Food has to be our nutritional basis. And by that, I mean healing foods, whole foods, such as vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fruit. Supplements cannot replace your diet; they can only complement it. Perhaps the biggest reason this is true is that alongside select nutrients, those foods could contain a wide variety of amazingly healthful substances that will protect you from disease. Let’s look at some of the heavy hitters here.
• Phytochemicals: Found in plants, they are not nutrients, but they are proven to protect your body from disease. There are thousands of them in plants, which produce them to protect themselves. That same protection flows into your body when you eat vegetables and fruit.
• Flavonoids: These natural chemicals give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors. Flavonoids also put vitamin C to work, promote fast healing, and contain antioxidant and/or antibacterial properties. There are thousands of different kinds that fit into about a dozen categories.
• Polyphenols: Found in many plants, these contribute to bright colors and contain antioxidants. They are in a slew of vegetables and are found in high concentration within the skin of fruit. Maybe you’ve heard of “tannins” in wine—these are polyphenols.
• Carotenoids: These are responsible for the red, orange, and yellow hues found in plants and fruit. The most famous is beta-carotene, a vital source of vitamin A. Carotenoids are believed to be powerful antioxidants. Lycopene, the substance that makes tomatoes so good for our hearts, is a carotenoid.
• Unsaturated fats: Several kinds of healthy fats can be obtained from plant material. For instance, linoleic acid is derived from the yellow oils of linseed, poppy, hemp, and some nuts. Linolenic, meanwhile, is also found in plants and has been linked to good health in many studies. Olive oil’s power lies in its healthy fat content.
• Anthocyanins: These plant colorings give the bluish tint to blueberries and the red to raspberries. These are flavanoids with potent antioxidant properties. They may be particularly healthy for diabetics or people at risk of diabetes, as anthocyanins have been found to boost insulin production.
• Isoflavones: Found in all soy products, isoflavones bear a strong resemblance to the body’s own hormone, estrogen. This is responsible for many benefits, including the prevention of heart disease, osteoporosis, prostate cancer, and breast cancer.
• Fiber: Found in many pieces of produce, fiber keeps your digestive system running smoothly. That, in turn, prevents many illnesses from occurring.
This is just a quick overview to remind us that supplements should not replace a healthy diet, but only add to it.