Whole Food Center
WHOLE FOOD SUPPLEMENTS 101
What is a whole food supplement?
What a “whole food” supplement actually IS, is one of the most obscufated and misunderstood terms in the supplement industry. Without the FDA stepping in and setting an actual definition, manufacturers are free to call whatever they want a “whole food” supplement and market products however they want, no matter how misleading or inaccurate it may be.
Here is the Rooted Nutrition definition of a whole food supplement:
A true, whole food supplement is one that is made from nothing but 100% real, whole foods. This can be simply ground and dried foods or food concentrates (40 pounds of food concentrated down into one pound of powder, you may see on the label "40:1") or full-spectrum extracts with the naturally occurring compounds preserved in their original state.
They have no synthetic or isolated substances, such as vitamins or minerals, added at any time during the process. Any nutrient value must come 100% from the foods themselves.
The only exceptions are flow agents needed to help get ingredients through the machinery, such as cellulose or starch, or things like capsules that keep everything together.
No additives can contribute towards the nutrient content. If a product lists 60mg of vitamin C, it should all come from the foods, not in whole or part from something like ascorbyl palmitate, a synthetic form of vitamin c often used as a lubricant.
You will not see any products in the Rooted Nutrition Whole Food Center that do not meet this definition.
The Whole Food Center is not meant to decide whether whole food (as defined by Rooted Nutrition), isolate or synthetic supplements are best. We want to cut through the marketing and false advertising and give everyone access to accurate information to be able to make an informed decision to what is best for them.
Dosing Whole Food Supplements
When taking any supplement it is important to keep in mind the following (setting aside quality control for a minute):
You must take it consistently.
You must take the full dose.
It must be in the proper delivery system (powder, tablet, liquid, etc.).
Think about a large strawberry. It weighs about 18 grams, which is 18000mg. Of that, 16.4 grams or 16400mg is water. So after drying, let’s say you have about 1600mg left, because I am bad at math and like round numbers. To get the equivalent of one strawberry, you need to get at least 1600mg of powder. Eight large strawberries are considered one serving of fruit. To get one serving of strawberries in powder form you would need to take 12800mg of strawberry powder. So when you see product blends like the one below containing "23 fruits and veggies", how much are you actually getting?
(Hint: it's the equivalent of 1/45th of a strawberry.)
That's practically nothing.
It might look good on the label to so many fruits and veggies, but really- it's just marketing. You are not actually getting any amount of fruit and veggies that would make a difference, but the company does get to put lots of pretty pictures on the label and say “food based”, or “whole food”, which have no actual meaning in the supplement industry. Avoid food products with many ingredients, it is just not possible to put enough of each ingredient in them to actually have a beneficial effect. Anytime you see a supplement claiming to be whole food but you are supposed to take only one pill per day, it is either not whole food or you will be getting an amount that is not enough to do anything. Instead, look for products with just a few ingredients and combine them on your own to get the blends you like, while ensuring you are actually getting enough to have real benefits.
For example, you would get far more benefit from a blend containing just beets, leeks, kale, swiss chard, zucchini and peppers, where the product was prepared properly and you know where the ingredients were grown, and you get a good dose of each ingredient, rather than something like this insanity:
Not only do you not know where any of the ingredients actually come from, some of the ingredients are just completely made up - like Bifidobacterium Rhamnosus.
For many whole food supplements, powders are the best bet. It can sometimes take 6-12 capsules to get one tablespoon of powder. Powders can be mixed in various foods, smoothies or beverages. Properly made powders have no need for additives or fillers. In addition, tasting a food can lead to benefits that you may not get from a pill. For instance, eating bitter foods can lead to improved digestion because the bitter taste can stimulate digestive secretions.
Some things, like true whole food collagen, may not taste good or mix well and therefore are best in capsules, but you are not going to be able to take just one pill and get enough.
Whole Food Powders and Isolates
A good whole food supplement should be able to stand on its own two feet. Unfortunately, too many companies feel that this is not the case or decide that profit is more important than producing a proper product.
Acerola cherries are rich in vitamin C and many awesome phytonutrients. One acerola cherry contains about 80 mg of vitamin C! After you remove the water, each one gives you about 700 mg of powder. That makes each cherry about 11.5% vitamin C.
You can see from this label that a 3.2 gram serving, gives you a 180mg of vitamin C- from acerola and ascorbic acid. They are adding synthetic vitamin C, to increase the amount. Maltodextrin is also listed in the added ingredients, which means it is spray dried. Spray drying degrades the food, but it is much cheaper than other drying methods. Based on our knowledge that one acerola cherry contains about 80mg of vitamin C, a 3200mg serving should yield about 365mg of vitamin C. Yet, even after adding synthetic vitamin C, this product is still low- that’s due to the degradation of the product during spray drying. If we look at a better quality, non-spiked, non-spray dried product:
A 3000mg serving contains 270mg of vitamin C, preserving all the vitamin C naturally occurring in the fruit, without added synthetic vitamin C and without fillers or spray drying carriers. With the use of better raw materials and drying methods, there would be no need for spiking with added vitamins or carrying agents like maltodextrin. People should come before profit.