Most people have never heard of the distinction between synthetic vs natural forms of vitamins.
The first thing you need to know is that some synthetic forms of vitamins are MUCH less absorbed by your body compared to natural versions.
BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY...
Did you know that several scientific studies have revealed that synthetic forms of certain vitamins can possibly have harmful effects in your body?
It's true... and a little scary too!
And if you choose an ordinary multi-vitamin that you get at a corner store, it most likely contains at least some synthetic forms of vitamins (unless it specifically states that it is whole-foods based).
It's also well known that your body will assimilate vitamins derived from whole-foods sources MUCH more readily compared to vitamins from synthetic sources. We could talk about the differences in vitamins from whole foods sources vs synthetic sources for over a dozen different vitamins...
However, there are THREE vitamins that you need to be most concerned about with natural vs synthetic:
Here are the 3 most important vitamins that you NEED to make sure you obtain from natural sources and NOT synthetic:
Let's look at Vitamin A first...
Most multi vitamins contain Vitamin A in the form of vitamin A palmitate... this is a synthetic version that from my research has it's potential negatives. It's also added to low fat or skim milks to replace the natural Vitamin A lost when they remove the milkfat. Also many processed foods such as cereals are "fortified" with synthetic vitamin A palmitate.
Synthetic vitamin A palmitate is toxic at large doses, and you need to be careful not to over ingest. I personally stay away from anything containing synthetic Vitamin A as much as possible.
If you eat a lot of cereal combined with low-fat or fat-free milk (and other "fortified" foods, or synthetic vitamin pills), you can see how you can possibly be overdosing on this potentially harmful synthetic vitamin A. As you know from a lot of my articles, despite being marketed as "health" foods, there's not really much healthy about cereals at all!
True natural Vitamin A (retinol) actually only comes from animal sources such as cod liver oil, animal liver, some other organ meats, and in lesser amounts in butter, eggs, and milkfat. However, at very large doses of cod liver oil or if you somehow overate large quantities of liver, it still is possible to overdose on natural Vitamin A from these types of sources (although this natural form is safer than the synthetic vitamin A palmitate).
Another form you'll see for Vitamin A is beta-carotene. However, beta-carotene is actually NOT vitamin A... it's actually a pre-cursor to Vitamin A, and your body needs to convert it to vitamin A.
Therefore, beta-carotene is one of the safest forms of Vitamin A, since your body will only convert the amount that it actually needs. You get healthy quantities of beta-carotene in carrots, sweet potatoes, spirulina, dark leafy greens, butternut squash, red peppers, and other colorful fruits and veggies.
NOW FOR VITAMIN D...
Vitamin D is another fat-soluble vitamin, just like Vitamins A, E, and K. Vitamin D is one of the most important substances in our body, and also one of the most misunderstood.
The discussion about Vitamin D could get really long and complicated and fill an entire book, so I want to simplify it for you below:
1. The BEST, BEST, BEST source of vitamin D, without a doubt, is that which your body produces naturally from adequate sun exposure.
Vitamin D is actually produced into a hormone in our bodies and regulates hundreds of processes in the body... it is simply one of THE most important substances in our bodies.
It is even extremely important for our immune systems... Why do you think there are more sicknesses in the winter? No it doesn't have to do with cold temperatures... it has more to do with Vitamin D deficiency which causes a weakened immune system since we don't get strong enough sun exposure in the winter!
I have an entire article here about the importance of moderate sun exposure WITHOUT burning and how this protects your health.
It is hard to obtain enough Vitamin D from dietary sources alone (egg yolks, organ meats, some mushrooms, and fatty fish are good sources, but still relatively small). The best utilized source of Vitamin D for our bodies is what we produce from moderate regular sun exposure without burning.
Cod liver oil is one of the best known dietary sources of natural Vitamin D, but it is best to only use small amounts of this and only in the deepest months of winter, as it's possible for you to overdose on Vitamin A from cod liver oil if you take too much.
2. If you get a blood test for Vitamin D, you generally want to be between the range of 50 ng/ml to 80ng/ml from what I've read. Your risk of going lower than this and having a vitamin D deficiency typically occurs in the deepest months of the winter, unless you've gotten away on a tropical vacation closer to the equator, which could help raise your levels for several weeks afterwards.
3. Just so you know, there are some controversies surrounding benefits and detriments of vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) vs. vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Generally, vitamin D3 is what you want to look for, as that is also what is naturally produced in your body from the sun, and is the natural source we obtain from animal based foods.
From everything I've read and researched, I would personally try to stay away from vitamin pills or fortified foods that contain vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). This form has been linked to possible negative effects.
Instead, try to get moderate amounts of sunshine, if you can for most of the year, and focus on the healthy dietary sources of natural vitamin D that I listed above... and also look for supplements in the winter to be based on fish oil sources of vitamin D if you can.
NOW FOR VITAMIN E...
I know we got into a lot of details on Vitamin A and Vitamin D, so I'll make the discussion about synthetic vs natural vitamin E much quicker, and just give you the important facts:
1. With Vitamin E, the best utilized sources of vitamin E are from whole foods such as nuts and seeds, with smaller amounts in some greens. Vitamin E from natural foods comes in the form of many different tocopherols and tocotrienols.
2. If you take a multi-vitamin, you absolutely MUST check to make sure that you're taking the natural version of vitamin E and not the synthetic. In supplements, the natural version typically starts with "d-alpha" and the synthetic versions start with "dl-alpha".
The bioavailability of synthetic vitamin E is much lower than natural vitamin E. In addition, I’ve seen many articles and studies that indicated that there could be potential health dangers with taking synthetic vitamin E over time. Once again, we get back to the fact that natural is always better than something that has been chemically modified. Bottom line... Nature always wins in the natural vs synthetic debate.
How can you protect your health and that of your family?
1. First and foremost, make sure to try to obtain most of your nutrition from a great diversity of nutrient-rich, organic, whole foods.
However, as I'm sure you'll agree, we're not perfect, and with our overly processed food supply, as well as chemically abused farm soils, our foods typically contain less vitamins and minerals than they did just several decades ago. That's where a good whole-foods based multi-vitamin supplement can come in handy.
2. If you take a multi-vitamin, you MUST look for a whole-foods based vitamin and you specifically want to look for natural versions of Vitamin A, D, and E like we discussed in this article, as this assures that your body assimilates the vitamins most efficiently, and it also assures that you are not exposed to any of the potential harmful effects of synthetic vitamins.
One of the best (and one of the ONLY) whole-foods based formulas I've been able to find is something called VGF-25+, which is made from over 25 different vegetables, greens, and fruits (hence the VGF name).
Most importantly, with VGF-25+, the Vitamins A, D, and E are all from natural sources and NOT synthetic!
As I've mentioned to you before, I'm good friends with the owners of Prograde Nutrition, and I've just recently arranged with them for you to try out their new VGF-25+ Whole-Foods based multi-vitamin for FREE (all you have to pay is a small shipping fee). This of course only applies before they run out of stock.
Please note: This is NOT my supplement company... However, I am good friends with the owners of this company and I have partnered with them in trying to help them out by spreading the word about their products (which I think are some of the best quality out there). I've become good friends with them over the years and I trust them! I can tell you that they will take good care of you... Enjoy!
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