Supplements vs Whole Foods? – Mayo Clinic Answers

This almost seems like an age old question to me. Supplements supply all those hundreds and thousands of milligrams of nutrients. Surely they have more food value than plain-old whole foods.

You can get much more than your entire daily requirement of vitamin C by 
just popping a pill. On the other hand, you can get your daily requirement by eating a large orange. So which is better? in most cases, the orange, says the Mayo Clinic in its publication Your Guide To Vitamin & Mineral Supplements.

“Whole foods — such as fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy products — have three main benefits you can’t get in a pill:
• Whole foods are complex. They contain a variety of the 
nutrients your body needs — not just one. An orange, for example, provides vitamin C as well as beta carotene, calcium and other nutrients. Vitamin C supplements
lack these other nutrients. Similarly, a glass of milk provides you with protein, vitamin D, riboflavin, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. If you take only calcium supplements and skip calcium-rich foods, such as dairy products, you may miss all the other nutrients you need for healthy bones.

• Whole foods provide dietary fiber. Fiber is important for digestion, and it helps prevent certain diseases. Soluble fiber (found in beans, some grains, and some fruits and vegetables) and insoluble fiber (found in whole grains and some fruits and vegetables) may help prevent heart disease, diabetes and constipation.

• Whole foods contain other substances that may 
be important for good health. Fruits and vegetables,
for example, contain naturally occurring chemicals (phytochemicals) that may help protect you against major concerns such as cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes. Although it’s not yet known precisely what role phytochemicals play in nutrition, research shows many health benefits from eating more fruits, vegetables and grains. If you depend on supplements rather than eating a variety of whole foods, you miss the potential benefits of phytochemicals.

• Whole foods contain vitamins in their many forms…. Vitamin A as retinol occurs only in animal products; plants contain hundreds of carotenoids that the body can convert into vitamin A.

“Concentrate on getting your nutrients from a variety of foods, not supplements. Whole foods provide an ideal mix of nutrients, fiber and other food substances. It’s likely that all of these work in combination to keep you healthy. ”

In the Lifelong Health course that I took from The Great Courses, Dr. Anthony Goodman states, “All the evidence points in the direction of relying on our food; capsules and supplements – absolutely do not rely on them. Pig out on carrots, sweet potatoes, chard if you like it … the whole vast array of foods that are delicious and are good for you.”

So in this millennial era of Facebook and Twitter, it seems that the best sources of reliable nutrition are the old fashioned ones – whole foods.


1 Comment

Filed under healthy eating, Mayo Clinic, supplements, Weight, whole foods

One response to “Supplements vs Whole Foods? – Mayo Clinic Answers

  1. I forgot to mention- I agree that whole foods are a better source of nutrients than supplements. BUT I would argue that there are things you simply cannot get from your diet. And, my diet at least, is in no way so consistent as to provide me with the nutrients that would give me ‘Optimal’ Health if I take them on a daily basis… I just love too many different kinds of food. For example, I won’t be eating cinnamon, ginger, garlic, tumeric and cumin every day or even every week. (Well, maybe garlic..) The benefits of healthful foods like soy, kale, blueberries, salmon etc. are best if used on a consistent basis. So… while the BEST source of nutrition is whole foods- those of us in the ‘real world’ who simply can’t manage to plan a ‘perfect’ weekly diet plan with optimal amounts of adaptogens, antioxidants, vitamins etc. would be wise to use supplements. (I would NEVER get the anti-carcinogenic benefits from maitake mushrooms without a supplement..) Of course, I would certainly NOT ‘rely’ on supplements and eat a bunch of junk- I still eat a varied diet and healthful food products but do feel that supplements, as an addition to that, are beneficial in warding off disease and helping my body function at its best.


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