Should you ditch your supplements?

Tenet number two of the Equinox nutrition philosophy: Get your nutrients from food, not supplements.

The Equinox nutrition philosophy is comprised of 12 fundamental nutritional pillars, all of which support the health of your cells, and thus increase your body’s overall energy capabilities while decreasing acidity and inflammation. The result: A younger, healthier (and we bet, happier) you with a metabolic system that hums. Here, pillar 2:

Find yourself darting from meeting to lunch appointment to gym class and back, day in and day out? Living on the run often means eating on the fly and your nutrition can take a hit. So you pop a supp (or six) as a quick fix, right? Not so fast. While this all-too-common remedy has its place — pregnant women and those with anemia, for example, can benefit from folic acid and iron supplements, respectively — when it comes to regular daily nutrition, your body is better off getting its nutrients in whole food form.

“It’s not like supplement companies squeeze all the vitamin C out of oranges and put it in tablets or grind up kale and put it in capsules. Some vitamins are derived from whole foods, but the majority aren’t, they’re synthetic,” says Ryan Andrews, R.D., a fitness and nutrition coach with Precision Nutrition. And while synthetic isn’t all bad (many life-improving drugs are made with synthetic materials), you won’t find us saying it does a body good. Synthetic nutrients aren’t easily recognized or absorbed by the body — so if you’re relying on supplements, you may not even be netting the milligrams you think. The manufacturing of supplements can also involve practices that are hard to swallow: “Coal tar and petroleum can be used in the nutrient isolation process. They often act as starter materials for the caps and tabs you take,” says Andrews.

Makes you want to grab that orange, doesn’t it? It’s what your body wants too. After all, Cavemen got Vitamin C from fruit off the vine and B vitamins and iron from fresh meat off the fire. We’re biologically equipped to absorb nutrition direct from nature. And because nature knows best, that nutrition comes in a naturally complete package. “When you get calcium from a whole food, you get other phytonutrients along with it that can aid absorption and help direct it to your cells. Every nutritional component is there for a reason and works synergistically to support optimal metabolic function,” explains Andrews. Another example of nature’s perfect bounty: Whole foods containing fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins are best absorbed with fat so it makes perfect sense that they’re naturally found in fat-dense foods, like sunflower seeds (E), avocados (E and K), and egg yolks (A, D and E).

So, skip the lab-created supplements and eat of the earth. Pick whole fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, and seeds as well as lean proteins from land and sea. A few ideas: Get your zinc from shellfish and figs, vitamin C and potassium from fruits you can peel, flavonoids from blueberries and cranberries, essential fatty acids from walnuts and salmon, and calcium, iron, B vitamins, and more from leafy greens like spinach and legumes like lentils.

Not only will you feel more energy, you’ll find it harder to overeat. “With whole foods, you’re getting the fiber and the water they contain as well as the nutrients so they’re more filling,” says Andrews. And don’t be daunted by snacking on the go — train yourself to grab something in its most natural state, like a hard-boiled egg or a pear.

Our vitamin-packed Tasting Table recipes make it easy to get started:

Falafel-Style Lentil Burgers with Feta Sauce

Spinach and Shrimp Wontons with Dipping Sauce

If you're just tuning into our 12-month eating overhaul, read our nutrition philosophy and our first installment —
Why Calories Don't Matter.