According to T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. as he describes it in “Forks Over Knives, The Extended Interviews”, we think nutrition is attributed to individual nutrients (in other words, supplements), and that’s not the way nutrition works. Rather, nutrition comes from the hundreds of thousands of chemicals (nutrients) in the right foods (whole, plant-based foods) all working nicely together. He likes to think of these hundreds of thousands of nutrients we get from foods as a “buffet” of nutrients from which the body constantly decides what it gets, how much to take, when and where to send it, and how to dispose of it.
When we eat the right kind of food, our body constantly picks and chooses exactly what it needs every single microsecond, at that specific microsecond, from the hundreds of thousands of nutrients available, including vitamins, that are in the food we eat. Our body decides how much to release (digest) from the food and how much to send through the intestinal wall, into our blood. Once in the blood, our body decides how and where to send it. Our body decides whether to bind nutrients together or leave them free as they travel (in most cases, we don’t know which nutrients optimally bind together or when this occurs, only that it does occur). Our body decides which nutrients and how much get to our cells (our bodies have about 100 trillion cells!). Our body decides how much of each nutrient will cross the membrane into each cell at any given time, how to distribute the nutrients once inside the cell, how much to store, and how much to excrete. This is an extremely complex process!
When we take isolated nutrients in supplements, we completely abort the process of nutrition. When we take a supplement, we may take upwards of 10-20 times the amount of a single nutrient found in foods, and the problem is that we are not giving our body the opportunity to pick and choose exactly what it needs at the right times. Instead we give our body what we think it needs and load up on a specific nutrient at some arbitrary time when our body may not need that particular nutrient. Plus, we’re not giving our body all the other nutrients it needs at that specific time, including any nutrients that enhance delivery or activity of the nutrient we took in the supplement.
A great example was described by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. in his latest book, “Whole”. Cornell Professor Rui Hai Liu found that 100 grams of fresh apple (approximately half a medium-size apple) has an antioxidant, vitamin C-like activity that’s equivalent to a 1,500 milligram vitamin C supplement. Yet when Liu analyzed 100 grams of fresh apple to determine the actual vitamin C content, there was only 5.7 milligrams of vitamin C in that half apple! So the Vitamin C activity in that half apple is nearly 300 times more potent than vitamin C in a supplement!
While animal-based foods have protein and fat (macronutrients) as well as some minerals (micronutrients), they lack the carbohydrates (macronutrient) and hundreds of thousands of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (micronutrients) found in whole, plant-based foods. Processed and refined foods that are prevalent in the standard American diet have been stripped of the nutrients that were once present in the original whole food. In the case of enriched processed and refined foods, isolated nutrients are added in an attempt to replace some of the nutrition that was removed.
The best way to assure that your body gets to pick and choose all the nutrients it needs when it needs them is simple and inexpensive: eat a diet that’s rich in whole, plant-based foods.