Survival Nutrition

Staying healthy in a survival situation should be at the top of your preparation to-do list.  By maintaining health in an extreme circumstance you can better insure your own survival and that of your families.

Along with attention to proper hygiene, the key to staying healthy when you are relying on your own resources is eating proper nutrition.  The absolute best way to get good nutrition is by providing sources of fresh fruits and vegetables to you and your dependents in every situation. An MRE is not going to get the job done and neither is a conventional vitamin.

Chemical Vitamins

Conventional vitamins, whether in pill form or added to food products are only isolated synthetic components of nutrients.  They are not the same as the complete complexes found in fresh fruits and vegetables.  Shelf stable food that has been “fortified” with vitamins and minerals are providing the few standardized vitamins and minerals recommended by our government which can be synthetically derived or chemically produced in a lab.  These do not provide you with the thousands of heath promoting nutrients that nature provides you in fresh foods.

Manufactured Vitamins

Not only does it seem that conventional vitamins are relatively ineffective in promoting health they have also now been associated with serious side effects similar to those in pharmaceutical drugs especially when used long term.  With more and more studies revealing the therapeutic value of real food, it has become very apparent that depending on a conventional vitamin to maintain in health is at best a waste of time and money.

The good news is that the same foods which help you avoid sickness and infection, also help prevent long term disease.  For a short term acute crises it is vital to avoid infection and sickness which would be debilitating for your situation.  A key component to a high functioning immune system is having healthy digestive system.  The enzymes found in fresh fruits and vegetables are powerful components of food that help promote healthy digestion.  In situations where water may be contaminated, a healthy digestive system can often successfully fight contaminants found in water such as parasites.  Furthermore, by taking a table spoon of raw apple cider vinegar every day your intestines will more easily maintain a proper PH making them more permeable to nutrients and boosting the immune system (please be sure to rinse mouth with water every time as vinegar can eat the enamel off teeth otherwise.)

Survival Nutrition

Another factor that can directly affect the immune system is stress.  Have you ever notice that after you’ve become “run down” is when you end up getting sick?  Inevitably, in unforeseen crises situations stress will be a major factor on the functionality of your immune system.   Certain super foods such as those naturally high in the vitamin B complex are going to help your body deal with the unavoidable “stressors”.  Brewer’s yeast is a preferred natural source of the B vitamins and has been used for centuries as a natural food supplement.

For long term self reliance, especially when medications are not widely available, one should take steps to avoid development of disease.  Vinegar is a powerful disinfectant for a dirty surface or cuts in cases where infectious disease may be rampant.  A diet rich in high anti-oxidant foods can help fight both infection and disease.  Foods like citrus and berries are particularly high in anti-oxidants and should be a priority in your diet.  Another aspect of disease prevention is the roll of chronic inflammation in your health.  Chronic inflammation can often be a precursor to diseases like cancer and heart disease.  Certain foods can either contribute to inflammation or help reduce it.  Processed and shelf stable foods often contain preservatives such as hydrogenated oils that perpetuate the inflammation cycle.  On the other hand, foods like ginger and turmeric have been shown to reduce chronic inflammation.

fresh produce

Incorporating enough fresh fruits and vegetables into your normal everyday diet is hard enough with easy access in the local grocery store.  How are you supposed to do it in the midst of major fall out or natural disaster?

This question poses a particular quandary when you are thinking about food storage.  Food is most nutritious in the raw form because many of its healthful nutrients break down when heated above temperatures over about 100-115 degrees.  Vitamin C for example is very susceptible to heat damage.  When you dehydrate your own food, you may be exposing it to temperatures too high to protect nutrients like the enzymes in fresh fruits and veggies necessary for healthy digestion.  Freeze dried food is a great option because freeze drying protects almost all of foods naturally occurring nutrients.  One idea is to keep a supply of freeze dried fruits and vegetables on hand from companies like TyRy Foods or Mountain House.  You can store either the #10 cans from these manufacturers or the small fruit packs.  Re-hydrating the food however usually involves hot water which introduces the heat factor once again.

Another obstacle to staying healthy on stored food is how to get a big enough variety of food in order to have a therapeutic effect.  Different foods are higher in different nutrients.  Nutritionists recommend eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables in order to get the necessary variety of nutrients from the various foods that contain them.  Maintaining a large enough variety of stock piled fruits and vegetables requires dedicated intention if you want to provide enough variation to make a difference in health.


