I was recently at the pharmacy and took a stroll down the vitamin aisle. There were literally shelves with rows and rows of bottles, each containing a different vitamin, mineral, or amino acid. If we’re deficient in something, it makes sense to just buy an over-the-counter supplement, pop a capsule once per day, and give ourselves a pat on the back. The problem is that synthetic vitamins and minerals aren’t necessarily as good for us as those found in the foods that we eat.
The problem with most of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients available in capsule form is that they’re synthetic. They’re not the same as they would be if we were getting them from our food. As a result, these vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that we think will help our bodies can actually tax our bodies, deplete them of other things we do need, and then pass through the liver to be urinated out of our bodies. This is why when you pop a synthetic vitamin, your urine will turn a neon shade of yellow or orange while it doesn’t when you get the same vitamins from food.
When we get vitamins from food, we’re getting all of the other good things that go along with the vitamins, such as enzymes. Synthetic vitamins isolate the vitamin, leaving out these extras that are normally found in food alongside the vitamins. Dr. Ben Kim uses vitamin C as an example. When we get vitamin C from food, we’re getting things like rutin, bioflavonoids, tyrosinase, and ascorbinogen along with it. When you take a synthetic vitamin, you’re getting just the vitamin C. The body then must gather the rest of these components to complete the vitamin C complex. If these components aren’t there, the vitamin C capsule does no good and passes through the body as waste.
Because whole foods provide complete vitamins rather than portions of them, you can ensure that not only are you getting the vitamins you need, your body is actually absorbing them properly. This is why it’s greatly preferred to obtain your vitamins through food whenever possible rather than a supplement. The same logic applies to minerals as well.
Dr. Ben Kim has a great article on this topic on his blog, and it’s all explained in easy to use language. If you’d like to read more about this in greater detail, check out his site.