Americans are well-fed, but not necessarily well nourished. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 percent of the population is deficient in one or more vitamins or minerals.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the vitamin and supplement industry is a big business. Some reports indicate that nearly half of Americans take some type of vitamin regularly.
There are two ways to get adequate amounts of the nutrients you need – synthetic nutrients and natural nutrients. Natural nutrients are generally the best way to cover your needs.
However, they aren’t the only option you have. Synthetic vitamins can fill in the gaps in your diet. The trick is to find the right balance for your health needs.
Always talk to your doctor before taking any kind of vitamin or supplement, especially if you currently take medications or have a health condition.
In the meantime, check out this guide to health supplements and how they might be able to help you achieve good overall health.
What Are Natural Nutrients?
Natural nutrients are vitamins and minerals that you get by eating healthy whole foods. That means they are being obtained from the foods you eat. A variety is important to cover the entire spectrum of your nutrient needs.
Because eating a nutritious diet ensures that you’re getting the nutrients you need, it helps reduce the risk of a wide range of health conditions. That includes heart disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, and cancer.
The best way to reap these benefits is to eat a varied diet made up of foods from each food group. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources, and low-fat dairy in your meal plan.
Prioritizing a variety of healthy foods helps you get adequate amounts of vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the 12 B vitamins. You’ll also be getting potassium, magnesium, zinc, and other minerals.
Additionally, a well-rounded diet allows you to get enough complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. These macronutrients play a big role in most of your body’s functions so an adequate intake is important.
What Are Synthetic Nutrients?
When it comes to nutritional supplements, those that are called synthetic nutrients are those that are created in a laboratory setting. They are often an isolated nutrient, but also come in the form of multivitamins.
Synthetic nutrients are created through a chemical process. This process is designed to copy the vitamins and minerals in food, making them an alternative way to get the nutrients you need.
Some of these products are made using natural ingredients. They may be available in tablet, powder, or liquid form and many can be purchased over the counter.
While many synthetic nutrients are considered the same as natural nutrients, the production process is what makes them so different.
What’s the Difference?
As mentioned above, chemically, synthetic nutrients are usually considered identical to the nutrients you can get from food.
The difference is the rate of absorption. Some proponents of using synthetic nutrients to improve nutrition agree that they are easier to absorb than natural nutrients.
On the other hand, proponents of healthy eating will tell you that your body is better able to absorb the nutrients from fresh, whole foods.
So who’s right?
The consensus is that some nutrients are absorbed more efficiently from your diet, while others are absorbed more efficiently in synthetic form.
For example, folic acid is more become more available to the body from a supplement than it does from food. For this reason, most pregnant women are advised to get their folic acid in tablet form.
Vitamin C, on the other hand, has a higher bioavailability when it’s derived from fruits and vegetables. That’s why it’s recommended to eat so many of them.
When you get your nutrients from a variety of whole foods, you’re taking in a range of vitamins and minerals. Whereas, a synthetic supplement may contain just one nutrient.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. While your body needs many nutrients, some are more available for use by your body when consumed on their own. Iron is one example.
Choosing Your Nutrients
Whether you’re looking for fitness supplements or you simply want to improve your overall health, knowing which kind of nutrients to choose is helpful.
In general, a well-balanced meal plan is the best way to get your daily quota of nutrients. However, there are some cases when adding a synthetic supplement may be a good idea.
Individuals who have food allergies or intolerances can benefit from a supplement. This is especially true if an entire food group is restricted. For example, a milk allergy may require the use of a calcium supplement.
Those who eat a vegan diet may also need a nutritional boost. That’s because vitamin B12 can only be obtained from animal products, so cutting them out puts you at risk of a deficiency.
Sports nutrition is something else to keep in mind. If you’re an athlete, your nutrient needs may be higher than the average person’s. That means you might need a supplement to cover the gaps in your meal plan.
The bottom line when it comes to choosing nutrients is to consider your eating habits and your health status. It’s a good idea to find out more before you start taking any synthetic nutrients.
Your doctor can help you determine which ones are right for you.
Before you add synthetic nutrients to your routine, you should understand the risks that go along with them. This protects your health and allows you to get the most out of the nutrients you choose.
The biggest consideration is toxicity. Some nutrients are dangerous in large doses. You have to be careful to balance what’s in the supplement with your diet so you aren’t getting too much.
Examples include iron, vitamins A, D, E, and K, and several B vitamins. In large doses, you may experience symptoms from minor stomach upset to organ failure.
Making the Choice
While synthetic and natural nutrients may be chemically the same, there’s a lot to consider before deciding which one is right for you. Consider your health goals, current health problems, and dietary choices as you decide.
Check out our balanced living blog for more information about living your best, and healthiest, life.