Vitamins: Whole Food vs. Synthetic

food based versus synthetic vitamins

Vitamin options abound. Go to any grocery store or health food store and you will see that the brands and types of vitamins easily outnumber the amount of minutes there are in a day. While I may be exaggerating the quantities, the options are indeed numerous. This post will help attempt to narrow down your choices by explaining the difference between food-based vitamins and those that are synthetically derived.

Food based vitamins are generally obtained by creating broths from vegetables and/or fruits, separating out the particular vitamin component and then packaging it for consumption in pill or powder form. Synthetic vitamins are usually extracted using harsh chemicals often from non-food based products like coal tar. Yes, the same thing one uses to coat an asphalt driveway is also used to synthetically obtain vitamins B1, B3, and K.

One of the more popular mass market vitamin brands has Polyvinyl Alcohol and Yellow 6 Lake listed as part of the ingredients. Wikipedia states that Polyvinyl Alcohol “is a water-soluble synthetic polymer” which uses include thickener for glues, in adult incontinence products, children’s play putty, and paper adhesive amongst others. Yellow 6 Lake is made by mixing a form of aluminum or calcium with coloring, Yellow 6 Lake is banned from use in food stuff in some countries. Other than making the pill look good, why do vitamins need artificial colors and binding agents? It should not be about making the product look good, but about making the consumer look and feel good from taking something that is good and natural.

So what is a consumer to do when it comes time to buy vitamins? Even the organic title can be misleading since products like coal tar can technically be considered organic as it is natural and obtained from the ground. Unscrupulous vitamin makers could potentially exploit the organic labeling as a result. Instead one should look for products that say they are derived from whole foods. Read the ingredient list to see if there are things like artificial colors in them or other ingredients that don’t sound like they should be in a vitamin. Look into the history of the company producing the vitamins. Are they a fly-by-night company throwing out marketing speak or do they have solid knowledge behind the processes used to make their vitamins.

Label reading is critical not just for vitamins but for any food we eat and feed to our families. All too often food processors add artificial ingredients to increase longevity of the product or to increase the visual appeal without regard to any health effects. By researching and looking for whole-food based vitamins, vitamins not processed with harsh chemicals, we can take one step to continued good health.

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