How to Combine Food and Supplements for Optimal Health

Vitamins and minerals are organic compounds that your body uses in very small amounts for various metabolic processes. They are essential for keeping your body healthy and functional. While indulging in a varied diet should provide you with all the nutrients you need, it’s not always the case. Various diet and health surveys show that the typical American diet is far from varied. To the rescue come supplements, ranging from bone-building heavy metals to disease-fighting antioxidants.

Are supplements for everyone and can they deliver on their promises? How do you combine them with food for optimal health? Keep reading to find out.

Who Needs Supplements?

Your food supply may be fortified with vitamins and minerals to avert health issues related to conditions arising from deficiencies, but they may not be enough. The idea behind food supplements, also called nutritional or dietary supplements, is to provide nutrients that may not be consumed in sufficient quantities. 75 percent of adults in the United States use one or more nutritional supplements either on a daily or occasional basis.

The rationale of needing supplements is therefore underpinned by our poor eating habits. Partly due to our busy lifestyle, not everyone manages to eat a healthy diet. There are also certain population groups or individuals for whom supplements would be recommended, even when they eat a healthy balanced diet. Kids with limited exposure to sunlight should consider vitamin D supplements. To minimize the risk of birth defects, women planning pregnancy can benefit from different vitamins and minerals like iodine and folic acid.

Supplements can be vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids, enzymes, herbals and botanicals and other substances added to a diet in order to make up for a nutritional deficiency or complete dietary needs. They are delivered in the form of tablets, pills, capsules, powders, energy bars and liquid. They are available in different combinations and doses, with further market segmentation due to supplements aimed at different life stages and genders. Only a particular amount of each nutrient is needed for your body to function.

Choose Food First, Supplements Second

When it comes to nutrition, there are loads of myths out there. But one thing is for sure: large doses of either high potency vitamin and mineral combinations or single nutrient supplements may be harmful. The amazing variety of dietary supplements available in today’s market includes a wide range of brand names, supplement forms and amounts. Consuming multivitamins as a nutritional insurance policy may turn out to be an expensive venture.

You shouldn’t view supplements as a short cut to a healthy diet and neglect other food choices. This may have grave consequences for long-term health. Dietary supplements should not replace complete meals. Food is a complex blend of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Supplements don’t provide the benefits of phytochemicals and other components found in food. Also, whole foods have vitamins and minerals in different forms while supplements contain just one of the forms.

Combining Food and Supplements

You probably know that you should maintain a varied diet to get all the vitamins and minerals you need to function well. Sometimes, we get focused on the health benefits of supplements that we miss a vital point: components of different foods can work together to benefit our health. Adding veggies and fruits to your diet may increase the nutrient content but it’s all useless if your body can’t absorb the nutrients.

Your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from the food you eat is as crucial as the nutrient content itself. For instance, Vitamin C from dark-green veggies and citrus fruits enhances your body’s absorption of iron (available in fish, lean meats and beans) when these foods are consumed together. This process is called food synergy. Nutrient synergies take place when the blend of 2 separate ingredients promotes the overall health-enhancing potential of the food.

We all have those foods that we love eating together, yogurt and berries, wine and cheese, watermelon and feta, peanut butter and jelly. When you think of dynamic duos, one of the mentioned pair may cross your mind. What if I told you that you marrying certain foods in one sitting benefits more than your taste buds? How you combine your food can significantly impact the health benefits you get from them. Combining foods and supplements will increase the absorption of vital elements and boost the effectiveness of antioxidants.

In this article, we will discuss 4 food combinations backed by Science. See how you can achieve the most nutritional value from your meals by making smart food combinations today.

Vitamin C + Non-Heme Iron

Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin. Diet iron is available in both plant sources (non-heme) and animal sources(heme). Haem Iron is well absorbed by your body, while the iron from plant sources (non-heme iron) is not bioavailable to us, meaning we can’t use it as efficiently as we don’t absorb it. Keeping an eye on your iron intake is crucial if you are anemic, or if you don’t consume heme iron. Thankfully, there’s a nutrient combination that can change that. Vitamin C can enhance the absorption of plant-based iron by changing to a form that’s more easily absorbed. To take full advantage of the iron content of legumes, leafy green and whole grains, consider using Vitamin C supplements.

Healthy Fats + Fat-Soluble Vitamins

There are 2 types of vitamins: water soluble vitamins and fat soluble vitamins. Vitamins B and C are water soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) from anti-oxidant rich veggie are efficiently absorbed when consumed in the presence of healthy fats. These healthy fats will help your body absorb and store these fat-soluble nutrients. Here’s how it works: when ingested, these nutrients are transported to your stomach and later to the small intestine. Healthy fats act as vehicles to that transport these vitamins from the intestines, into the blood and liver, where they are stored until you need them. Healthy or unsaturated fat sources can include sunflower oil, avocado, cold-pressed olive oil and walnut oil.

Vitamin D + Calcium

These crucial nutrients work better when paired together. One of the vital roles of vitamin D is regulating calcium in your body to keep your bones and teeth healthy and strong. The two work together because the active form of vitamin D triggers a cascade of effects that enhance the absorption of dietary calcium in the gut. This is why maximum calcium absorption takes place when you have adequate vitamin D. Unfortunately, vitamin D is an elusive nutrient that most of us just can’t seem to get enough of. This is attributed to the fact that very few foods have it naturally. The sun may be your main source of vitamin D, but factors like skin pigmentation, time of day, latitude and even sunscreen can affect vitamin D levels. Supplements can help you have adequate amounts of vitamin D.

Carbohydrates+ Protein

If you exercise regularly, carbohydrates are essential. Intense workout routines cause an increase in the number of stress hormones in the blood. Consuming carbohydrates and protein supplement together after a training session will help to speed up muscle recovery. Proteins are the building blocks of your body. The combination will also dampen the stress hormone response that workout has on your body. To get all the amino acids, you should mix animal-based proteins with plant-based proteins from legumes, veggies, whole grains, seeds and nuts.


Supplements can’t replace a healthy diet. They can’t replicate all of the nutrients and benefits of whole foods, but they may help if your diet is inadequate. A combination of two is always better than one. The food combinations above are unbeatable as they can pack an even bigger nutritional punch. They provide the best of both – great taste and amazing nutrients to help you achieve optimal health.

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