supplements vs. real food

Supplements vs. Real Food

It comes as no surprise that we all need vitamins for our bodies to function properly and to live a healthful life. A booming supplement industry has each vitamin, mineral, and amino acid neatly packaged up and ready to sell you. So, is there any difference in the vitamin C pill that you can take with a glass of water or the vitamin C that you would find in a fresh orange? This is important to know as you make decisions for yourself and for your family. It is important to distinguish between supplements vs. real food, as they are not the same thing!

Food Habits

As humans, most of us want to find the path of least resistance or the easiest way to do things. The supplement industry caters to our desire for “easy” thus many people are under the delusion that if they take a handful of vitamins, they are indeed healthy. This can be problematic, as it can lead to poor food choices. The example of a person that takes a variety of supplements and then chooses to eat nutrient-food convenience food too frequently throughout the week is far too common. The truth is that many people need to learn new habits surrounding food. Each time that you reach for a fish oil pill instead of cooking a piece of fish, you are not preventing yourself from furthering you relationship with food.

Multifaceted Foods

Whole, unprocessed foods that are close to their natural state are complex. They contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds. When you eat a carrot, you get over a dozen vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, and folate. All of these work together to provide your body with what it needs to function properly. In addition, eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains also provides fiber to the diet. This is an area in which most people struggle, and increasing fiber can have a tremendous impact on a person’s health. We believe fiber may actually be the key to good health. Not fiber supplements, fiber from plant foods!


Shockingly, the supplement industry is unregulated. This means that companies can make a variety of claims, which may not have been proven. Some studies have shown supplements to contain up to 80% less than the declared amount on the package! On the other hand, although vitamins are essential to our survival, there is level in which they become toxic to us. Although you have nothing to fear if you are eating real food, it is very easy to reach those levels in pill form.

Final Thoughts

While there is nothing wrong with including supplements or a multivitamin in your daily routine, it is important to remember what these products are meant to be – supplements. This means that they should be included along with whole foods and a well-rounded healthful diet. These products should be used to fill in the gaps during certain situations when it can’t be done with food. You can take a vitamin C supplement if you really want to, but it’s no replacement for a red bell pepper!
At Nutrition in Recovery the supplements we are most comfortable recommending are: multivitamin, fish oil, probiotic. There may be others depending on your personal needs!
Read more about our thoughts on supplements HERE

Dr. David Wiss became a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) in 2013 and founded Nutrition in Recovery, a group practice of RDNs specializing in treating eating and substance use disorders. In 2017, David received the “Excellence in Practice” award at the National Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo. The California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics awarded him the “Emerging Dietetic Leader Award” in 2020. He earned his Ph.D. from UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health in the Community Health Sciences department (with a minor in Health Psychology) by investigating the links between adverse childhood experiences and various mental health outcomes among socially disadvantaged men. His treatment philosophy is based on a biopsychosocial model which incorporates an understanding of biological mechanisms, psychological underpinnings, and contextual factors that integrate the social determinants of health. Wise Mind Nutrition is an app-based interactive treatment program available for download now -

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