Whole food vitamins vs synthetic vitamins—which one should you take? Understand the difference between the two options here.
RELATED: Do You Really Need Vitamins?
The Difference Between Whole Food Vitamins from Synthetic Vitamins
Natural vs Synthetic Vitamins
Natural vitamin supplements fill the gaps where your diet is lacking. But picking vitamins can get confusing.
What kind of vitamins do you need? And what’s the difference between whole food and synthetic vitamins?
There are a few ideas that come to mind when you think of what you need to do to be healthy.
Maybe you try to meditate to minimize stress, go on a run, take a yoga class to get some exercise, or make a nutritious meal. Even if you do these things, you can still have low energy or other underlying health issues.
Vitamin supplements can fill-in the gaps where your diet may be lacking. When picking vitamins for your family or yourself, it can get confusing, though.
Here’s the difference between synthetic and natural whole food vitamins:
- Synthetic vitamins are made from chemicals to mimic the natural way your body absorbs nutrients from food.
- Synthetic vitamins are difficult for your body to absorb and can even cause health issues.
- Whole food vitamins condense and concentrate the fruits and vegetables to make natural vitamins for your body.
- Whole food vitamins are bioavailable and recognizable to your body.
Why Are Vitamins Necessary?
Vitamins are organic molecules you need, but your body can’t produce them.
Food is what keeps your body stocked with these essential nutrients. That’s why nutrition is fundamental to your body’s health.
You used to be able to get all the vitamins necessary for your body solely from a healthy diet, but now, our food is less nutritious. Even if you avoid food with GMOs and eat organic produce, your food has fewer nutrients in it than in the past.
What are GMOs? Genetically Modified Organisms are any animal, plant, or organism with unnaturally altered components.
Vitamins Are Necessary for Health Because of the Current Food Production Processes
Our soil is stripped of its nutritional value by mainstream farming methods. Fields are depleted by overuse, and repeat planting in the exact area causes the soil not to renew itself.
Soil matters. Every 100 years, only one inch of nutrient-rich topsoil is produced.
The current farming trends are causing the soil to be depleted at a rate of 10 times the amount it can replenish itself.
That’s why organic, sustainable farming methods matter. Conventional farming techniques try to compensate by adding pesticides and fertilizers but end up harming produce.
Pesticides limit the action of beneficial microbes in the soil that help plants draw in nutrients. Fertilizers focus on certain key chemicals and don’t take into account all the trace minerals, organic components, or beneficial microbes that go into good nutrition.
And genetically modified foods have made their way into our food supply when we don’t know how they may affect us in the long term.
On top of these problems, we refine and process our food, so it lasts longer, is more convenient, tastes better, and is even made to be more addictive. We strip out and destroy vital nutrients as we process them.
Much of the food you find in grocery stores, outside the produce section, barely even resembles what humanity has been eating for thousands of years. There’s no wonder we are seeing auto-immune disorders, food allergies, and a growing epidemic of obesity.
Your body doesn’t know what you’re ingesting. It can’t find the nutrients it needs from your food, so your body is begging you to eat more and more.
Ever had those crazy late-night cravings? Those happen because your body is trying to get more nutrients.
Since food is no longer as nutritionally dense, we need to fill in the gaps with vitamins. Sure, we can try to increase our food consumption, but even this may not solve the problem as eating copious amounts of food is not always feasible.
The health of your loved ones and yourself need not be another cause of worry.
The Problem with Synthetic Vitamins
You know you need a steady supply of vitamins and minerals so your body can function properly.
Their solution is to create cheap vitamins in labs, fortify your foods and beverages with them, and dump them into multivitamins.
The problem is these synthetic vitamins are not what your body is looking for either.
Almost all multivitamins are from synthetics. The same goes for fortified foods.
There’s a good reason for this. Synthetic vitamins are cheaper to make and usually more stable.
This means they can last on shelves for months or years, be added to foods in high doses, and create small dense tablets packed with insane amounts of every type of vitamin.
These vitamins are allowed to call themselves “natural” even when they are synthetic because scientists say the synthetics are virtually identical to the ones found in food.
However, the way these compounds are made is not remotely similar to the metabolic processes that plants and animals use to create them.
Avoid dietary supplements that use words ending in -acid, -ide, and sometimes -ate or use the “dl” before the name.
Synthetic vitamins are isolated or simulated nutrients that do not take into account all the countless phytonutrients that come along with them.
These synthetic vitamins, according to a multitude of studies, are:
- NOT as bioavailable as whole food vitamins
- NOT absorbable or usable
- NOT what we find in natural foods
- NOT recognizable to the body
The “virtually identical” vitamins are hard on the kidneys and are often treated as toxins. Recent studies even tie synthetic vitamins to an increased risk of cancer.
Your vitamins should help you live a more holistic life, not harm you.
How Synthetic Vitamins vs Natural Vitamins Affect the Body
1. Synthetic Minerals Can’t Be Excreted Right Away
The body excretes excess natural vitamins, while synthetic vitamins get stored in the liver as substances that can be toxic to the body.
The body utilizes only what it needs from organic vitamins. Excess vitamins are processed and discarded, but that’s not the case with synthetic supplements.
Synthetic vitamins contain a high concentration of the chemical that mimic natural vitamins. You basically get a higher dosage of these vitamins than those obtained from fruits and vegetables as well as organic food sources.
They get stored in the body until they can be processed with the right nutrients.
This can be dangerous to the body because a buildup of chemicals the body can’t excrete can eventually cause diseases.
2. Synthetic Vitamins Don’t Contain Trace Minerals
Natural vitamins come with various enzymes, minerals, lipids, protein, and other nutrients to help the body digest and utilize them. Synthetic vitamins are isolated forms of those they are mimicking.
