A Guide to Using Whole Foods to Get the Vitamins, Minerals and Nutrients Your Body Needs.
There’s a big difference between nutrients from whole foods and the nutrient ingredients used in the vast majority of supplements.
Health supplements are a billion dollar industry aimed at maximising profit.
Popular supplements include vitamin D, fish oil, vitamin C, multivitamins and calcium.
Take calcium for instance. Most of the calcium in supplements or food products that contain added calcium like shelf-stable nut, oat or rice milks isn’t derived from natural sources, it’s often ‘calcium carbonate’. Calcium carbonate can be derived from either limestone, marble or chalk, or it’s produced by the sedimentation of the shells of small fossilised snails, shellfish, and coral. This is the least absorbable form of calcium on the market. Your body literally can’t utilise the isolated calcium without certain co-factors being present, which means its needs to be consumed with a meal.
Now let’s take a look at a standard multivitamin label. We’re happy when we see 20 ingredients listed in high percentages because we’re used to the idea that “more is better.” If beta-carotene is good for the eyes, then a whole bunch of beta-carotene must be really good for the eyes right? Or if vitamin C is beneficial for the immune system, taking a triple mega dose is sure to get rid of this cold in an hour, right?
High-dose supplements should NOT be taken unless recommended under medical advice. When supplements are taken in high doses or in isolated forms away from their natural counterparts, it can lead to unhealthy imbalances. Nutrients can affect each other’s absorption, such as copper + zinc and manganese + iron. These interdependent nutrients appear together in foods, but not always in isolated supplements. Our bodies might do well with these synthetic vitamins initially because of some extreme deficiencies. But over the course of time, taking high dose supplements of single nutrients can affect the absorption and metabolism of other nutrients, creating imbalances as well as potentially adding stress to the body.
Foods are complex in their nutrients because nutrients need each other to be properly absorbed and integrated into our bodies. There are enzymes, coenzymes, co-vitamins, minerals, and other factors that help the nutrients work together synergistically. Scientists don’t know how all this works, and they probably never will. It’s the magic and mystery of nature.
Does this mean we have to throw out our supplements altogether?
Not so fast. There are situations where taking a vitamin or mineral supplement may be needed, even essential for that person. Without going into a lot of detail, there are some groups of people who can benefit from supplements, including vegans, vegetarians, pregnant women, some older people, if you have gut issues, parasites or if you’re struggling with a disease that increases your need for particular nutrients. However it’s ALWAYS best to get personalised guidance from a qualified practitioner in these situations