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.

For Those Who Don’t Cook…

dont like to cook

Those who don’t cook, I ask you to consider the following. Why do you think that courtship often includes an offer to feed the object of your affection? Why do we feed people after a wedding or funeral and during holidays? Why do the people of some cultures offer food to the dead?

Food is Love

It’s because food is love. Cooking is a care taking behavior that makes us feel loved. Eating certain food releases hormones (estrogen, oxytocin) and/or endorphins that make you feel happy and connected. If you are comforting someone, eating helps create that comfort an grounds them back in their bodies and to the earth. (Food comes from the earth). If you are feeding yourself, eating healthy food helps you to feel content. When you eat with others, you share those feelings with them. If you are courting someone, eating with them helps to make your case! Some people even call oxytocin the “cuddle hormone.” It’s also associated with monogamy and sociability.

Food is Life

Food is also life. It gives us nutrients that allow our bodies to function properly. When you eat healthy food, your body ages more slowly, you have enough energy to get through the day, you sleep well, your emotions are stable, you can focus and concentrate, and you can feel a sense of belonging to your social circle, family, and the wider universe. When you don’t cook, eat irregularly, or make poor food choices, it affects your physical health, mental clarity, ability to regulate emotions, and can keep you from experiencing a spiritual connection. When you eat good food, you have a good life. You really are what you eat. If you are eating ramen noodles, hot pockets, and pop tarts, you won’t have much of a life.

Food Heals

Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food.” He understood that not only does food allow your body, mind, and spirit to function well, it can heal a damaged person. It can help to make you whole. It really is that important. Pills mask symptoms and can give you lots of unwanted side effects. Surgery is for emergencies and when things are too far gone and need immediate attention. Herbs are nature’s medicines. Foods are for every day healing. If you don’t cook, your body’s ability to heal is limited.

When You Don’t Know How to Cook

Those who don’t like to cook often feel this way because they don’t really know how to cook. Learning how to cook is learning how to express self love. It’s about learning how to show love and care to others. If you have children, how can you properly care for them if you don’t cook? Can you teach them proper self-care if you avoid cooking?

When you cook with joy, you taste it in the food. A friend of mine is a restaurant owner. I swear he doesn’t have any secret recipes or secret ingredients, but he cooks with such love that his food absolutely oozes with it. And he loves to cook for people who love to eat. When he has an enthusiastic audience, he produces masterpieces. He’s not just sharing food. He’s creating love that goes out into the world and comes back to him.

If you don’t know how to cook, learn. Being able to care for yourself is a skill that will enhance your life tremendously. Having a skill that can help you express love for others and nurture them is a great gift. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef. Having a solid repertoire of six to eight dishes will give you a foundation from which to build.

Cooking classes can be fun! Take your child or a friend and see what you can create. I once took a cooking class while on vacation. It was incredibly informative to learn about the culture, the ingredients, how they are blended, and how to make a complete dinner. Not to mention that at the end of it, we had a great meal and I had the ability to replicate it.

When You Don’t Like to Cook

If you don’t like to cook, my guess is that you haven’t cultivated the habit of cooking or eating mindfully. When you are present with your food, you will notice all the benefits I mentioned earlier. Slow things down. Really pay attention to how using different pans, cooking at different levels of heat, and using different methods (baking vs. slow cooking or grilling) impacts food. Notice the aroma as the food cooks. Pay attention to textures. Savor the aroma. Food is fabulous. It’s delightful. If you are not convinced, find something with striking contrasts or brilliant flavors and let them dance in your mouth, like salted dark chocolate or chipotle chocolate. Now see if you can find that same delight in foods that are more subtle. Or try the cuisine of different cultures. Watch food shows. When you explore food, you can’t help but enjoy it. When you enjoy tasting it, you may enjoy creating it a bit more.

Food is love. Food is life. It heals. When you learn to cook and enjoy it, you give yourself the ability to love, heal, and live.