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Can supplements replace our daily meals?

Updated: Jan 9

HK BioTek Intern


Supplements have their place in a healthy lifestyle however they can’t just simply replace food for good nutrition. It doesn’t make any sense that you just swallow a few pills in the morning and eat junk the rest of the day and expect you are having a healthy lifestyle and diet. So why supplements can't replace a healthy whole food diet?


First, it's important to understand that supplements aren't designed to substitute food, but to provide nutrients your body might be lacking. The purpose of a supplement is to fix a deficiency, not to replace food. Supplements are designed to give you any nutrients you might need more.

Let’s take vitamin C as an example. There are numerous varieties brands of vitamin C. Compare that to eating a food naturally high in vitamin C, such as broccoli. Broccoli will give your body plenty of vitamin C, but it also delivers other vitamins and minerals, phyto-nutrients, fiber, potassium, protein and calories. Even though the body will use the vitamin C in broccoli like it will in a vitamin C supplement, it also gets a lot of other beneficial nutrients from it that are not in the supplement.


Those additional nutrients might also be working together to make each other more effective and efficient. Many of the health effects of food likely derive from the synergistic interactions of nutrients and other compounds within and among the foods we eat. That means that many of the nutrients in whole foods interact in a meaningful, beneficial way, which supplements simply can't replicate.

For example, consuming whole tomatoes as opposed to taking a lycopene supplement proved to be more effective in fighting cardiovascular disease.


And overdosing certain nutrients, which is shockingly easy when a single pill contains an extremely high amount, can be harmful. For example, taking too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea. What’s more, with the same cost, the money you paid for a kind of supplement is much more expensive than what you can pay to eat a healthy diet. There is never a shortcut in attaining a healthy diet, supplements can’t replace a normal, well-balanced diet.


References:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/broccoli

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5974099/

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