Food Vs Supplements

Produce Vs. Pills? The Never-ending Nutrition Debate.

2 min read

“The million-dollar question, literally!”

People, in general these days, tend to be aware and have heard of nutrition supplements. Even my Nani has heard of popular brands, selling different nutrients to people over the counter or via lucrative multi-level marketing and pyramid schemes. Thanks to prime-time TV adverts.

Now to jump right in, we need to understand some facts before anyone can begin to decide whether food is enough, or do we really need supplements for good health?

Pros of Produce:

Produce Vs Supplements

Our bodies have evolved to obtain the nutrients it needs from food. An individual eating a balanced diet, with plenty of whole foods will not only receive the raw materials they need for growth, repair, energy and immunity but also the compounds that can reduce their risk of disease.

This is because, a balanced diet contains a complex medley of nutrients and other health-promoting substances, such as fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals, which cannot be synthetically replicated.

In addition, some nutrients, including calcium, are more readily absorbed from food sources than supplements (1).

Hence, unless an individual has a specific need for a particular nutritional supplement, there is a higher possibility of harm by adding them on a daily basis in the diet, especially fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin A, high levels of which can cause osteoporosis (2) and liver damage (3), while too much of the ever-so-popular vitamin D can damage your kidneys (4).

Another noteworthy point is that the if sale of supplements is unregulated or unsupervised, it can easily lead to high self-dosage or the contents listed on the label may not match the contents of the container, outweighing any advantages.

Pros of Supplements:

Produce Vs Supplements

Let’s face it, eating a nutritionally balanced diet, grown in an organic environment, and having a wide variety of produce, on a daily basis, may not be physically feasible at all times. Supplements can help fill in the missing components one needs for optimal health.

Additionally, during certain critical periods, the roles of supplements can be more pronounced.

Research validates that women about to become pregnant need extra folic acid, in addition to the amount of this B vitamin their food supplies (5). This helps ensure the development of a healthy baby.

In other circumstances –like old age, the absorption of nutrients is altered, (6) requiring supplements to boost or maintain and balance their nutritional status.

Nutritional supplements can also help treat a specific deficiency or help one cope with a digestive disorders, like lactose intolerance.

Thus, keeping both the arguments in mind, I would like to summarize my thoughts on the matter: Supplements can plug dietary gaps, but nutrients from food are most important.

What are your thoughts?

Previously from Shiren,

Antioxidants: let your food protect you from all illnesses!



1 Napoli N, Thompson J, Civitelli R, Armamento-Villareal RC. Effects of dietary calcium compared with calcium supplements on estrogen metabolism and bone mineral density. Am J of Clin Nutr. 2007;85:1428-1433.

2 Kristina L, Sherry A T. The acute and chronic toxic effects of vitamin A. Am J Clin Nutr.2006 vol. 83 no. 2 191-201.

3 Zimmerman MR. The paleopathology of the liver. Ann Clin Lab Sci.1990;20:301-6.

4 Wani M, Wani I, Banday K, Ashraf M.The other side of vitamin D therapy: a case series of acute kidney injury due to malpractice-related vitamin D intoxication. Clin Nephrol. 2016.236-241.

5 Greenberg JA, Bell SJ, Guan Y, Yu Y. Folic Acid Supplementation and Pregnancy: More Than Just Neural Tube Defect Prevention. Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2011;4(2):52-59.

6 Woudstra T, Thomson AB. Nutrient absorption and intestinal adaptation with ageing. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2002;16(1):1-15.

Shiren Janus, RD.

A mother, A Registered Dietitian, a food enthusiast and a globe trotter- all rolled in one! Shiren is trying to help people (and herself) find the right balance in between, one post at a time.

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