You Can’t Supplement Your Way to Health

You know you need to eat better so you take some supplements to make up for what you think your body is lacking. But you know what? You can’t supplement your way to good health. There are lots of reasons for this. Let’s check it out.

Nutrients Often Need a Carrier

If you want your body to be able to use the nutrients that you put into it, you have to eat like an Indian. Or a Chinese person. Indian medicine (ayurveda) and Traditional Chinese medicine use food to keep people healthy. The diet is seasonal, fresh, and makes use of food preparation techniques to assure maximum absorption. For example, all those turmeric capsules you’re taking probably haven’t resulted in a meaningful reduction in inflammation, have they?

Your body will only absorb about 10% of what’s in a turmeric capsule, so it’s fairly useless. Why? Because some nutrients use water as a carrier. Some use oil, fat, or alcohol. Most of us don’t drink oil when we take our supplements, but that’s what turmeric needs. How do you get that? Eat like the Indians eat! Find a recipe that you like. Follow it. Sit back and enjoy the anti-inflammatory benefits. When the oil goes in and how much all matter.

Indian and Chinese recipes are designed to bring out the nutritional values in foods. Lots of Chinese dishes combine sweet and sour to create balance in the body. Spicy food circulates qi. Salty foods get rid of stagnation. Sweetness promotes mood. Sour foods help with digestion. Bitter foods are good for the liver and promotes salivation and appetite. This type of diet promotes variety. The last thing you want is a beige diet where all your food is the same color and has a bland flavor.

Does this mean you should go out and eat Chinese food? No, the Americanized Chinese food isn’t really Chinese food. It’s altered for the American palate. Look for traditional recipes. Indian food is closer to what you find in India, but back off the meat and rice. True Indian food is generally heavier on the vegetables and lighter on sauces, meat, bread, and rice.

Supplements Are Not Bioavailable

Another problem with supplements is that they are not bioavailable. You drop all this calcium (for example) into your system thinking that it will help with your calcium deficiency, but you don’t really see any difference. This could be because the form that you are ingesting isn’t the same thing found in food. A common form of calcium supplement is calcium carbonate.

When’s the last time you ate coral? Yeah, me neither. Calcium carbonate comes from coral beds, rocks, and shells. It’s cheap and only 15- 40% absorbable. The human gut just isn’t designed to digest seashells. I’m not picking on calcium carbonate. Most other supplements perform just as badly – especially if you’re taking a cheap multivitamin.

Supplements Are Not Balanced

You hear all this talk about the need to get a balanced diet. The same is true for supplements. You can’t boost your minerals by taking the one that shows up on your test as being deficient because minerals work together. Calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and Vitamin D all need each other to do their jobs. If you’re missing one, they are all impacted. So, it may appear that you have a calcium deficiency when in fact you have a surplus of bio-unavailable calcium caused by supplementation. So, what you thought was helping was actually making things worse.

If we’re talking about herbal supplements the same can be true. Research isolates things so that they can see what is causing an effect. This leads to manufacturers making things like garlic, blueberry, broccoli, and resveratrol supplements. While they may have some benefit, these things are foods. Nature designed them to be consumed as food. You’re going to get the most bang for your buck by changing your eating habits because you get the other foods that go along with them. Most of us don’t eat garlic in isolation. Most of us don’t eat a bushel of blueberries in one sitting. Supplementation is just not balanced.

Supplement Efficacy is Dosage Dependent

If you look at the studies for supplements, you will see some that say something works. Then you see another that says it doesn’t. Then you might see a third that says this supplement makes things worse. Why? Dosage. Some things really are useful, but most of us tend to think that if a little is good, a lot must be better. So, we overdo it and the thing that was supposed to help us actually makes things worse. Or we have no idea so we take a multivitamin that doesn’t have enough of anything in it to do any good at all.

It’s Not Meant to Be for Maintenance

Some things, like echinacea, Vitamin C, and zinc, are not meant to be used for maintenance. They are to be used when you are sick or have a lowered immune system. Unfortunately, some people take them all the time to ward off illness. Instructions for usage are usually on the label. Be sure to read them so that you don’t over consume something.


Does it sound like I am anti-supplement? I am not. There are some that are beneficial like Vitamin D, probiotics, apple cider vinegar, and essential fatty acids. Others are really beneficial when taken when and how they can help your body. Popping a pill usually isn’t the best strategy for making that happen. Eating well is the best way to get those nutrients in.

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