Do we really even need vitamins? I used to think “not.” But the fact that many of us don’t eat the kinds of food our ancestors ate (organ meats, fermented foods, saturated fats), the soil is depleted of nutrients, and the level of processing our food goes through, I think now that vitamins are indispensable.
Not all vitamins are created equal. Most vitamins you find as places like Walgreens, Costco, and even Whole Foods are … crap. Here is a quick and easy guide to knowing what to look for – keywords – to assess your vitamin stock.
Ideally vitamins are from “whole food” sources. That is, if you read the label, you see what it is made out of. You want to see things like vegetables, fruits, animal organs, and other naturally occurring compounds.
Most vitamin A on the market is just “beta carotene.” But – real vitamin A also includes
- fatty acids,
- vitamin C,
- vitamin E,
- vitamin B,
- vitamin D,
- enzymes and
This A-complex is fully used and absorbable and will not cause vitamin A toxicity. Synthetic vitamin A can cause cancer whereas real vitamin A is one of the best antioxidants around. Big difference.
What is happening in the vitamin world is that companies, including pharmaceutical companies, are chemically extracting a partial “vitamin” from the whole compound.
This extraction can not be rightly called a vitamin. Your body will fail to recognize it, or will draw from other reserves in your body to make up the difference. It’s like pumping the gas pedal in your car, but the engine is off. Or it’s like whipping a tired horse. The thing is, we don’t really understand how food breaks down in our body: one nutrient depends on another macro or micro molecule to be used by your cells. Real food is complex with many nutrients playing in harmony with other ones. You can’t really separate out one molecule and say “Oh, this is the one molecule you need to work better.” We also don’t really understand how doing that is going to impact our bodies.
Food-based vitamins work because…it’s food. We’ve been eating food for millions of years and – hey – it’s gotten us this far!
Unfortunately, whole food vitamins are rare because
- there is big money in chemically extracted vitamins;
- whole food vitamins are costly to make. They are made by taking a vitamin-rich plant, removing the water and the fiber in a cold vacuum process, free of chemicals, and then packaging for stability.
- we (the public) have been tricked into thinking that it’s the % of the vitamin written on the bottle that we need to assess to know the vitamin’s efficacy. That is false. Without the whole compound, it’s unsure, it definitely has not been scientifically assessed, whether or not our bodies know what to do with a chemical extraction of a vitamin compound. Our bodies were made to eat real food, not chemical extracts. With the state of health we (our country) are in, I think it’s safe to say that the food and the vitamin industries have been “feeding” us lies.
- TRASH IT: “Ascorbic Acid”
- Why? There’s one company in the US who makes about 90% of the ascorbic acid. It’s made from corn starch and acid. Lovely. Ascorbic acid is only the covering of the vitamin C compound in a plant. You cannot treat a vitamin C deficiency with just ascorbic acid; people with scurvy do not recover when just given ascorbic acid.
- TRASH IT: “beta carotene,” “retinal palmitate,” “retinol,” or “retinoid acid”
- Why? Synthetic beta carotene can’t transform into usable vitamin A in your body because…it’s made from hydrogenated oils. The Swiss drug manufacturer Hoffman-LaRoche makes most of the world’s beta carotene. At best it’s worthless, at worst, it’s toxic.
VITAMIN B (1, 2, 6, 12, choline, folic acid, biotin)
- TRASH IT: “thiamine hydrochloride / mononitrate,” “cobalamin,” “d-Biotin,” “choline chloride / bitartrate,” “riboflavin,” “pyridoxine hydrochloride,” “pteroylglutamic acid,” “d-biotin”
- Why? Thiamine is made from coal tar and was found to cause infertility in pigs (in 100% of the sample!). Cobalamin is made from sewage sludge. I think I just threw up a little in my mouth. The point is, most B vitamins are highly processed and not bioavailable. Ever start a B-vitamin and your pee turns orange? Yep. That’s your vitamin coming out the other end. We call that “expensive urine.”
- TRASH IT: “irradiated ergosterol,” “calciferol”
- Why? Irradiated vegetable oils. Yes, let’s take some rancid, oxidized trans-fat and see how much that helps our immune systems.
- TRASH IT: “dl-alpha tocopherol,” “dl-alpha tocopherol acetate” or “succinate”
- Why? See above diagram.
- TRASH IT: “Calcium Carbonate”
- Why? It’s made from limestone and other hard to digest minerals. This is the type of calcium that can cause kidney stones and acid reflux. Instead, opt for “calcium citrate” or even better “calcium lactate”. Calcium lactate is the form of calcium closest to the form of calcium your bones need. Your body has to go through only a few metabolic steps to use calcium lactate. Even though the amount of calcium (the mg or % on the bottle) may be higher, we are more concerned with absorb-ability than this number. Also, the fact that calcium citrate is made from the calcium part of the citrus fruit makes me wonder how well that is processed in the body.
- AVOID: “ferrous gluconate / sulfate / fumarate,” “ferric iron”
- Why? Ferric iron is the absolute worst; with low absorbability and stomach pain side effects. But any of the others can have the digestive pain side effect as well. I heard about a class where they ran a box of Total cereal under a magnet. Total claims to be high in iron. The magnet filled up with iron fillings. Dee-licious!
So what vitamin supplements are good to take? The best source of vitamins are through a healthy diet. But most people have HUGE misconceptions of what “healthy diet” means. I’m not talking about how much salad you eat, but a diet that includes plenty of:
- organic fruits and veggies: from a highly mineralized and healthy soil: for vitamins A and C
- raw dairy: for calcium, enzymes, and probiotics
- fermented foods: for probiotics and enzymes
- seaweed: for minerals, including iodine for your thyroid
- raw or low-cooked seafood: for Omega 3 oils and vitamin A
- grass fed beef and butter: for Omega 3 oils and iron
- healthy vegetable oils: olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil: for vitamin E
- organ meats: heart, liver, brain, offal, tripe, etc.: for B vitamins and minerals
- bone broth: for minerals
IF YOU DON’T EAT IT, YOU HAVE TO TAKE IT (in the form of a vitamin)
The companies I know of who do whole food vitamins include:
- Standard Process. You may already know they’re my favorite! We carry a large portion of their line in my office, or you can look at their website http://www.standardprocess.com to find a practitioner near you who carries them.
- Innate Response
- Garden of Life
- New Chapter
- Pure Synergy