Why I Take Whole Food Vitamins

real food vitaminsI’ve been taking vitamins since I was a kid, and until recently, I loathed taking them. I know, I know, loathed is a bit dramatic, but it’s the best description I can come up with. Vitamins have never settled well in my stomach, and the taste seemed to last for hours. The result? I didn’t consistently take my vitamins because I hated feeling sick.

When I found out I was pregnant with baby #2, I knew I needed to be consistent again. But last time I was pregnant, there were a good 3–4 weeks when I had to stop taking my prenatals because I couldn’t keep them down. My doctor at the time (I later switched to a midwife) said I was better off taking nothing and keeping my food down than continuing to take prenatals that stayed in my stomach for 0.2 seconds. She later wrote me a prescription for prenatals that—surprise, surprise—made me even sicker.

So, this time around, as I searched for prenatals to keep baby #2 healthy, I was nervous about finding something that would work for me. That’s when I learned about whole food vitamins. Now, I’m a huge fan of whole food supplements and plan to keep taking whole food multis after I’m done taking prenatals.

But why take whole food vitamins?

Obviously, it’s best to get your nutrition from food. But the fact is that most of us don’t. Even if you eat a fantastic diet, it’s difficult to get the full range of nutrients you need every day, especially when you’re pregnant.

So, many of us reach for a multi to help make up for those gaps in our nutrition.

The problem is that those lab-created nutrients and lower quality vitamins (read: megamart specials):

  1. Are not always absorbed by the stomach very well.
  2. Often contain harmful ingredients—I’m looking at you, food coloring!—and unnecessary fillers.
  3. Can be detrimental to animals or the environment. Just try finding a vitamin D supplement that isn’t contained in a gelatin capsule, and you’ll see what I mean.

Plus, doesn’t it just seem kind of weird to get man-made nutrition when we have all of this plentiful natural nutrition all around us in the form of food?

Another issue with synthetic multivitamins is that the nutrients are created in isolation and then combined. Instead of the complex nutritional mix nature provides, individual nutrients are combined with other isolated nutrients in an attempt to create the mix nature created in the first place.

The result? A combination that is a far cry from what nature intended.

That’s where whole food vitamins come in. Since the nutrients in whole food vitamins come from real food sources, they’re the most natural, close-to-nature version of the nutrients you can find. It’s the next best thing to getting the nutrients from real foods.

Do they make you nauseous?

I can only speak from my own personal experience. But for the first time in my life, I can take a multivitamin that doesn’t make me want to throw up. I still don’t love the smell—there is a little breath-holding that happens during the process—but I can keep it down. My vitamins snap in two easily and can be crumbled between my fingers, much like I would expect concentrated whole foods to do. Plus, I can take it on an empty stomach because the nutrients are absorbed by the stomach similarly to how real food would be absorbed.

Do you notice a difference in how you feel?

Yes! The difference seems to show up when I don’t take my vitamins. I’ve noticed a marked variation in how I feel when I remember to take my vitamins versus when I don’t. Those days I forget result in some serious time spent in the bathroom, trying to keep my breakfast, lunch or dinner down. I don’t anticipate that happening when I’m no longer pregnant, but noticing how much better I feel when I remember has been a testament to me that they’re working.

How do I make sure the vitamins I’m buying are whole food-based?

First, go somewhere where they know their vitamins. Locally, the only place I trust is my local co-op, where the associates aren’t just hired to stock shelves—they’re sent to workshops and conferences, and some have one or more decades of training and experience with nutritional supplements.

Second, look at the packaging. Search for key words like 100 percent natural and USDA organic. Then, look at the supplement facts on the back. The ingredients should be derived from whole foods; for example: Vitamin A (from organic food blend as beta carotene).

Finally, follow this guide by Food Matters®. They give some great tips on what to look for and what to avoid. My only change would be to opt for plant-based supplements, when possible. The vitamins I take are certified vegetarian.

Aren’t whole food vitamins more expensive?

Yes, they are. There’s no getting around it. But so is organic food. So are toxin-free beauty products. The higher the quality, the higher the cost. I pay about $30 monthly for my prenatals, which is about twice as much as I paid last time. But I feel that it’s worth it. (Plus, I can keep these down, so maybe it’ll end up evening out!)

P.S. I was planning to share the prenatal brand I buy, but closer inspection of the supplement facts left me with a few questions. I’ve e-mailed the company to get clarification and will update this post once I feel 100% confident recommending the brand. And no, this post isn’t sponsored. :-)

What type of vitamins do you take and why? Have you tried whole food vitamins, and if so, what has your experience been? Please share your story and favorite brands in the comments.

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