Do you remember the first time you heard about vitamins? I was first introduced to them as a kid. Every day before breakfast my dad would give me a Flintstone multivitamin in the shape of a red “Wilma” or a purple “Fred”. As I remember it, I sort of looked forward to eating those colorful, fruity, cartoon themed pills. I mean, they faintly tasted like candy and I actually believed they were good for me. Now that I’m an adult (and working in the health & wellness industry) I look back at this childhood memory and cringe (sorry, dad!) I mean, have you ever looked at the ingredient list of a Flintstone vitamin? Yikes! Which leads me to my next question…
Did you know that the majority of bottled-up vitamins sitting on store shelves today are synthetic, that is, man-made? These products contain chemical compounds that are designed to “mimic” the way plant-based vitamins react in our body. As a Certified Health Coach, part of my job is to encourage my clients to eat a diet that is based on whole, natural foods. When it comes to supplements, I’m no different. I often recommend my clients to investigate supplement brands and choose products that contain ingredients sourced from whole foods, like plants. Plant-based products are going to be more recognizable by your body. Makes total sense, right?
Okay, I just realized I’m jumping a bit ahead here, as I haven’t fully explained what a vitamin is and why we need them.
Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential in very small amounts for supporting normal physiologic functions in our body, such as growth, reproduction, etc. We need vitamins (which do not include minerals, essential fatty acids, or essential amino acids) in our diet because our bodies can’t synthesize them quickly enough to meet our daily needs.
There are 3 main characteristics of vitamins:
- They are natural components of foods; usually present in small amounts.
- They are essential for normal bodily functions.
- When they are absent from our diet, they will cause a specific deficiency.
Vitamins are also generally categorized into two types: fat-soluble and water-soluble. The difference between the two groups is important because it determines how each vitamin acts within the body. Fat-soluble vitamins, such as D and E, are stored when not in use, typically in the liver and fat tissues. Water-soluble vitamins, such as B and C, dissolve quickly in water, hence the name. Unlike, the fat-soluble ones, water-soluble vitamins cannot be stored in the body, here's why! About 60% of your body is made of water, and water is constantly lost from our body in the form of sweat, urine, and human waste. So, if you take 1000 mg of vitamin C, which is more than ten times the recommended allowance, the leftover (after your body uses 50 – 60 mg) vitamin C is typically lost in sweat and urine. Sadly, many are not aware of this. Shocking isn't it?! This is why I insist on taking smaller doses from supplements that are derived from whole food sources.
Okay, now let’s get back to talking about synthetic vitamins versus plant-based vitamins and why it all matters…
Although the accepted view is that synthetic nutrients are almost chemically identical to those found in food, it is still very unclear how our bodies actually absorb these nutrients. My personal philosophy is this - just like it’s important to consider ingredient lists on foods, we should be doing the same when buying vitamins. When we consume whole foods, we aren’t consuming just ONE single nutrient, we are also consuming a range of vitamins, minerals, co-factors, and enzymes that allow for optimal use of those nutrients within the body. Supplements from whole foods have a similar nutrient composition as that of real fruit. They are not artificially formulated in a lab to have higher amounts of a specific nutrient over others. It is recognizable for the body and is absorbed better, just like you would when you eat a fruit plucked from a tree. For example, you may not realize it, but there are over 200 nutrients in just one carrot! Carrots are perfectly balanced so that we receive the full benefit of the vitamins found within. What I am trying to say is, while scientists are busy “re-creating” vitamins in a lab, Mother Nature has already figured out the perfect mix.
So, you can see why all of this would be important to you, as a consumer. We need to make sure we are reading labels closely and choosing products that are transparent in what they provide. Another factor to consider is the amount of vitamins per serving. Focus on products that offer usable doses of those plant-based vitamins; one with an effective delivery mechanism like Mighty Gum. Mighty Gum offers vitamins in manageable doses for your body in a format that can be used throughout the day – NO excess and NO wasting.
This is just one reason I love Mighty Gum. Their chewing gum contains six beneficial vitamins that are sourced from fruit. Here’s a brief run-down…
Vitamin A from Organic Papaya
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and is involved in the production and function of white blood cells which play a critical role in our immune response.
Vitamin B1 from Organic Orange & Papaya
Vitamin B1 is a water-soluble vitamin that’s used by nearly all your cells and is responsible for helping your body turn food into energy.
Vitamin B6 from Organic Banana
Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that our body needs for several functions. It’s significant to protein, fat and carb metabolism and the creation of red blood cells and neurotransmitters that help regulate our emotions.
Vitamin C from Organic Orange, Banana & Papaya
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that helps your body absorb iron and helps boost blood antioxidant levels. It also helps form and maintain bones, skin, and blood vessels.
Vitamin D2 from Organic Shiitake Mushroom
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps to support normal immune function. It is also important for normal growth and development of bones and teeth, as well as promoting a happy, positive mood.
In summary, I hope this post helped you to understand vitamins better, especially in terms of deciding between synthetic versions and those derived from plant-based sources such as fruit. At the end of the day, it is always best to be aware of what you put into your body and take into consideration all the facts when it comes to your health and choices! I’d also like to remind everyone reading that vitamins can’t possibly do all the work. A healthy diet, exercise, and lifestyle all go hand in hand when it comes to good health. And it’s never too late to start prioritizing things – after all, if you don’t take care of your body, where are you going to live?
Board-Certified Integrative Health Coach