Dear Martina, I was most interested in the recent letter to you from Doug Streeter with information about essential nutrients required for a healthy lifestyle.

I am particularly keen to find natural ways of gaining minerals and vitamins, without resorting to supplements, and would be grateful for any help in this direction. Susan McDonald, Brighton Dear Susan, This is a very relevant and controversial topic.

I know that, like you, many people are worried about the quality of today's food - yet they do not wish to resort to supplementation or are completely overwhelmed by the huge range of supplements available. The reason why supplements exist in the first place is that we no longer live in a "natural" environment and there is no such thing as fresh food! Unless, that is, you grow your own, pick it yourself and consume it the same day! But, even then, fruit and veg no longer contain the full-complement of nutrients and enzymes we require for our bodies to function optimally, since the mineral content in soil has decreased alarmingly over the past 50 years.

For example, in order to get the iron available in one cup of spinach in 1940, one would have to consume about 65 cups today.

An orange which contained 50mg of vitamin C in 1950 may now only contain 5mg. Even organic food may be grown on deficient soil and can be subject to long storage times before reaching the consumer. Food we buy may be genetically tampered with, excessively processed and contaminated by metals, chemicals, hormones or parasites. Our vegetables have usually been stored in warehouses long before appearing on supermarket shelves. To add insult to injury, we tend to overcook them, destroying vitamins and losing minerals in the water. The effects of a nutrient-deficient diet combined with bad eating habits is reflected in the phenomenal rise of chronic degenerative health problems - in children as well as adults. On top of this, many people are taking prescribed medication and risking possible side-effects without considering whether their diet or lifestyle is making them ill.

Changing one's diet requires effort and buying supplements costs money. On the other hand, ill health is even more expensive - in money and quality of life.

There is no perfect solution. All we can do is educate ourselves about what to eat and try to put back into our bodies what nature should, but no longer can, provide.

This means eating an unprocessed wholefood diet (as close to nature as possible) and getting expert advice on individual supplement needs.

If you dislike the idea of taking supplements in pill form, you may like to try all-in-one "super foods". These supply potent plant concentrates in an highly-absorbable powder form.

Health Interlink are UK distributors of top quality wholefood supplements such as Perfect Food and Primal Defence (Tel: 01582 794094). Other super foods are available by mail order from ONC (Tel: 01344 301344) and include Pure Synergy from Xynergy, Earth Source Greens & More from Solgar and Blue Green Algae from Nature's Gold.