Food vs. Supplements

At some point in your life, you may have questioned the need for supplements. You may have wondered…’do I need to take supplements if I’m eating a healthy, well balanced diet?’ In a perfect world, no one would need supplements.


“But given the stress of our modern life, the poor quality of our food supply, and the high load of toxins on our brains and bodies, most of us need a basic daily supply of the key, raw materials for all our enzymes and biochemistry to run as designed.” – Dr. Mark Hyman


Nutrient Drain

There is a nutrient drain going on in our society – compared to 35/40 years ago, our food has much less nutrition* (for many different reasons, including modern farming practices). We have plenty of calories, but not enough nutrients. The result is we are becoming obese, but malnourished. And on top of that, our bodies demand more nutrients now because of the highly toxic environment in which we live. Did you know that there are more than 3800 new chemicals being introduced into commercial use every single year! Our body’s demand for detoxification is huge.


So the answer to the question, food vs. supplements isn’t one or the other – it’s both. Food and supplements are needed for optimal health. Supplements can and should be used 2 ways: 1) as a targeted solution to address a known insufficiency, and 2) as an insurance policy to make sure the body gets sufficient daily support (given the environment I’ve just described).


Supplements Not a Substitute for Food

Keep in mind that supplements can be valuable, but they’re never a substitute for food. Food still has many advantages over supplements. First, food (whole foods, not processed) is usually more nutrient dense than a supplement. For example, a typical multivitamin has at most about 30 vitamins and minerals, while a typical stalk of broccoli has over 500 nutrients (many of them phytonutrients).


Second, food often offers combinations of nutrients that support the absorption of one another, while supplements often feature only one form of a nutrient. There is a natural synergy in food that can’t be made up for or duplicated with supplements. Our bodies use nutrients in symphony, in a cascade supporting one another, not in isolation.


And finally, many cheap supplements are made from synthetic nutrient forms that can’t be well digested and/or absorbed in the body. This is why it’s so important to take a high quality supplement in the right form (see below for a list of recommended brands). Read your supplement labels! Be aware of artificial, chemical ingredients in supplements. The supplement form really matters. The order for best absorption is as follows: liquids, powders, capsules, tablets (tablets usually comes with binders and fillers which impair nutrient absorption).


To recap: High quality supplements should be used as a targeted solution to a known deficiency or as a general insurance policy. But food needs to be where we get the vast majority of our nutrition. Proper nutrition is a symphony in which nutrients act in concert with one another.


Maintenance Protocol


Given the daily toxic burden we face, as well as the diminished quality of our food supply, I recommend the following daily maintenance supplements for all adults. This protocol does not address specific issues; rather it helps you to maintain optimal health.

  • Multivitamin/mineral with B vitamins (Metagenics PhytoMulti or Garden of Life Vitamin Code)
  • Essential Fatty Acids Supplement (Metagenics EFA Combination or Green Pasture’s Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil)
  • Probiotic (Market America’s NutriClean or Renew Life adult variety)
  • Vitamin D3 (2000+ IUs Pure Encapsulations liquid)
  • Antioxidant – the huge amount of chemicals that our body has to manage causes inflammation and oxidative stress; thus, increasing our need for antioxidants. (Pure Synergy Superfood, Market America’s Isotonix OPC-3)


Recommended Brands

Some high quality brands of supplements that I recommend include:


  • Pure Encapsulations
  • Thorne
  • Metagenics
  • Designs for Health
  • Jarrow
  • Market America
  • New Chapter
  • Synergy
  • Garden of Life
  • Renew Life
  • Nordic Naturals
  • Green Pasture


Jarrow, Garden of Life, New Chapter, Renew Life, and Nordic Naturals brands are available at Whole Foods. Most of the other brands can be ordered online via Amazon or found at local health food stores and holistic pharmacies.


Brands to Avoid

Here is a list of low quality brands of supplements that you want to avoid. They are full of chemical additives, flavorings, artificial colors, etc.

  • One-A-Day
  • Centrum
  • Kirkland (Costo brand)
  • Spring Valley (Walmart brand)
  • Nature Made
  • Equate
  • Berkley & Jensen (BJ’s Stores brand)
  • Viactiv
  • Adora



*Nutrient Drain

Compared to 1975:

  • Apples have 41% less Vitamin A
  • Bell peppers have 31% less Vitamin C
  • Watercress has 88% less iron
  • Broccoli has 50% less Vitamin C and 50% less calcium
  • Collard greens have 60% less potassium and 85% less magnesium
  • Cauliflower has 48% less Vitamin B1 and 47% less Vitamin B2.