There are many seed packs such as those by Heirloom Organics designed with self reliance in mind that provide a variety of kinds of seeds.  Priced range anywhere from $40.00 to $400.00, depending on your needs.  A personal produce farm can be a treasury of nutritious foods which you control from planting to harvest.  But requirements to do so go beyond just a stock pile of seeds to include land for growing, water sources and weather/seasonal restrictions.

There are two other options for providing your family with fresh foods in a survival situation.  The most practical solution is the use of a true whole food supplement where the vitamin content comes from the foods in the ingredient list.

The vast majority of so called “whole food supplements” are not truly whole food at all.  Most of them are just synthetic vitamins (incomplete nutrients and unnatural) hidden in a culturing process with a little pinch of different foods sprinkled on top.  It’s difficult to find a reliable company with integrity that provides truly naturally occurring nutrients.

Raw Source Organics is a perfect example of the real thing.  Organic freeze-dried fruits and vegetables in a capsule with absorb-able minerals.  The food is never exposed to heat above about body temperature during processing so it automatically contains the thousands of therapeutic compounds found in nutritious foods.  Plus, it has a wide variety of food.  For example, the Daily Vitamin C has 9 organic fruits and veggies in the ingredient list, nothing else, and 2 capsules gives you 100% Recommended Daily Value.  There are no synthetic vitamins added in which means it’s safe for adults and children with none of the negative side effects associated with conventional vitamins.  One of the greatest things about these supplements is that the capsule allows you to sprinkle the contents out.  You can add it to other food like yogurt, applesauce or water rather than swallowing a pill if preferred.

The vitamin content in these products does begin to deteriorate after the expiration date on the bottle.  For those preparing for short term situations a month’s supply of the Daily Immune and Daily Multiple is going to provide a good amount of nutrition in a wide enough variety for one person.  For long term preparation, rotate a 12 month supply from your survival cache to your pantry, enough for each person in your family.  This way you will be receiving a good amount of raw fruits and vegetables every day no matter what the circumstances may be.

An alternative to whole-food supplements is a home grown sprouting system.  Buying a sprouting kit for a few hundred dollars allows you to sprout nutritious seeds on your kitchen counter top providing your family with nutritious fresh sprouts in about 3 days time.

There is a certain amount of work involved in the sprouting process as you have to change the water in the buckets at least every six hours to avoid bacteria growth and can require a lot of water.  Without a continuous source of fresh water sprouting is not a viable option.  Also, by only eating fresh sprouts you are still not getting a very big variety of foods and therefore are missing many potentially powerful nutrients like those found in beets, carrots or berries.

In case of crises or disaster, most prepared people are equipped with enough calories from protein, fat and carbohydrates provided by shelf stable food to survive.  What most people have not considered is how to equip them selves with enough nutrition necessary to stay healthy.  By supplementing your preparation efforts with either raw whole-food supplements or sprouts and seeds for growing , you are ensuring that your family will get what it needs to keep themselves healthy in almost any situation imaginable or otherwise.

Survival is not just about staying alive, its about living a reasonably healthy life in an unreasonable world.

Anna (featured in the above video) is one of the founders of the supplement company Raw Source Organics.  She has 8 years of experience in the natural products industry and with advocacy for alternative health options. After witnessing firsthand the colossal economic crash of Argentina in 2001, she became active in promotion of crisis preparation as related to health. Through her product and informational blog site, she brings a sobering perspective and practical guidance for promoting all around health in any circumstance.

Photos By:
Bradley J
The Karen D
Wrae Ann
The Team

Joel Jefferson
Written by Joel Jefferson

Joel is one of the original founders of After college, he joined the USMC where he served as an (0302) Marine Infantry Officer. Joel is an avid outdoorsman and spends much of his free time in the mountains. Joel’s hobby is researching survival gear & weapons as well as prepping. Read his full interview here. Read more of Joel's articles.

22 thoughts on “Survival Nutrition”

  1. Great post! Too often we think only of foods that are easy to make or transport, rather than thinking of giving proper consideration to the proper balance of foods and nutrients we need to keep us healthy. If we face an extended survival situation, maintaining our health and enabling our bodies to combat infection will become paramount.

