Food First: Why Supplements + Poor Food Choices Won’t Add Up To Good Health is a website designed to educate readers on the benefits of nutrients as they relate to health. Although every nutrient can be purchased in supplement form, that would be incredibly expensive, impractical, and ineffective in improving your health. And it wouldn’t taste good.

As dietitians, our goal is to provide you with the science of how each nutrient impacts your health and well-being. When you see the peer-reviewed research on the health benefits of various nutrient supplements and how they impact so many health problems, you’ll understand that the given nutrient isn’t just good for you, it’s vital to your body’s function.

Then, when you see the cost of supplementing that nutrient vs. getting a superior source of that nutrient through food, we know that you will probably want to choose nutrient-dense food. And that is the clandestine goal of Supplement-Sciences: to provide you with the evidence to motivate you to make the best food choices and to supplement only what you need.

Nutrient Synergy And Complexity In Whole Foods

Whole foods contain a complex array of nutrients that interact and work together to promote health. This synergy improves the bioavailability and absorption of nutrients, leading to more efficient utilization by the body. For example, the combination of vitamin C and iron in spinach increases iron absorption. Additionally, whole foods provide a variety of bioactive compounds, such as antioxidants and phytonutrients, that work together to protect against chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. Unlike most supplements, whole foods offer a natural balance of nutrients that support overall well-being more effectively.

Dietary Fiber, Phytonutrients, and Their Role in Gut Health

In recent years, advances in research have led to the profound realization that the microbiome and gut health is connected to every aspect of physical and mental health. And you can’t get a healthy microbiome without the right combination of real foods. Supplements can have a role, but food choices are at the heart of a healthy gut.

Dietary fiber and phytonutrients play crucial roles in maintaining gut health. Fiber is found abundantly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. It is essential for promoting regular bowel function and acts as a prebiotic to feed beneficial gut bacteria and support a healthy microbiome. This, in turn, contributes to improved digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall immune function. Leaky gut may be at the heart of inflammatory conditions from autoimmunity and arthritis to heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

In plant foods, phytonutrients are bioactive compounds that have many different health benefits. Many phytonutrients possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can help protect the gut lining from damage and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.

Not only that, the combination of fiber and phytonutrients in whole plant foods provides nutrients that work together synergistically to create effects that improve gut health. For example, certain types of fiber can act as a substrate for gut bacteria to produce short-chain fatty acids, which help maintain intestinal barrier function and reduce inflammation. These fatty acids travel to the brain acting as neurotransmitters. There are probably hundreds of other as-yet unstudied molecules that have other effects. Keeping the gut microbiome healthy is critical.

Incorporating many different fiber-rich foods and phytonutrient-rich fruits and vegetables into the diet is necessary for supporting optimal gut health. This includes consuming a variety of colors and types of plant foods to ensure a broad spectrum of phytonutrients and fiber types. By prioritizing these nutrient-rich foods, people can promote a healthy gut microbiome and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal disorders and other chronic diseases.

Marketing Hype Surrounding Supplements

Marketing hype is prevalent in the health and wellness industry, often promising quick fixes and miraculous health benefits. Supplement companies frequently use persuasive language and flashy advertising to promote their products, making bold claims about their effectiveness without sufficient, or sometimes any, scientific evidence.

One common tactic is the use of celebrity endorsements or testimonials to lend credibility to the product. These endorsements may create a perception of legitimacy and trustworthiness, despite lacking scientific backing.

The rise of social media influencers and online influencers has amplified the reach of supplement marketing, with sponsored posts and affiliate marketing contributing to widespread claims that are often far out of proportion to reality.

Always Require Proof

It’s important to realize that supplements are not regulated in a way that requires them to have any proof of benefit. Supplement labels may feature terms like “natural,” “clinically proven,” or “doctor recommended”. Marketers can say anything they want as long as they technically don’t cross the line of claiming to “diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent” any disease.

Your best policy when listening to any advertising, influencers, or social media comments is to look skeptically at the evidence being presented. And that includes what you read on this site. While we don’t yet have PubMed references for every statement of benefit, we will. And if we can’t find adequate evidence in the peer-reviewed literature, it’s our policy to leave it off the site.

To Sum It Up

A food-first approach to nutrition is necessary if a person is going to achieve the variety of nutrients needed as a baseline for good health. Evidence-based supplements should be added based on your specific needs as determined by your food choices and health issues. Remember, no matter how much talks about the benefits of specific supplements for certain health problems, we never want you to take a pill that doesn’t provide the greatest health benefit if there’s a better option through food.

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This article aims to offer valuable insights into which nutritional supplements have undergone scientific study and shown promise in supporting specific health conditions. We break down the research, so you can work with your medical providers to make informed decisions about adding supplements to your health regimen. For personalized advice tailored to your needs, we recommend consulting with a registered dietitian in addition to your primary care provider.

Check with your physician when adding supplements. While supplements are generally safe for most people, do not add nutritional supplements without your physician’s specific approval if you are pregnant or nursing, are undergoing cancer treatment, have a history of organ transplant, liver or kidney disease, or take medications that interact with supplements.

About the Author

Supplement Sciences

If you have any thoughts on this article, feel free to share them with us by emailing them to

Leave a Reply