be taking supplements... I understand vitamin d due to our sedentary, in door lifestyles, and I understand omega 3, due to the production of foods etc...but I can't understand why in order to be feeling "ok" we have to supplement with so many other things like multivitamins, magnesium, potassium, calcium, iodine, etc (and the list goes on) when ultimately, this should all be a part of the foods you are eating, no?? Not to mention, they are an expensive addition to your diet!!
I think that many folks who follow ancestral diets don't take many, if any, supplements. They find that their bodies are healed enough to get the proper nutrition they require through their awesome food.
Some folks, though, come to Paleo with decades of SAD eating, or with a system that is metabolically deranged (god I love that term) or compromised in some way. Folks who are feeling in great health generally do not look to make dietary changes, so Paleo gets quite a few who are hurting when they begin. These folks need extra nutrition support. Their digestive system may not be ready to assimilate nutrition fully from the foods they eat. They may need a boost from supplements.
Alright, if you really want to know.
Everyone here, I would imagine, wants to be as healthy as possible. In reality, it's hard to know how nutritious modern food really is when all we hear is "depletion of the soil" blah blah blah...
So we do our best, reaching for the most nutritious food possible. Sometimes we can get everything we need or think we need, but life gets in the way. I'm 21 and I buy my own groceries, I can't really buy seafood on my budget. I can't buy exotic things just for their nutrients, you know?
Do I need all these nutrients? I have no clue. Am I getting everything I need? I have absolutely no clue. I think so...
So I occasionally take a mineral supplement or two and Omega 3s and Vitamin D in the winter. Sometime I buy supplements just to try them, because I like to tinker and see what works and what doesn't.
For some people, supplementation will help them get better. It will speed up the process and hopefully get them to a point where they are content with their health.
There are lots of reasons to supplement, but you definitely don't need to if you don't want to!
The better answer is as follows:
(1) The soil which nurtures our vegetables has been depleted via industrial and repeat farming. Hence, they do not have the same mineral and vitamin levels as they once did. Further, commercial interests, rather than natural selection, have shaped farming practices. Most fruits have been bred for sweetness, thus increasing fructose load, while "undesirable tastes" like bitterness and sourness have been bred out. Even sweet potatoes are much more sweeter today than they were eons ago. This is an old Paleo standby, in fact, that we're not eating the same thang that we used to eat.
(2) Our environment has changed drastically since our caveman days, sheilding us from sunlight, exposing us to industrial pollution and toxins, and making our immediate environemnt unduly antiseptic with antibacterial cleaning agents. Placed out of our ancestral milieu, we need to supplement to mitigate the effects of these polluting agents.
(2) More importantly, many of us are more often than not have damaged immune systems in the form of gut permeability, immune dysregulation, dysbiosis, etc. The rate of such conditions is alarming: only 1/3 of us are non-obese and non-overweight; about 1/2 of us are diabetic or prediabetic and thus insulin resistant to some degree; about 1/2 of us are thought to suffer from IBS, and alarmingly growing number from IBD; many have real or crypto thyroid conditions which impact metabolism but is not acknowledged by modern medicine; and many of us have autoimmune conditions. More often than not, many of us suffer from such diasesed states but don't know about it. Paleo dieters, in fact, are more sensitive to their wellness, so they're probably more aware of their affliction than the general population.
Once afflicted with such conditions, you simply do not absorb micronutrients well, even though you may be eating a healthy Paleo diet to the tee. So you still have to supplement, since the issue is your body's absorption, not that you're following a faulty diet. In fact, no diet is better than Paleo in making micronutrients bioavailable, but the problem is in us, the state of our immune system and gut health, which prevents us from absorbing what's purportedly so nourishing.
Those seem to be the proper arguments. That doesn't mean I necessarily subscribe to these but it would be better to advance them on behalf of Paleo than to take untenable positions: e.g., there is no need to supplement, Paleo dieters in fact do not supplement.
