Whole Foods vs. Vitamin Supplements
What you may not know
Dr. Michael Wald, Director of Integrated Medicine & Nutrition
Having provided nutritional counseling services for nearly 23 years, I’ve witnessed an ever-increasing controversy over the value of whole foods versus nutritional supplements. Many of my patients say they hope to get all the nutrition they need from their diet; others are willing to take vitamin supplements if I recommend them. Still others insist that foods have all the nutrition they need, and that it’s never necessary to take whole-food concentrates, vitamins, or any other supplements, for that matter.
Here’s my assessment: Always start with foods. Then fill any dietary inadequacies with food concentrates and vitamin supplements. Preferably, use food history, health history and laboratory testing to individualize it all.
Let’s start with some basic definitions:
• Vitamin supplements are vitamins, minerals, amino acids or herbs compounded into a capsule, tablet or liquid.
• Whole foods are unprocessed fruits, vegetables, grains or other foodstuffs, preferably organically grown.
• Whole-food concentrates are foodstuffs (again, preferably organic) that have been dehydrated without high heat or enzymes and made into a capsule, tablet or liquid.
We all know that, ideally, our nutrition should come from our diets; that’s how we evolved. Unfortunately, our food supply has been adulterated by acid rain, soil erosion, over-farming, agricultural chemicals and many other factors. Even if our food supply were perfect, I submit that we now have problems even a “perfect diet” can’t fix: unnaturally high stress, several generations of compromised genetics, exercise deficiency, overmedication, and increases in virtually every major chronic degenerative disease.
My practice is full of people with fantastic health habits. Unfortunately, even they can suffer from health issues that, based on my investigation, turn out to be from increased nutritional requirements beyond the scope of the diet (cancers); malabsorption disorders; hormonal issues; and other problems that even the best diet could not overcome.
When my new patients tell me they eat a “healthy” diet, I answer, “How do you know?” What’s a healthy diet for their migraines, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, cancer, general health maintenance, or whatever concern they might have? Most of us learned all we know about nutrition from books, TV or the Internet.
How do you know how many vegetables or fruits you need? How do you know whether you’re properly absorbing the nutrients in your food? How do you know whether age, disease or stress has increased your nutritional needs beyond what you can eat? Even if you could eat what it takes to meet your nutritional requirements, you might become obese in the process. That’s where food concentrates come in.
Harvard Medical School now proposes that we take in 10 to 12 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. While eating this much is completely unreasonable for the average person, food concentrates make it a simple matter.
If a food is good for us, it stands to reason that it’s at least as healthy, if not more so, in concentrated form. I have developed many food concentrates, some containing dozens of fruits, others dozens of different plants, with literally hundreds of thousands of important healthful elements. I drink a juice mixture every morning, but I add in concentrated fruits and vegetables and something I developed for brainpower. I consume all that nutrition in less than three minutes.
What about vitamin supplements? To some naturalists, they are heresy. When I prescribed a high dose of vitamin D to one of my patients, he retorted that “God didn’t put vitamins on trees” and therefore they are inherently unnatural. I respectfully disagreed. But even if vitamin pills were unnatural, would that mean they serve no good purpose?
I have painstakingly developed a large selection of all-natural supplements and food concentrates, each with a tech sheet containing a substantial sampling of scientific validation for its use. They include vitamins, plant- and animal-based fatty acids, probiotics and many other supplements in “unnatural” concentrated forms.
Vitamin D is among the supplements I recommend most. Low levels of vitamin D (below 30 mg/dL) are associated with higher rates of death and disability from all causes. It might take months or years—or even be impossible—to get enough sunlight or dietary vitamin D3 to restore a low level to the optimal level of 75 mg/dL. I know, because I test hundreds of vitamin D levels per year with patients trying all sorts of “fixes.” I start with the diet first, warning my patients that sun exposure is dangerous and cannot reliably restore vitamin D3 levels anyway (a scientific fact). Trying to fix the problem by eating fish creates yet another problem—mercury toxicity. And even oral supplementation with a vitamin D supplement warrants a blood test.
Vitamin K is an excellent synergist fat-soluble vitamin which I often recommend along with vitamin D. Blood tests can detect a vitamin K deficiency, which can be quickly corrected with a reliable supplement, while it may take months or even be impossible to correct the problem through diet.
Natural enzymes found in fruits like papaya and pineapple can help reduce inflammation. Some arthritis sufferers will find relief when they eat these foods while eliminating acidic foods in the diet (like white flour and processed sugar), but most people will not respond to dietary change alone. However, they almost always respond to food concentrates of fruits, and those who still don’t improve generally respond to high concentrations of certain vitamin supplements.
If I’m working with a patient who apparently eats well but still has health issues, I look to personalize his or her food intake. If I’m working with someone who has a diet that even I can’t improve, I recommend food concentrates and/or vitamin supplements. Bottom line: I consider whatever healing options are available. That’s essential in a world that poses so many challenges to our health.
Dr. Michael Wald is director of nutrition at Integrated Medicine of Mount Kisco, an author and radio show host, and president of the Integrated Medicine & Nutrition Institute. He can be reached by phone at 914.242.8844 or online at www.IntMedNY.com.