Wellness Blog

Synthetic Vitamins vs. Wholefood Vitamins

Posted by Dr. Paul Zickler

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February 23, 2014 at 7:30 AM

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Research suggests supplements are not helping people as much as they are led to believe. Roughly $17 billion is spent on supplements each year; however, chronic diseases are not lessening and some are actually worsening. This is not to say that all supplements and vitamins are bad or not helpful. It is the choice people are making that has created an issue. Rather than someone addressing their basic health needs, they are turning fad supplements instead. People hear that a supplement is going to help with energy or is needed in a higher quantity to prevent certain diseases, but are not truly learning about what they are putting in their bodies.

The Difference Between Synthetic and Natural Vitamins

Numerous supplements on the market are synthetic, from calcium to zinc. This means they are made in a lab by a chemical process or, in other words, that the nutrients are being manufactured rather than found in a natural product. Think of synthetic vitamins as food that has been grown in a lab.

Whole food supplements are much different. Whole food vitamins are made from actual food sources and other naturally occurring products. Calcium, for example, can come from oyster shells and still help with bone health. The nutrient then uses enzymes, antioxidants, coenzymes, trace elements, and other activators which help produce vitamins in your body and help with the absorption from the food you eat. Think of whole food supplements as food that is grown on a farm.

So, when it comes to choosing between food that has been grown in a lab or food that has been grown on a farm, which would you prefer? I think it is safe to assume that most of us rather consume the food from a farm. Likewise, this attitude can be applied to the supplements that we choose to consume.

Most synthetic vitamins, like the ones you find at the drugstore or supermarket, do not have all of the natural nutrients that would come with it, as if you had consumed it from food. Oftentimes, synthetic vitamins are formulated with a variety of vitamins and minerals that are:

(1) Not naturally found together or

(2) May not be necessary for you to consume to maintain good health.

Wholefood, natural vitamins are complex, retaining the natural nutrition that would be found in a food source. They are made from a synergistic blend of enzymes, antioxidants, trace elements, and activators that together allow the supplement to do its intended job in your body.

Taking our lab vs. farm food analogy one step further, think of synthetic and wholefood, natural vitamins like this:

Food grown on a farm requires the seed to be planted into the ground. The seed then requires nutrient rich soil, water, and sunlight to grow. With all of these conditions in place, that is when the seed will flourish into the nutritious food that our bodies require.

Food grown in a lab requires chemicals and a petri dish – that’s it.

What is natural about the lab food? Nothing. What is natural about natural food grown from soil? Almost everything.

How to Tell the Difference Between Wholefood and Synthetic Vitamins

You will know when a supplement is wholefood because the bottle will advertise it. Manufacturers want you to know that you are receiving a quality product. Whether a supplement is made from specific ingredients, has special certifications, or if a common, unimportant ingredient was left out – they will let you know. Also, most professional lines of supplements, typically available from healthcare professionals, are wholefood supplements.

Synthetic supplements are available almost anywhere. Your grocery store, drug store, and even from your healthcare professionals. Synthetic vitamins may also have specific ingredients and certifications that will tell you their level of quality, right on the bottle.

Take Wholefood Vitamins or Synthetic Vitamins?

Now, synthetic supplements have been painted in a very dim picture – but this doesn’t mean that all synthetic supplements are horrible. The key to choosing any supplement is making sure that you buy the right “blend.” Remember, synergy is key and supplements need multiple nutrients to truly benefit your body.

For instance, Calcium requires Vitamin D3 in order to be absorbed effectively by the body. When looking for a calcium supplement, you will want to make sure that the blend includes Vitamin D3 or you will want to purchase Vitamin D3 in addition to calcium.

Synthetic vitamins can also be much more affordable than a wholefood or professional lines of vitamins.

Final Thoughts on Dietary Supplements

Regardless of the type of dietary supplement that you choose to use, remember this: excellent health and nutrition starts with a well balanced diet. You should eat healthy nutritious meals and you should not expect a dietary supplement to completely replace a meal. After all, they are called supplements for a reason – they exist to add more nutrition to an already healthy diet.


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Topics: Products, Nutrition

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