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Supplements vs Food: The Truth Behind Multi-Vitamins and Eating Right

Dr. Minesh Amin
Health epidemics like rising rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes are sweeping the nation and yet there seems to be more conflicting nutritional advice than ever. Should you do the keto diet? Should you be vegan? Should you take supplements?

The supplements vs food debate have been going on ever since pharmaceutical companies realized they could bottle nutrients and sell them. With an industry value of over $122 billion, it was a successful move.

But it’s not as simple as an opportunity to make money. Supplements are often prescribed by doctors and health workers for a variety of issues. So should they be a part of your life? Or should you focus your attention on what you eat?

In this article, we’re going to get to the truth behind the supplement vs food debate. Having a better understanding of the pros and cons involved will save you money, effort, and benefit your health.

Keeping reading to find out where to get your nutrients from.

Are Supplements Better Than Getting Nutrients from Food?

Vitamins and minerals might be tiny but they play a major role in the correct functioning of our bodies. Various nutrients like these do everything from creating red blood cells to keeping our eyes in top condition.

Deficiencies in different vitamins and minerals can also have severe, negative effects. The most well-known deficiency might be an iron deficiency. This causes fatigue, heart palpitations, and many other symptoms.

With 10 million Americans being deficient in iron and increasing numbers at risk of multiple deficiencies, surely we’re in need of nutrient supplements?

But recent studies show that it’s not a case of popping a pill to get the right amount of nutrients. Adequate intake of many nutrients has a beneficial effect on health but this was only seen when the nutrients were consumed in food, not supplements.

How Your Body Uses Nutrients

When you eat food, your digestive system and enzymes work to separate different nutrients for different purposes. Your body takes what it needs and usually throws away the rest through waste. This means taking more than you require of some vitamins and minerals has no added benefit, your body will dispose of the excess.

Some nutrients also help each other out. Vitamin D, for instance, boosts the body’s absorption of calcium. By eating an orange, which contains calcium and vitamin D, you get to absorb more calcium. If you took a single supplement of calcium, it wouldn’t get that help.

In many instances, the vitamins and minerals found in food sources are easier to absorb than those in supplement form. With the added benefit of the other nutrients found in food, eating healthily gives far greater benefits than opting for supplements and eating poorly.

The average American diet is now high in ultra-processed, low-nutrient food. This is why we eat more than ever but are less healthier and have more deficiencies. By focusing on eating a healthy diet of whole foods, it’s not difficult to get all of your nutrients through your diet.

But it can be hard to eat healthy all the time. So supplements won’t hurt, will they?

The Downsides of Supplements

While your body can get rid of many excess vitamins and minerals, there are some that stay in your body and do damage. In addition, supplements can interfere with some medicines and even make you ill.

Vitamin A is a clear example of an essential nutrient that’s dangerous when taken in excess. A deficiency in this vitamin is rare in the US which means you’re most likely getting enough in your diet. If you take multivitamins containing vitamin A, you could be at risk of taking too much.

An excess of vitamin A is harmful to everyone but particularly for pregnant women.

Taking too much iron is also harmful and this applies to a variety of vitamins. As it’s difficult to know your nutrient intake from food, taking multi-vitamins or single vitamins can be risky.

Supplements can also be expensive, especially compared to a whole food, unprocessed diet. Whole grains, vegetables, and legumes are very affordable foods and are naturally rich in nutrients.

For the most part, your body can stay healthy by getting its nutrients from food, not from supplements. But there are exceptions.

Times When You Need a Supplement

Supplements aren’t evil. In fact, they can be very useful and even life-saving, when used correctly.

Some medical conditions prevent the body from absorbing enough of a specific nutrient and supplementation is the only way to get it in high enough doses. Pernicious anemia is an example of this, where the body cannot absorb vitamin B12 well.

Getting vitamin B12 shots is a common way to manage this, as even supplements cannot be absorbed with this condition. There are other conditions and situations where a shot of vitamin B12 is highly recommended.

Folic acid supplements are commonly prescribed to pregnant women who require more folate than other adults. Iron supplements are also prescribed to pregnant women, those with heavy menstruation, and people on dialysis.

For some people, their lifestyle affects their nutrient intake and supplementing can help too.

Getting the Best of Both

When you’re leading a busy life, eating healthily every day can be a struggle. While your overall health will benefit if you get as many nutrients from food as possible, getting a vitamin boost might be just what you need.

Taking supplement pills can lead to consuming an unnecessary amount of a particular vitamin though. It’s best to visit a health practitioner who can help you work out what nutrients would benefit you. This protects you from harm and helps give you the results you’re looking for.

A professional clinic can test your micronutrient levels so there’s no guesswork involved. Instead, you’ll get accurate results and receive nutrient boosters designed specifically for your body.

Supplements vs Food Isn’t Always Black and White


When speaking generally, the results are clear concerning supplements vs food. Getting your nutrients from healthy food is the best way to keep your vitamin and mineral levels topped up. While supplements should never replace healthy food, there are times when they’re required.

From pregnancy and medical conditions to a hectic life and feeling run-down, personally-tailored nutrient supplements and shots can offer huge benefits. Supplements shouldn’t be taken without understanding the nutrients that you are lacking though.

If you’re looking for individually-tailored nutrient testing and booster shots, get in touch with us. We ensure you have all the information about your personal nutrient levels so we can provide you with the most beneficial nutrients possible.
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