Nutrition Quick Tip: Get (Most of) Your Vitamins From Real Food

Food provides a distinctive balance of vitamins and minerals that can't be replicated by taking supplements, according to research done by Colorado State University.

Why? The human body isn't designed to efficiently use isolated nutrients. The body requires combinations of nutrients, as they exist in nature. Vitamins in real food are chemically and structurally different than those found in supplements.

For example, lycopene is naturally found in tomatoes. And that phytonutrient is known to help prevent certain cancers. But taking a lycopene supplement by itself doesn't have the nutrient ratio or density of a whole or dried tomato, so you aren't going to receive as many positive health benefits, according to NaturalNews.

You get the most bang for your bite with real food.

However, if you're pregnant or have a health condition/deficiency that requires you to take supplements, ensure you understand what the supplement is supposed to do, so you know if it's working. Also, know what's inside. According to Doctors' Research, most supplements are processed with hydrogenated sugars and petroleum derivatives.

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The word "natural" printed on the front of the bottle can be misleading. Be sure to read the ingredient list on the back to know exactly what's inside your supplements. Aim for non-synthetic ones composed 100 percent of foods.

And keep in mind there's no magic, one-pill wonder. No matter which supplements you're taking, it's essential to eat a wide variety of real, whole foods to ensure your body's getting the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals it needs.

More: Eat the Rainbow for Maximum Nutrients

What's your nutrition quick tip? Leave it in the comments or email your tip to nutrition editor Nicole Reino.

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