Whole Food Supplements? Are They As Good As Portrayed?
Over recent months we have been getting asked more and more frequently about whole food supplements. This increased interest is no doubt due to increasing awareness of the need to eat a reasonable amount of fruit and vegetables.
Many people feel that if they are not getting the required amount of fruit and vegetables that they need as part of their diet that if they take a ‘whole food’ supplement then this will fill the gap.
This prompted us to consider the practicality of manufacturing a whole food supplement to fulfil this need. After all, we have access to a wide variety of high quality fruits and vegetables here in New Zealand…many of them certified organic. We could purchase these, freeze dry and mill them, then either sell them as a loose powder or in capsule form…as many other manufacturers do.
After carefully assessing all the options we decided that it was not in the best interests of our customers to produce such a product, and indeed it was not in the best interests of customers to consume these types of products, as a substitute for real fruit and vegetables.
To explain why this conclusion was reached, it is probably easiest to let you read a question from a customer and my response to it:
Question from Jimmy:
There seem to be a number of companies making a big thing of using "whole foods", and I agree basically with the concept. God really did know what He was doing, and still does.
If these products are as good as they seem to think they are, there must be a compelling reason that you haven't used some of them in your own products. I want to end up with the best combination. I have several friends that depend on me for some nutritional advice and that is a burden, I am trying to do what is best for me and my family but for someone else to depend on what I know is really "betting the farm"
I value your opinion in nutritional matters.
There is no question that whole foods are the desirable way to go…but as part of your diet, not in supplement form UNLESS you consume piles of them! This is why we do not use them. It’s just not practical from a consumer’s point of view.
Consider this. To produce a whole food suitable for a supplement that specific whole food has to be either spray or freeze dried to remove the water content. The general recovery ratio is between 10:1 and 5:1 depending upon the vegetable or fruit. So, let’s say that you had a 500mg capsule full of a freeze dried whole food then that would be equivalent to between 2.5 – 5 grams of the ‘natural’ fruit or vegetable. To put that into perspective a typical banana weighs about 125 grams. So, the 500mgs capsule contains the gross weight (or nutrition) equivalent of around 1/25th and 1/50th of a banana. For some people that would be 1/10th of a mouth full! J
Now, in addition to freeze drying the food/powder it then has to be sterilized otherwise it will soon have a high microbiological count. It then has to be milled, encapsulated, bottled and distributed.
The question that consumers should be asking themselves is:
“Why would I want to buy a bottle or container of whole foods in a supplement when one good meal will have the same amount of nutrients in it as a month’s supply of the supplement form and cost a lot less?”
In my opinion these types of supplements are not honest products as they play on the consumer’s desire or need to eat better but are without real merit. Some people do feel that they benefit from these types of products, and indeed they may, but that would only indicate that they had exceptionally poor diets beforehand. They could get superior results by consciously preparing one good meal a month with whole foods.
The thing to remember about whole foods is that you have to eat a large volume of them to get the real benefits. In other words, you need more than one bite of a banana! You need a whole banana…in fact you need more than one of many vegetables if you are to have any chance of getting all the nutrients that you need.
Remember it is OK to eat a LOT of whole foods providing they are in the form of natural fruits and vegetables…NOT breads and grains. The calorie count for vegetables is very low and as a result you won’t put on weight no matter how much of them you eat.
It is obviously desirable to ingest whole foods…but, there is little value in doing so in supplement form! When you take supplements you have to pack in the most nutrients possible because you are only ingesting small volumes of them relative to the amount of food that you eat. So, the supplement has to be EXTRA nutrient dense. The supplements are only effective if they utilize extracts and other speciality nutrients that target specific organs and cells in the body.
Even if you have a good diet these specialty nutrients are important for your overall health. This is because it is virtually impossible to get all the nutrients that you need from your diet unless you live in ‘paradise’ surrounded by fresh organic fruit and vegetables and ate little else. Sadly, this is not the way most of us live. In addition, as you age it becomes harder for your body to extract the nutrients from the food that you eat.
Let me put supplements into a more practical perspective:
Science has over the years, (and at an accelerated rate over recent years) been able to isolate specific active nutrients in food that are essential for the effective functioning of the bodies organs. Many of these are present in reasonable amounts in various herbs, which as a general rule most people never consume. Some of these nutrients can also be present in some fruits and vegetables but to a lesser degree.
The secret to true health is to ‘top up’ a good diet with these highly active ingredients in supplement form to ensure your body is not ‘missing out’ on the ‘tools’ your organs need to continually regenerate healthy cells. A further secret is to not ‘overdo’ any single ingredient but rather keep the amounts modest and match the active ingredients with other ones which will complement each other and whilst doing so increase the efficacy of each of them. It has been established that if the correct combination is used the increase in efficacy can be as much as fifteen times.
To better illustrate why whole food supplements are not all they are purported to be, I have taken a single active ingredient as an example. Anthocyanins, which I am sure you have heard of…
Anthocyanins are one of the flavonoids that gives plants their pigments. They are an essential nutrient for the healthy functioning of the body’s organs. They are present in many fruits and vegetables but not all. For example there is none in oranges. They are present in raspberries at the rate of 10 – 60mgs per 100 grams.
Now, I’ll do an interesting exercise that relates back to the earlier banana example.
First of all…
- Let’s say the average anthocyanin content in raspberries was half way between the two extremes, and we said 35mgs/100 grams.
- Let’s now assume that you ate the equivalent quantities of raspberries as in our hypothetical 125 gram banana. That’s quite a lot of raspberries and something that you would not normally do unless you were a raspberry farmer. Nonetheless, if you did eat that amount you will have consumed approx 44 mgs of anthocyanins.
- Let’s look at the amount of anthocyanins in our Total Balance supplement.
- You will find it is one of the actives in our Bilberry Extract and comprises 25% of the gross weight.
- We have 50mgs of Bilberry in a daily dose. This would mean that you would be getting the equivalent of 12.5mgs of anthocyanins every day.
- Volume wise if you were eating the raw raspberries you would have to eat the equivalent in volume to 1/3rd of our hypothetical banana.
But it gets more interesting:
- The 12.5mgs of anthocyanins is only 1/90th of the active ingredients in a daily dose of Total Balance.
- So, this means that 1/15th of ONE tablet of Total Balance contains as much anthocyanins as 1/3rd of our banana.
- Another way of looking at it, should the analogy be followed though for the other active ingredients in Total Balance (which include a broad range of other flavanoids), you would have to eat a quantity of nutrient dense foods equivalent to 30 bananas a day!!
Back to whole food supplements!
Even if you took 10 capsules of the ‘whole food’ supplement per day, you would still only be eating the equivalent of less than 1/3rd of an average banana! Not a good investment when you compare six tablets to 30 bananas!
This is why we don’t produce such a product. It simply doesn’t stack up either economically or nutritionally…in spite of what the promoters say.
So…do your homework carefully before you spend your money.
In good health.