  2. Good solid post about nutrition. I love those freeze dried fruit packs. And worse comes to worse about the heat damage they can be eaten "as is". Not as tasty but in a pinch/emergency it works.
    I do have, and will keep, a small bottle of multi-vitamins in my bug out bag though. They don't take up alot of space and when I need to use my bug out bag I don't expect my body to live like a king. The vitamins will be better than nothing.

  3. Awesome post! Sometimes we concentrate too much on gear and not enough on what will fuel us to use that gear. I personally don't have a very good supply of food fuel for my BOB. I do have a supply for bugging in, primarily canned items. I know MREs and other pouched foods are good to have, and are better than nothing but I don't like the prcie of them and for some reason have an odd perception of them. I think one of the best things to do is to have the best possible knowledge of what plantlife you can eat in the area you live in and also to have a guide book on plant life that can be eaten. Takes up little to no space, and will be the largest abundance of food for you that you don't have to carry. If plant life is not edible due to a TEOTWAWKI event…..than MREs, supplements, are only going to last so long before the end anyway soI I'm probably not going to invest my time or money into them….(I know, could be a bad move) Anyway, loved reading all about the different perspective on nutrition, I will defintly be looking into a few of these ideas to supplement my daily life as of now. Thanks!

    • I agree that knowing about edible plant life is a VERY useful skill. I know and have experienced a variety of edible plants, but I tell you what I am ALWAYS nervous about eating them. lol. Plants can be very very deceptive with or without a guidebook.

      • I am very nervous about edible plants as well! I don't like to stray too far from very main distinguished plantst. Like dandelions, pines trees, catails, and the such. If I have to second guess what it is I WILL NOT eat it. I especially stay away from mushrooms at all costs, even if you know what they are I'm afraid in my hunger state I could make a mistake and choose the wrong kind and we all know how potent mushrooms can be. As long as the environment is still suitable for plants to grow though you will never run out of plants, insects and the such…stocked food only lasts so long. Thanks for the reply

  4. This is great! Future article I would love to see is on a field medical kit (not first aid) and recommended book for same. I have read some doctors recommendations on similar subjects but most are for camping not a SHTF situation.

  5. vitamins in pill form are bedpan bullets. not worth the investment. liquid suppliments are better by far. but beware..if you have seafood allergies , some vitamins use seafood based calcium and they can be fatal to someone allergic to them. happy hunting

  6. Great article and video! It's information like this that sets this website above the others. Yeah, guns, ammo , and knives may be important – but this kind of information is valuable as well. Keep up the good work.

  7. As an MD, I believe that the above article is less than truthful, at best, and is just a big sales pitch for her "organic" supplements. Do yourself a favor and keep a supply of multivitamins with iron on hand. Good for preventing scurvy, pernicious anemia, iron deficiency anemia, and a variety of debilitating neurologic conditions such as subacute combined degeneration of the spinal cord, an irreversible condition. Any SHTF diet is going to eventually be very poor in vitamins, so this is a must. The biggest problem is that most vitamins begin to degrade after about a year, so store them in the coolest, driest place you can find to slow down the degradation process.

    • I've found chewables with iron help at altitude. Easy to ingest and gets in your system faster. Iron can also be found in:
      Red meat
      Egg yolks
      Dark, leafy greens (spinach, collards)
      Dried fruit (prunes, raisins)
      Iron-enriched cereals and grains (check the labels)
      Mollusks (oysters, clams, scallops)
      Turkey or chicken giblets
      Beans, lentils, chick peas and soybeans

      WebMD says don’t froget the vitamin C as it help with the absorption of iron.

    • Thanks doctor for raising the question about this article. I'm not a doctor but I've read a lot about this stuff. I became suspicious as soon as I began to read the article. Sure enough, about two-thirds of the way down–there it was–the commercial!

      Just because it's a commercial doesn't mean there isn't some valuable info here. I just resent commercials that masquerade as unbiased information.

      • I actually kind of appreciated the commercial. I have avoided vitamins in general because I dont want to mess with all the synthetic crap out there. If this is actually as natural as they say it is its worth looking into.