I spend around $150-$200 a month on supplements. Many of them are anti-oxidant from dozens of fruit extracts. Imagine eating all that sugar to get the equivalent dose!? Yikes! Additionally I take CoQ10, S.O.D., glutathione, astaxanthin, fucoxathin, resveratrol, Omega 3s, hawthorne, grape seed extract, magnesium, relora, BCAAs + Sustamine (for weight lifting), polycosanol, vitamin K2-MK7, vitamin D, sytrinol, pycnogenol, choline, inisitol, trace minerals, and several others things including a multivitamin high in zinc and copper for my lazy thyroid.
I take these because:
Until recently, I had a horrible diet that damaged my body and metabolism. I had high blood pressure, stress, horrible cholesterol and a low functioning thyroid. Although the paleo diet turned my body from flabby to lean and toned - some of the the metabolic damage is irreversible. For example, My HDL NEVER, EVER, NO MATTER WHAT climbs above 30. Therefore, I take every known cardio-protective anti-oxidant to protect myself. I have the money - so why should I not take these supplements? I believe these supplements will give me an extra decade or two more life. I'm not going to place all my faith on the paleo diet to protect me - why should I? What does that prove and who am I proving it to?
I'm 32 years old. Before I took all these supplements and ate paleo, I looked 10 years older. I was haggered, tired, baggy eyed, and *$#@-faced. These supplements go above and beyond what any diet can provide. People tell me all the time now that I look like a teenager. I love it. Again, with results like that, why would I not take all these supplements? My skin is softer and smoother than when I was 18. My hair is thick, shiny, and lush. It never used to be like that until I started taking supplements and eating paleo.
People who say "I feel healthy and I don't take supplements" are kidding themselves. It's not always about how you feel. There's are plenty of damaging and oxidative processes happening in your body that you can not feel. You can't feel high blood pressure until you get a heart attack or stroke. You can't feel the AGEs ravaging your body until you get cancer. You can't feel the hundreds of environmental toxins floating around in your blood until you've got an auto-immune disease or cancer.
I say, if you have the money, take supplements and anti-oxidants. I take a huge plethora of supplements in half-doses so I don't overdo any one particular thing. I believe that by mixing many different antioxidants in smaller doses allows them to work synergistically. I don't believe in mega-dosing, although when people see me popping 20 pills at breakfast it might look like I am. Every type of antioxidant works differently in the body so I don't place my bets on any one particular kind.
Because natural is not optimal, because paleo is not ultimate nutrition in all cases, and because most of us start doing it because we're sick, so we need more than just food to heal (for example, it is extremely difficult to get rid of acne without fat-soluble vitamins).
Technically paleo isn't about supplements at all. Most of us take Vitamin D3, but we do so because we are not rich enough to get out in the sun during work hours. We can't or don't want to eat enough fish to get our Omega-3s. Sometimes we have weird symptoms and turn to supplements rather than pharmaceutical drugs. This isn't a hit against paleo; these are attempts at dealing with the very unpaleo nature of modern life.
We take supplements for all sorts of reasons. Insurance is a typical one, vanity is another. Anyone taking BCAAs before a fasted workout is as much concerned with performance as they are with health ... or as folks are wont to say, about looking good naked.
A. The environmental conditions from which food is sourced are very different today than in the paleolithic many of which necessitate supplemental nutrition.
B. Just because cavemen didn't take any supplements doesn't mean that there is no value to supplements in the promotion of health and longevity.
Ask any honest person with knowledge of physiology and nutrition and they would tell you that whenever possible nutrients should come from whole foods however today's conditions result in supplementation often being a rather practical solution for those seeking optimal health.
I only eat meat, herbal teas, and water. I don't take supplements. I'm perfectly healthy.
Having said that, some people need to heal for many years to undo the damage from years of eating sugar and grains. Supplements might help with that. But they're not necessary for healthy people.