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Are you taking multivitamins every day as a replacement for your nutritional deficiencies?  Do you eat on the run more days than not? Are nutrition labels the way you identify what’s healthy?

If so, you are like the majority of Americans.  Rushing from one place to the other. Wanting and knowing that you need to be healthier but not too sure how to do it.  Supplements seem to be a good way to ensure that you’re giving your body what it needs. Right?

“Let food be thy medicine” – Hippocrates

We’ve seen the cute Instagram photos of this quote.  It’s a popular one. It usually has a background image filled with bright colors of different fruits and vegetables.  Even the photo seems to bring vital energy. Although the quote is common and you’ve probably read it before, have you actually taken the time to think about what it means?  

What’s the best way to improve your vitamin and mineral intake?

From your plate.  

By eating whole, live and natural foods.

We’re not saying that vitamin and mineral supplements are “bad”.  Not at all. They have their benefit and place. In fact, we do recommend certain supplements for general maintenance.  But there are things that your vitamin and mineral supplements can’t bring you that real food can provide.

1 – Real food is “alive” and contains biologically active compounds.  Mother Nature is great at giving us what we need, designing her produce in a way that helps us digest and metabolize its goodness.  Oranges are not only high in vitamin C but they have enzymes and co-factors that join together to make our body best absorb its nutrition.  Things that can’t be copied in supplement form.

2 – Natural food provides us with vitamins and minerals our body understands.  We were designed to use our food sources as a way to repair our body. Although our food chain has evolved, our body has not evolved as rapidly.  It knows how to use nutrition naturally. Food sources are also the most gentle form of nutrient dosing. Let’s use the example of the orange again.  We know that vitamin C is useful when fighting a common cold. People will often head to the pharmacy at the first symptom of a cold and take thousands of milligrams of vitamin C to help boost their immune system.  However, depending on the quality and formulation of the supplement, there’s a good chance that your body doesn’t know how to properly process the synthetic chemical compound you’ve ingested in pill form (not to mention the extra ingredients like dextrose and sucralose which are often found in chewable vitamin C capsules).  

3 – Plant foods also contain vitamin and mineral “blends” along with non-essential nutrients that give extra side effects.  Often, vitamin and minerals are meant to work best in the company of other nutrients. Take the B vitamins as an example. Although B6 is known for its contribution to the production of hemoglobin, it works synergistically with all of the B vitamins to increase energy, metabolism and brain and liver health.  Vitamin C needs copper as a cofactor in absorption. You will find copper as a naturally occurring nutrient in oranges but you most likely won’t find it in your supplement. What we’re saying is that vitamins are not meant to be used in isolation unless this is being prescribed by a professional and for very specific needs.  When you’re enjoying a diet filled with plant-based whole foods, your body will get a plethora of nutrients that it can select for its specific needs. Let’s keep using our orange as an example. In an orange, you intake 139% of your daily vitamin C requirements.  Not only do you benefit from the vitamin C,  vitamin A, thiamin, folate, calcium, copper, and potassium, but you are getting many different types of phytonutrients too. Phytonutrients are plant compounds that give the plant its color. It is not an essential nutrient but they are found to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties; lowering your risk for diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease. One of the stars of the phytonutrients in oranges is a flavone compound called herperidin. This phytonutrient has been found to have beneficial effects on blood pressure and cholesterol. Interestingly, this compound is found mostly in the white pith of the orange, which you definitely won’t find in the vitamin C supplement. This portion of the fruit is also not found in orange juice unless you pulverize your own orange with a little of the white pith attached in your blender. Which we highly recommend!

4 – Eating plants provide your body with necessary fiber.  A high fiber diet helps to lower bad cholesterol, regulates blood sugar, hormonal balance, and body composition.  Your daily fiber needs are easily attained if you are eating plenty of vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains.  When you are depending on supplementation, you don’t get the beneficial fiber that you would get from eating the fruit or vegetable itself.  

Again, we’re not saying that supplementation is bad for you.  In fact, we do recommend supplementation depending on your age and stage of life.  There are certain conditions that need specialized nutrients and there are nutrients that are hard to get from food sources.  Things like Omega-3 and vitamin D, are often a good idea to add to your daily routine as a liquid supplement. We also understand that getting 100% of your nutrient needs from food alone is tough and requires a big commitment.  However, vitamin “pills” do not replace a good diet. Focus on increasing your REAL food and let your body do its crucial work of using what you provide for healing and health. Fuel your body with nutrient-dense plant-based foods and you’ll notice a shift in energy and vitality within days.

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