Fruits vs. Supplements: Does One Negate the Importance of the Other?

Should you munch on a fruit or a pill will cover everything?

Supplements are great, and even physicians prescribe them. However, supplements are not replacements for fruits. No matter the concentration of vitamins in a pill, fruits, and vegetables are always the best sources of vitamins.

But Americans love supplements. In 2018, CRN (Council for Responsible Nutrition) found out that at least 75 percent of U.S. citizens use dietary supplements [1], either physician-prescribed or self-prescribed. According to CRN, only 65 percent of the Americans took supplements in 2009 – the numbers are growing each year.

Vitamins and mineral supplements are the most common. Herbals and botanicals follow, especially turmeric follow. Most of the nutrients you get from pills and powders are available in their raw form in fruits.

Supplements vs. Fruits

The Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 stipulate that you need to ingest whole foods to meet your primary nutritional needs. That means that all the nutrients you need should come from fruits and other whole foods. If there is a nutrient that you lack from the whole foods, you can take supplements. Before you self-prescribe a supplement, get information on what they do or don’t do for you.

Supplements are not supplements for food. They can replicate the nutrients in food, but they will still not give you all the benefits of whole foods such as juicy fruits. Few options will provide you with a range of nutrients to maintain health but most only give you a single nutrient. If, for instance, you need supplements for your keto diet, you need to be careful about the supplements you choose to meet your dietary needs. Even with organic supplements, whole foods will still offer three benefits over supplements:

  • More Nutrients – While foods will not only give you one nutrient but a range of nutrients to help you live healthily.
  • Get Fibers – Dietary fiber is only available in whole foods such as fruits. Fiber is important in preventing digestive system problems and might even prevent type 2 diabetes.
  • Source of antioxidants – Fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods are natural sources of antioxidants. These substances are important in slowing down the deterioration of cells and tissues. While you can get antioxidant supplements, there is no evidence that they offer the same benefits as those you get from foods.

Fruits have more benefits than supplements, but that is not to say that they can replace supplements. If you are on a keto diet, for instance, there are those supplements that will help you stay healthy. The ketologic supplements ensure that after massive loss of weight, your body still says healthy. You can take fruits and whole foods still but supplement that to keep healthy.

Who Should Take Supplements and When?

At what point do supplements become more important than whole foods?

If you are healthy and you eat a wide variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, legumes, whole grains, lean meat and fish, and many others, you do not need supplements.

Supplements come in handy for?

  • Pregnant women who need extra folic acid and iron every day
  • Adults aged 50 and above who need more vitamin B-12
  • Seniors above age 65 who need more vitamin D
  • Convalescents whose bodies may not digest whole foods
  • Babies not getting enough vitamins

You might also need supplements if:

  • You do not eat well
  • You are a vegan and only takes a limited variety of foods
  • Your diet has so many food restrictions
  • You do not get seafood servings to supply omega-3 to protect you from heart diseases
  • You are lactose intolerant and do not take milk
  • You experience heavy bleeding in your menstrual cycle every month
  • You have a medical condition that interferes with the absorption of some nutrients
  • You had surgery in your digestive tract that interferes with digestion and absorption of food

If you have any of the conditions above, you need to talk to your physician to finds out the best supplements for your condition and the right doses. You need to ask about any possible side effects and interactions of the dietary supplements. Even as you continue taking the supplements, you need to ensure you continue taking your whole foods as normal.

Conclusion

Getting the right supplement dose is as important as getting the right supplement. You need to ensure you talk to your primary care physician because supplements can cause harmful side effects and interactions. Always check the label to see the active ingredients in a supplement and check the serving size of each ingredient.

Always avoid megadoses as these might cause health problems and watch what you eat at all times. Before buying a supplement, check with the FDA that it is not under regulatory review or has been reported to have adverse side effects.

Sources

[1] https://www.crnusa.org/CRNConsumerSurvey