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
9. Vitamin K
This vitamin is important to proper blood clotting and some metabolic pathways. It is found primarily in dark leafy greens.
A few sources of vitamin K from food include:
- turnip greens
- Brussels sprouts
- green tea
Synthetic Vitamin K
Menadione comes from coal tar derivatives and genetically modified and hydrogenated soybean oil and uses hydrochloric acid and nickel. Though these chemicals are broken down during the production process, they are also considered highly toxic and can damage the immune system.
Symptoms of Vitamin K Deficiency:
- severe bleeding from minor wounds
- easy bruising
- blood in stool/urine
Why You Should Take Natural Whole Food Vitamins
Your daily vitamin intake should come from food sources as much as possible. Supplements won’t fix a poor diet and should never take the place of food for nutrition.
You should always eat a diverse, nutrient-dense diet. Superfoods are a way to get more vitamins from each bite.
However, our soil doesn’t have the same nutrients in it as it used to, and this causes your food to lack the same high nutrient content. So, taking a multivitamin can help your body.
Whole food vitamins take large amounts of fruits and vegetables and condense them. You get more vitamins and minerals from whole food sources without having to eat crazy amounts of food.
Think of it this way: You can’t eat a crate of oranges in one sitting just to be sure you have enough vitamin C. Whole food vitamins give you the exact same nutrition as the food you eat daily, in a more concentrated, easy to consume package.
Plus, your body can easily absorb the nutrients from whole food vitamins. Your body is made to take nutrients from food, and you receive all trace vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and coenzymes not found in synthetic vitamins.
So if you want a multivitamin, reach for the ones that use whole food sources like basil, guava, and other herbs, fruits, and vegetables.
Sunwarrior Raw Whole Food Vitamins
Sunwarriors’ Vitamin Mineral Rush, Raw Vitamins for Hers and Raw Vitamins for His are USDA certified organic, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and vegan. They are made with NO synthetics and NO fillers.
You can easily absorb the vitamins because their ingredients come from whole food sources.
Sunwarrior vitamins are packed with a variety of whole food ingredients, including:
- Annatto: A rich source of carotenoids (naturally occurring pigments) containing antioxidants that fight bad bacteria. This seed is also an excellent source of vitamin E.
- Agatti (Sesbania Grandiflora): Its flowers and leaves are used as food traditionally and are an excellent source of protein, minerals, amino acids, and vitamins including biotin. A deficiency in biotin can lead to skin rash, loss of hair, high cholesterol, and heart health problems.
- Guava: Guavas are rich in nutrients such as vitamins, carotenoids, polyphenols, and antioxidant pigments.
- Holy Basil: Also known as Tulsi, this plant is sacred for Hindus and is a well-documented medicinal plant in Ayurveda. A few of its healthy nutrients include ursolic acid, rosmarinic acid, and oleanolic acid. They have plenty of antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties you can use to get rid of health-damaging free-radicals.
- Lemon: Lemon peels contain vitamins such as folate and phytonutrients. Folic acid is very important for the health of pregnant women and can help prevent congenital disabilities in a baby’s brain and spine.
- Lichen Algae (Vitamin D3): This vitamin can help boost testosterone levels. In 2011, the results of a study published in the journal Hormone and Metabolic Research announced that vitamin D supplementation increases testosterone up to 30% overnight.
- Methylcobalamin (B12): Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep your body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and makes DNA. It also supports energy levels.
- Amla Extract (Vitamin C): This fruit helps produce collagen and supports the absorption of iron from plant-based foods.
- Tribulus: This plant has been used traditionally as medicine. The active compounds in the plant increase libido in men and women.
The Difference Between Our His and Her Vitamins
His Raw Vitamins
These vitamins are specially formulated for men because they contain eleuthero root and maca root. Both are adaptogenic herbs that help men improve energy levels, deal with stress, boost immune function, and stimulate libido.
For best results, make sure you exercise daily and eat healthy foods that stimulate blood flow. Remember that good blood flow not only leads to strong erections, but it’s also important in preventing cardiovascular and heart disease symptoms.
Hers Raw Vitamins
We’ve made these vitamins with women in mind by adding iron and Muira Puama, an adaptogen that helps minimize the symptoms of PMS.
You can ease the pain and discomfort of PMS if you take the right supplements and follow the right self-care program. Eat healthy foods, do stretching exercises, and take warm baths to soothe the pain.
Vitamin Mineral Rush
Liquid Vitamin Mineral Rush comes entirely from raw plant sources and contains no synthetics. These natural ingredients come loaded with phytonutrients, like fulvic acid, that deliver our plant-based mineral complex for increased absorbability, rushing nutrition to the cells where it’s needed. That’s why we call it Rush.
Liquid Vitamin Mineral Rush is created by nature, derived from organically grown or wildcrafted plants. These natural sources are blended to create an ideal raw super supplement. A powerful B vitamin complex complements the full spectrum minerals and other health improving essential vitamins.
What You Might Also Be Wondering
How do you take out vitamins and minerals in fruits and veggies and put them in a bottle? Can you describe the process?
Sunwarrior uses enzymes and fermentation to help separate or concentrate individual vitamins. We start with fruits, herbs, and superfoods that naturally contain a large amount of the nutrients we want.
How do you determine the precise amount of every single vitamin? If foods come in different shapes and sizes, then wouldn’t your vitamin capsules be different too?
Our vitamin label is determined by the average of several tests. The amount varies from bottle to bottle and even pill to pill, but we provide our best estimation.
Avoid any product that tests on animals or uses animal-based ingredients.
How does Sunwarrior ensure the vitamins and minerals stay bioavailable and do not oxidize?
Sunwarrior vitamins are raw. We use low heat processes, but oxidation can begin as soon as you begin juicing, fermenting, drying, and powdering. Like any vitamin, these do lose potency over time.
Another Important Supplement: Probiotics
You may have never thought about it, but your gut helps you absorb the vital nutrients from your food and keeps you healthy. That’s why using probiotics is important.
People used to preserve different foods by fermenting them, so you got probiotics from a normal diet.
But now, we process and refine our foods, causing them to have the opposite effect. Food becomes difficult to digest and generates bad bacteria.
You need to get enough good bacteria in your gut to support your immune system. You can get probiotics from eating fermented foods such as:
- kombucha tea
Sunwarrior also has a probiotic supplement that combines stable probiotics and chloroplasts to enhance digestion, improve enzyme function, and fight free radicals.
These probiotics grow to 100 Billion CFU and:
- increase native gut flora 10x
- support normal bowel function
- reach the intestines alive
- support immune function
- contains prebiotics to help feed healthy gut bacteria
For even more information about probiotics, check out our entire article devoted to the importance of keeping your gut healthy. Your health stems from your gut, so keep your belly happy.
Starting Your Path to Healthy Living
There is so much more to a holistic lifestyle than making sure you take your daily vitamins. Keep in mind that, at the end of the day, they are merely tools to help you achieve your end goal.
When you start your journey to healthier living, there seems to be so much information to weed through. It can be confusing and difficult to determine what you should focus on first.
That’s why we developed a short 15 Point Guide to Essential Health. It’s time to take charge of your own health. With a little help, you’ll be living a healthier, more fulfilling life in no time!
Learn the best natural vitamins for men and women in this video from Sunwarrior:
Your overall wellness doesn’t just rely on taking whole food vitamins, eating healthy meals, or a well-balanced diet. Results come out with your strong will and desire to improve your well-being.
Are your vitamins made from whole foods? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on November 12, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.