Unlike organic vitamins obtained from food which contain trace minerals and other nutrients, clinically-made vitamins do not contain any other nutrients.
If you’re not taking other supplements like magnesium, iron, or folic acid, taking only pill-form vitamins may result in some serious nutrient deficiency problems.
3. Synthetic Vitamins Eventually Become Toxic
Fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamins A, D, E, and K, need fatty acids to be absorbed properly by the body. When taken through natural food sources, the body can adequately metabolize them, with any excess excreted accordingly.
Meanwhile, synthetic forms of these vitamins are made in high concentrations.
Since they’re isolated and contains no fatty lipids for proper processing by the body, they are stored in the liver.
Over time, these excess vitamins build up in the liver and eventually become toxic to the body.
You need to eat food containing minerals, nutrients, and enzymes to help metabolize synthetic vitamins.
The Difference Between Natural and Synthetic Vitamins
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A shows up in food as beta-carotene. The body must convert it into vitamin A to be useful. This sounds less effective, but vitamin A can be toxic in large doses.
Beta-carotene allows the body to convert what it needs and discards what it does not as a natural safeguard against damage.
A few sources of vitamin A from food include:
- sweet potatoes
- butternut squash
Synthetic Vitamin A
Synthetic vitamin A is retinyl palmitate or retinyl acetate. This synthetic form is made from combining fish or palm oil with beta-ionone.
Palm oil is leading to deforestation of rainforests and the endangerment of orangutans. Beta-ionone is created using citrus, acetone, and calcium oxide.
Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency:
- dry skin
- night blindness
- dry eyes
- slow wound healing
- acne breakouts
2. Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
Thiamin, or vitamin B1, is a water-soluble vitamin created by plants and is bound to phosphate. Digestion releases the thiamin using specialized enzymes that target phosphate.
A few sources of vitamin B1 from food include:
- brown rice and other whole grains
- nutritional yeast
- sunflower seeds
Synthetic Vitamin B1
Thiamine mononitrate or thiamine hydrochloride is made from coal tar, ammonia, acetone, and hydrochloric acid. It is much less absorbable since it isn’t bound to phosphate.
It is crystalline in structure, unlike plant-based vitamins.
Many synthetic vitamins are crystalline. Crystals in our bloodstream cause damage and mineral accumulation where it isn’t needed, like in the joints.
Symptoms of Vitamin B1 Deficiency:
- muscle weakness
- poor reflexes
- tingling sensation in the arms and legs
- blurry vision
3. Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Riboflavin is easily absorbed, stays in the bloodstream for long periods of time, and is readily used by the body for the proper functioning of many important enzymes.
A few sources of vitamin B2 from food include:
- whole grains
Synthetic Vitamin B2
Synthetic riboflavin is made with acetic acid and nitrogen or uses genetically modified bacteria and fermentation. It has been shown to be less absorbable and is quickly removed from the bloodstream and expelled in urine.
Symptoms of Vitamin B2 Deficiency:
- skin rash
- dry tongue
- vision issues
4. Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Niacinamide or nicotinamide is found in food and commonly called niacin. Niacin can have side effects, but these are minimal when coming from plant foods.
A few sources of vitamin B3 from food include:
- brown rice
- green vegetables
Synthetic Vitamin B3
Nicotinic acid is created using coal tar, ammonia, acids, 3-cyanopyridine, and formaldehyde. It is less absorbable and has more risks of side effects.
Symptoms of Vitamin B3 Deficiency:
5. Vitamin B12
Natural Sources of Vitamin B12
Cobalamin B12 is only created by microorganisms like the bacteria that grow in soil and our intestines, as well as some micro-algae and perhaps some seaweed species.
Synthetic Vitamin B12
Cobalt and cyanide are fermented to make cyanocobalamin.
That’s correct, cyanide.
It is in minuscule amounts, but it is still cyanide.
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency:
- smooth tongue
- vision loss
6. Vitamin C
In nature, it is combined with flavonoids and phytonutrients that help in its absorption and use.
What are flavonoids? These are water-soluble polyphenolic plant compounds known to have antioxidant properties.
A few sources of vitamin C from food include:
- bell peppers
Synthetic Vitamin C
Ascorbic acid is an isolated vitamin from genetically modified corn sugar that is hydrogenated and processed with acetone. It does not include the flavonoids and phytonutrients that make it more effective.
Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency:
- easy bruising
- rough, bumpy skin
- slow-healing wounds
- swollen joints
7. Vitamin D
Natural Sources of Vitamin D
Technically, this one isn’t always thought of as a vitamin since the body can make it. Mushrooms, yeast, and lichen produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Humans do, too. A daily dose of about 20 minutes of sunlight provides all we need. Vitamin D3 is the most effective kind, the same that comes from our own skin and lichen. Mushrooms and yeast often yield D2.
Synthetic Vitamin D
To mimic the natural production we find in our skin, scientists irradiate animal fat to stimulate vitamin D3 synthesis. They usually use lanolin, the waxy secretions from sheepskin that keeps wool dry.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency:
- bone and back pain
- prone to illness
- muscle loss
- slow wound healing
8. Vitamin E
Vitamin E refers to eight different fat-soluble compounds, and it acts as an antioxidant that protects fats from oxidation.
A few sources of vitamin E from food include:
- sunflower seeds
- whole grains
Synthetic Vitamin E
The synthetic dl-alpha-tocopherol is created using refined oils, trimethylhydroquinone, and isophytol. It is not as easily absorbed, doesn’t stay as long in tissues, and is excreted eventually.
Symptoms of Vitamin E Deficiency:
- muscle fatigue
- impaired vision