Eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables is known as one of the best ways to stay healthy and reduce our risk of illness. But what is it that makes certain foods so nutritious? And can synthetic supplements really nourish us in the same way?
Science has identified several different parts of our food that are responsible for keeping us alive and well. Many of them, like vitamins and minerals, are considered essential for proper development and functioning of the human body. This means that we need to consume them regularly, and if we fall short, there can be some unfortunate consequences over time.
In recent decades, supplements have become a popular way to fill the growing gaps in our diets and boost our intake of these important nutrients. Most options come in a pill and don’t contain any traces of plants, but are chemically synthesized to mimic the structure of the vitamins and minerals that we need. As impressive and convenient as this is, it doesn’t come close to replacing real food or providing the same value.
We believe that when it comes to wellness, nature knows best and plant-based nutrition is unparalleled. Here's why:
In addition to vitamins and minerals, plants contain many other components that have their own unique roles. Known collectively as phytochemicals, these bioactive compounds include several different types such as alkaloids, flavonoids and tannins. They give plants their distinct features like taste, smell and colour, but are also well known for their impressive health benefits, and many have been linked to disease prevention, anti-aging, longevity and protection from free-radical damage. 1
Each plant is a complex network of different components that can balance, complement or enhance one another. For example, a fruit is more than just carbohydrates or vitamin C alone - it contains a collection of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fibre, enzymes, antioxidants and other phytochemicals. Each one comes with its own health benefits, but these parts are also intertwined, working together to enhance overall absorption and activity. Bioflavonoids are one class of compounds that have been recognized for their complementary roles with vitamin C 2 and are usually found alongside vitamin C in nature.
Bioavailability refers to the way that a substance is digested, absorbed and used in the body and how available it is for biological roles. Consuming adequate amounts of a nutrient is one thing, but it also needs to be able to do its job.
The human body usually consumes and recognizes natural nutrients in the form of food. This is an elaborate process that involves many steps — preparing, cooking, sight, smell, taste, enzymes, and cofactors will all affect the bioavailability of each nutrient. 3 For example, smell and taste can release signals that help to prepare our digestive systems before food even reaches the stomach. Once digestion begins, the presence of other substances like carbohydrates, fats and enzymes can play important roles in the way each nutrient is broken down and activated. So even if we consume an isolated vitamin that resembles those found in food, there’s no guarantee that the end result will be the same once we digest it.
The test of time
It’s worth noting that as modern humans, we’ve all been on earth for a relatively short time and we don’t know everything there is to know about nutrition. Mass produced foods and supplements have only been around for a tiny fraction of that time, and we’re still learning about the effects of these changes.4,5 On the other hand, humans and animals have always depended on the earth for survival and well-being, so the idea that it gives us everything we need isn’t all that crazy. Our bodies have evolved to live in harmony with nature, so why try to outsmart it?