The body requires a wide range of vitamins and minerals to maintain a constant state of wellness. Individuals who consume highly processed foods or a regular Standard American Diet (SAD) are generally deficient of the necessary vitamins and minerals that keep the body in optimal health. But surprisingly, even those who subscribe to a natural or plant-based diet may still find themselves lacking the complex variety of vitamins and minerals that the body needs.
Factors like deficient soil quality, overcooking and lack of knowledge and education further contribute to the disconnect and the under-consumption of vital nutrients. This is why supplementing one’s diet with a multivitamin or other over-the-counter vitamin and mineral may be important. But before jumping on the supplement bandwagon, there are a few things to consider.
Not all supplements are created equal.
Like anything commercialized in the American marketplace, vitamin and mineral supplements have fallen prey to the capitalist machine. Pharmaceutics is a multibillion-dollar industry. Accordingly, as more people become health conscious and seek out natural alternatives to traditional medicines, big business has developed and mass produced supplements that have additives and preservatives that are the same or similar to findings in processed foods. This is why understanding the difference between synthetic and plant-based supplements is imperative.
The biggest difference between a plant-based supplement and a synthetic option is in the manufacturing. When synthetic supplements are created they isolate naturally-occurring vitamins, which reduces their effectiveness. For example, a synthetic Vitamin C capsule only mimics the effect that natural Vitamin C, retrieved from fruits and vegetables, has on the body. Throw in the addition of chemical compounds and preservatives that are required for mass production and cost effectiveness, and the result is a foreign substance that infiltrates instead of supplements the human body.
Plant-based supplements, on the other hand, are produced with the mission to keep the final product as close to the product(s) produced naturally by the earth. This means there are few to no synthetic substances used to process these vitamins, mineral and herbal supplements. Hence, plant-based supplements are better absorbed by the body because the nutrients they provide are familiar to the body.
Both plant-based and synthetic supplements are usually produced and sold in three distinct forms. Below is an overview of each.
The most common powder supplement is protein powder. However, green powders (derived directly from plants) are also available for purchase. A powder supplement is created by first dehydrating a plant and then pulverizing it into a dust or powder form.
Liquid extract made from herbs that is taken orally (usually as drops under the tongue). Tinctures are generally extracted from herbs using alcohol, vegetable glycerin or apple cider vinegar.
This supplement form is probably the most common among consumers. Capsules seal the powder form of supplements in an easy-to-swallow, odorless and taste-free gelatin outer shell. Powders from capsules can be expelled by simply opening them. Tablets, on the other hand, are pressed versions of powder supplements. This supplement form usually has both a taste and odor, but are available in chewable options, if swallowing is a problem.
Borage Oil: natural anti-inflammatory supplement that contains high levels of GLA, an omega-6 fatty acid that the body does not naturally produce. Most common used for the treatment and prevention of PMS symptoms, ADHD, eczema, dermatitis, menopause symptoms, hormonal imbalances, chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis pain, stress and respiratory distress.
Cayenne Pepper: increases metabolism and heart health, reduces high blood pressure, performs as a powerful digestive aid and toxin remover in the human body. Cayenne pepper is most commonly consumed in powder form, but is also available in liquid and capsule forms.
Green Tea Extract: made from the Camellia sinensis plant, green tea is used in the treatment of depression, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, stomach disorders, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches and bone loss. Green tea extract is also used to promote weight loss.
Cat’s Claw (Uncaria Tomentosa): antiviral herb that boosts immune system and fights off infection. Cat’s Claw is used in the treatment and prevention of arthritis, allergies, asthma, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, viral infections, ulcers and hemorrhoids. This woody vine is native to the Amazon.
Fish Oil: Extracted from the tissues of oily fish, fish oil provides the human body with necessary omega 3 fats that are not naturally produced by the body. Fish oil is used in the treatment and prevention of ADHD, Alzheimer’s Disease, anxiety, arthritis, cancers and cardiovascular disease.
Turmeric: powerful root vegetable that is consumed in its natural state or as a liquid, powder or capsule. Turmeric aids in the treatment and prevention of acne, asthma, cataracts, delayed wound healing, diabetes onset, glaucoma, hypertension, increased appetite, indigestion, insomnia, kidney and thyroid issues, mood disturbances, muscle weakness, nausea, risk of infection, tachycardia and thinning skin.
Ginger: aromatic, pungent and spicy root vegetable consumed in it’s natural state or in juice, powder and capsule form. Ginger is most commonly used to help digestion, reduce nausea and help fight the flu and common cold.