If you have ever taken a vitamin or mineral supplement and not experienced a difference in how you look or feel, it could be because of low bioavailability. Artificial vitamins can often pass through our body without being absorbed. Plant-based supplements are better.
Plant-based supplements are made from the same ingredients we use to cook food at home – vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, spices, bark, flowers, and leaves. The exact blend of ingredients depends upon the purpose of the supplement and hence the kind of nutrients needed.
Typically, the composition comprises plants that are already naturally high in the desired macro and micro nutrients. Different methods are then used to extract the nutrients and formulate a supplement that can satisfy the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of those nutrients.
Plant-based supplements offer multiple advantages, including:
Bioavailability signifies how easily the body can absorb a specific nutrient or set of nutrients. Recent scientific studies indicate that healthy, whole plant foods are the foundation of a nutritionally complete diet. This includes the supplements we use to maintain our health. The best supplements are those that our body is naturally equipped to handle, in other words — they’re plant-based. Though our early ancestors were omnivores, our bodies have evolved over time to efficiently use nutrients from plant based sources.
Lesser Risk of Toxicity
In some cases, consuming excess of a particular mineral can be harmful. Plant-based supplements inherently have a lower risk of toxicity than artificial or animal-based ones. For example, a plant-based iron supplement is less toxic than animal-sourced iron supplements.
Added Cofactors & Co-nutrients
Plants contain a complete range of vitamins, minerals, aromatic oils, and phytonutrients. In many cases, these co-nutrients work together to provide the observed benefits. In the case of synthetic supplements, when we isolate specific compounds, we may get the leader of the pack, but leave out the essential supporting players. This does not happen with plant-based supplements.
Here are some vital cofactors & co-nutrients in plants that synthetic supplements may exclude:
- Plant pigments: chlorophyll, curcumin, flavonoids, carotenoids, lutein, anthocyanins
- Flavonoids: catechins, quercetin, polyphenols
- Aromatic compounds: allicin, sulforaphane, carvacrol, thymol
- Alkaloids: caffeine, quinine, theobromine, piperine
- Enzymes: protease, cellulase, amylase, nattokinase, lipase
- Terpenoids: saponins, limonene, phytosterols, oleanolic acid
- Polysaccharides: cellulose, acemannan, pectin, hemicellulose
Natural Taste & Smell
The best part of plant-based supplements is that we know what we are getting. They normally don’t contain the synthetic fillers, toxic chemicals, and artificial sweeteners present in other supplements. Plants include oils and other constituents that provide the natural smells and tastes absent in lab-grown vitamins.
- Tuso, P.J., et al. “Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets.” The Permanente Journal 17.2 (2013): 61–66. PMC. Web. 9 Aug. 2017.
- “Absorption of Minerals and Metals.” Colorado State, n.d. Web. 09 Aug. 2017.
- Shahidi, F. “Nutraceuticals, Functional Foods and Dietary Supplements in Health and Disease.” Journal of Food and Drug Analysis. 2012;20(1) 2012,226-230.
Adapted from Plant-Based Supplements: The New Frontier of Supplements by Dr Edward F Group, MD. Published Oct 2017.