    • It would be different if I thought MDs received nutrition training. Patrick how many classes in nutrition have you had? No offense Doc but your profession is not training in nutrition. The more I research this the more I see the DRs are dependent on the Rx manufactures treating the illness based on "known/reported symptoms + Drs. school training and life time knowledge of medicine = take this manufactured product and call me in the morning". To a certain degree, I just like all the rest of us who have been dependent on western medicine, are grateful for these manufactured products. But I don't think we should discount the fact this woman is trying to explain the benefits of fruits and vegs to keep well in a SHTF scenario until we can get a garden growing. I can appreciate that because if a SHTF situation happens at first freeze what can I do to bridge the gap naturally? This will limit what Rx I may need if I can't treat a illness naturally. Because in a true worst case scenario Rx will not be available and we need to be self reliant. Sure I don't like commercials but I like the fact this product does not have a laundry list of side affects like you see on tv.

  8. I drink a shake daily (morning) which I have 6 months of supplies for that is rotated out. The shake 1 Tbl of Greens+ (wild berry burst), 1 Tbl of All One multiple vitamin & mineral powder (original formula), 1 Tbl of psyllium whole husks, and 1 Tbl of whey protein (vanilla). All are powders which dissolve easily and actualy taste good. On days that I will in the heat or will not be able to eat till late in the day, I add a scoop of chia seed. All of this is put in a large cup with a lid, water and shake the heck out of it. The measurements can be adjusted to what is in season and what you are currently eating. The supplies are rotated out and all mail ordered. Your health is life long. And when things crash around us you need to be already taking care of yourself. Getting in good health then will be too late.

  9. Short term, I have resources in the stash (pantry). In a bug out scenario, my objective is to get to "the farm" quickly and safely, if possible without confrontation. Even if by foot, this too is a finite situation and well prepared for. Got my Flintstones in the BOB! HAHA. Once at "the farm" I have a well stocked "celler" and pantry, plus the ability to perpetuate fresh food and water from the garden and well. Meat and fish are readily available there at this time, but would require careful "conservation" if the area became invaded by zombies who though Big Brother would take care of them. Let'em eat the "Soylent Green"!

  10. Thank you for a good post to remind us all that we need more than protein and carbs stored. Canned chicken and mac 'n' cheese might well keep you alive, but you might not feel real good..

    I keep multivitamins in the EDC pouch, the BOB's and the storage containers, as well as blue-green algae tabs, Completely anecdotal evidence, but the BDA help improve my mood, and a few extra will help keep me awake and alert w/o shakes. YMMV.

  11. IF you Have land and some prep time available; you can also consider a perma-culture forest. These are intentionally designed plots of .25 to 20 acres of perennials that compliment each other in growing pattern and provide a fairly low maintenance food supply. Edible Forest Gardening is a great search term and you can find many article on it.

  12. Strongly disagree about the heating or cooking of raw foods reducing their nutritional value. Cooking vegetables kills plants enzymes. Plant enzymes help the plants grow, but humans have little to no use for them -we have out own digestive enzymes. Also, when you eat raw veggies with their enzymes intact, they enzymes just dissolve and wash away in your digestive acids. So either way, there's not much truth in saying that raw or uncooked vegetables are healthier than cooked ones.

  13. Quite informative and educative dealing on that conventional vitamins what is not appropriate for our health even long research proved that having bed impact in the conventional vitamins in other hand natural food and mineral work like and pro nutritious, energetic and powerful for the sound body. Thanks!

  14. I see a lot about eating to maintain or to promote health, but what would also help is a nutrient breakdown to promote a survival diet. In such a situation, a return to hunting, gathering, and farming is inevitable and that means a return to wider nutrient swings in our diets.

    The human body can go for quite some time by burning it's fat reserves. However, the bodies preferred fuel source is carbs which burn up rather quickly. Protein is also required to rebuild tissue and to replace damaged cells. Given the deficit of certain nutrients and the feast or famine nature of a survival diet, some people will actually starve to death while being well fed, simply because they aren't getting what their bodies actually need.

    I'll also note, that I read where a starving person can completely throw their bodies 'survival' metabolism completely out of sync by eating the wrong nutrients at the wrong time. The example given was where a person surviving off their bodies fat stores lived much longer by supplementing fat and protein than a person supplementing with carbs and protein- keeping in mind that a continuous, balanced food source isn't available. It's something to put more thought into anyway.

  15. We're all gonna die from brain-fog trying to determine what's right and what's wrong. Just live your life as you normally do as long as you feel healthy.

  16. This is an awesome discussion! By the way, I appreciate the reading about weight training supplements. Do you know about Best Grass Fed Whey Protein??? If not please check the link to know more details.


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