Supplements: What You Need to Know

Food creates an experience: the appetizing fragrance tickling your nose, the inviting appearance delighting your eyes, the textures felt as you make your way through your meal, the flavors unleashed as you chew, and that fundamental feeling of satiety. This experience is lost when you “pop” a supplement pill.

But is that all that is lost? We’re afraid not.

Supplements Were Never Meant to Replace Food

Supplements emerged in the last century or so to fill gaps in nutrition. If someone did not have enough of a nutrient in their body, the void was filled with a synthetic version. With supplements there to save the day, nutritional deficiency epidemics of the past centuries – like scurvy (vitamin C), rickets (vitamin D), beriberi (vitamin B1), and pellagra (vitamin B3) – were forced to become just that, things of the past. They were conquered.

Yes, this was indeed a milestone in science and medicine, but it paved the way for unprecedented paranoia, a paranoia that grew to include fear of diseases like heart disease and cancer.

Even healthy individuals felt the need to take different kinds of supplements just in case they fell prey to a deficiency in the future, just in case their regular meals were falling short of essential nutrients, just in case they developed a cancer or heart disease, just in case they weren’t their healthiest selves.

But here’s the thing: supplements proved useful in correcting existing, severe nutritional deficiencies; they weren’t used in “just in case” scenarios.

Whether or not supplements have any benefit on an overall healthy person is yet to be proved. On the contrary, they have been seen to cause side effects, in certain cases quickly escalating to death. Is that a risk you are willing to take?

The best way to get your fill of nutrients is to eat a variety of good-quality foods (think rainbows on your plate). It’s not a colossal or unpractical demand. You just need to stick to fresh, real food and not go on an outrageously restrictive diet of, say, only cheese sandwiches and soda.

That brings us to the point: contrary to popular belief, most people are not deficient in the important micronutrients. Even seemingly unhealthy fast foods like mac and cheese have them. They may come with a lot of unwanted calories, but micronutrients are tucked in there too.

This explains why, on an average, 9 out of 10 Americans can still flaunt good scores on nutritional tests. The reason you are asked to eat healthy food is to get more nutrients per calorie.

Food Gives You Everything You Need …

The terms “food synergy” and “food matrix” are often used to explain the complex nature of food. They hint at mysterious components and interactions that science hasn’t been able to catch up to. So yes, there are vitamins A, D, E, K, B, and C and minerals that you’ve heard of, but there are more. Thousands more.

To give you perspective, at the turn of the last century, we believed food was made up of proteins, carbs, and fats alone. Now see where we’re at – vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and the search continues.

Moreover, the components of food share a solidarity like no other. Like the beads of a bracelet, they don’t add the same value to your health when forced to work in isolation. The links with other components are necessary for them to work in your body in the way they’re intended to. Supplements miss these important links.

As food matrix design and food technology progress, we are still nowhere close to replicating the structure or effect of food.

… In the Amounts You Need

Micronutrients, including vitamins and minerals, are needed in micro-quantities by the body, quantities that the human eye cannot even see. Their normal ranges are narrow, not leaving too much room for swinging off the mark, less or more. The body will notice and retaliate (think disease).

No wonder that the same vitamin, vitamin A, can be a blessing to a deficient child preventing them from going blind while being a death threat to an otherwise healthy individual through hypervitaminosis A.

The important thing to realize then is that more does not necessarily mean better. And this seems to be the biggest risk with supplements.

Despite RDA values (standardized values telling you how much of a nutrient you need each day), everybody has a different normal. Your body’s requirement for vitamin C will be different even from your identical twin. Most supplements turn a blind eye to these differences, so you’re always at risk of overshooting your normal. On top of that, most supplement manufacturers promise you dosages way above the RDA.

And doesn’t a capsule-sized quantity of a microscopic need already seem too much?

With food, this worry is taken off your plate. The chances of you getting too much of anything are slim because they’re anyway present in such minute quantities in food.

A Potpourri of Foods Gives You Backups

Should your body not be able to use a particular nutrient well from a particular food, say potassium from sweet potato, with a mix of foods on your plate, you’ll have backup sources of potassium, perhaps soybeans.

This also takes care of the fear of missing out due to a food allergy. Can’t have yogurt for calcium because you’re lactose intolerant? Don’t. Have oranges instead.

Nature has given you a thousand and one ways of getting any nutrient you need. Supplements, on the other hand, may not always give you what their labels promise.

Which brings us to the point: no one’s keeping a tab on supplements, not even the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). The FDA has been forced by way of law to give a free hand to supplement manufacturers, demanding no proof of safety or efficacy of their products. The threats of contamination are a whole other horror story.

There is also the assumption that scientific research must have already been done to prove all of the tall claims, the laundry list of health benefits. The truth is some initial research has been done and research is being done, but the industry has taken “jumping to conclusions” to new heights. Supplements, even natural ones, are based on conjectures and unproven hypotheses, a danger that must be recognized.

Not All “Natural” Supplements Are Good for You

The word “natural” has been thrown around and misused a lot. Many natural supplements are derived from nature but aren’t like “in nature.” That makes a huge difference.

Even if a supplement is created from natural sources like sheep wool or edible sources like green tea or red grapes, the moment you process and reduce them, you are taking away elements of their supporting matrix. They carry similar risks as supplements from non-natural sources, synthetic supplements if you will.

Choose Supplements Closest to Whole Food

To be healthful, it is not enough for a nutrient or an active ingredient to be extracted from natural sources – for that matter, wool or green tea are both natural. The nutrient is most effective and least harmful when it is taken as it appears in nature – for instance, lycopene in tomatoes as opposed to tomato-derived lycopene supplements.

The 1Balance whole herb combinations contain dried and powdered herbs – quite like the dehydrated burgers or salads NASA prepares for its astronauts.

This is how 1Balance surpasses other supplements.

Being more akin to food, rather than an assortment of isolated chemicals lacking in your diet, the 1Balance whole herb combinations can be called “complements” instead of supplements. Just like food is necessary to keep your organs functioning at full steam, so are these herb combinations. In fact, many of these herbs have been part of traditional diets across the world and could have been part of yours too had they been locally available to you. Their chief activity is to help your body do its best to utilize nutrients from your diet.

Once your body works at its highest capacity and you put a little more thought and care into your diet, getting the right nutrition will hardly be a challenge.