Food vs. Supplements: When eating well isn’t enough!

Monday December 21, 2015

Supplements and fruit

What does “supplement” mean?

sup·ple·ment: noun – something that completes or enhances something else when added to it.

a substance taken to remedy the deficiencies in a person's diet.

from Latin supplere “fill up, complete”

Supplementing with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients like omega-3s and probiotics, means filling in any nutritional gaps in your diet. Age, physical health, occupation, and where you live are all factors in how well your daily diet meets your body's needs.


It is also important to consider the nutritional value of the foods you consume. The depletion of nutrients in our soil, and therefore in our produce, is well documented. For example, in December 2004 a research team at the University of Texas, led by Donald Davis published a landmark study. They studied United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits, finding “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and vitamin C over the past half century.1

“Efforts to breed new varieties of crops that provide greater yield, pest resistance, and climate adaptability have allowed crops to grow bigger and more rapidly,” reported Davis, “but their ability to manufacture or uptake nutrients has not kept pace with their rapid growth.” Declines in other nutrients are also likely, such as magnesium, zinc, and vitamins B6 and E, but they were not studied in 1950.

A study of British nutrient data from 1930 to 1980, published in the British Food Journal, showed that in 20 vegetables the average calcium content had declined 19%; iron 22%; and potassium 14%.2 

Even buying local, organic produce may not be enough to provide the nutritional support you need every day. Supplements can provide additional “insurance” against deficiencies.

Balance is another issue. When it comes to fatty acids the average North American diet is overloaded with Omega-6 fatty acids and many studies suggest that, while we evolved on a diet with a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids, our current diets in North America are more like 15:1 – with an excess of omega-6. Excessive amounts of omega-6 and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio may contribute to cardiovascular, inflammatory, and autoimmune problems. Increasing intake of omega-3s is recommended to support overall health. An improved ratio of essential fatty acids is much easier to achieve with omega-3 supplementation.3


How much is enough?

Let's compare some popular supplements with food sources:


Vitamin C – Fruit or tablet or both?

According to the USDA, National Nutrient Database, you would have to eat 32 lemons, or 12 navel oranges, or 94 large strawberries, or 44 wedges of watermelon, to consume 1000 mg of vitamin C from fruit! 4 Vitamin C cannot be stored by the body and if you get too much you will experience a loosening of the bowels. If taking 1000 mg of Natural Factors Vitamin C supplements daily does not cause such an effect, your body can probably absorb and use the vitamin C you have added.

Vitamin C supports immunity, skin health and repair, as well as healthy circulation, respiration, and cardiovascular health.5,6,7


Vitamin D – Rain or shine

Relaxing on a sunny beach is a great way to get vitamin D. Sadly, in many parts of Canada, especially in winter, rain, snow, and clouds can interfere with our “intake” of vitamin D. To get the equivalent of 30 minutes of sunshine on your skin you need only take 1000 IUs of vitamin D3 (liquid or in a very small tablet or capsule). 8 Of course there are food sources of vitamin D: cod liver oil, raw Atlantic herring, wild raw catfish or raw oysters. No wonder Natural Factors Vitamin D is so popular!

Vitamin D supports our bones, teeth, brains, and our immune and nervous systems. Natural Factors 1000 IU vitamin D is a convenient and inexpensive way to get enough of the “sunshine vitamin”. But that tropical holiday sounds good too.


Omega-3s – If you don't like fish...

To get the essential fatty acids available in one capsule of Natural Factors RxOmega-3, Maximum Triple Strength fish oil, you would only need to eat about more than a pound of Atlantic cod, or a quarter pound of cooked Sockeye salmon, or 2.8 oz of kippered herring  every day.9 Not bad, if you like fish. Omega-3s are especially important for circulation, heart and brain health.


Probiotics – Yogurt or supplement?

There are so many great-tasting yogurt products available and beneficial bacteria are important for immunity, digestion, and more. But did you know that to consume the number of live probiotic cells in ONE capsule of Natural Factors Ultimate Multi Probiotic you would need to eat 12 containers of yogurt?10 And even then, you would not get the variety of bacterial strains provided by such a quality supplement. Keeping a healthy bacterial balance is easy with a good diet, and Natural Factors probiotics.

The bottom line? Eat well, and supplement as needed!


Davis DR, Epp MD, & Riordan HD. Changes in USDA food composition data for 43 garden crops, 1950 to 1999.; J Am Coll 2004; (6):669-82.

Mayer, AM. Historical changes in the mineral content of fruits and vegetables, British Food Journal. 1997; 99(6):207-211.

Simopoulos, AP. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomed Pharmacother. 2002; 56(8):365-79.

S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service. (2014). USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28. Available from: [Accessed October 1, 2015].

Hickey St & Saul A. Vitamin C: The Real Story, the Remarkable and Controversial Healing Factor. Basic Health Publications Inc.

Douglas, RM, Hemila, H, Chalker, et al. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007; 18;(3):

Cass H, English J. User’s Guide to Vitamin C. Basic Health Publications Inc.

Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU). Calculated Ultraviolet Exposure Levels for a Healthy Vitamin D Status and no sunburn. Available from: [Accessed October 1, 2015].

S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service. (2014). USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28. Available from: [Accessed October 1, 2015].

Available from: [Accessed October 1, 2015].