Many vitamin and mineral supplements, particularly multivitamins containing the RDA for a long list of ingredients, rely on the use of synthetic vitamins.  Vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid, for example, is often extracted from corn syrup.  Proponents of food-based supplements argue that synthetic forms of vitamins and minerals lack the enzymes and co-enzymes that allow the body to fully absorb these nutrients.

Food-based supplements are created by removing the water content from whole foods, including herbs, ‘superfruits’ and grains.  Some food-based supplements also use animal sources for meeting mineral and vitamin requirements; organ meats in particular are high in key mineral compounds.  In addition, food-based supplements may include co-nutrients that help the body metabolize and make efficient use of vitamins, and even enzymes and probiotics to enhance digestion, often in a ‘green food’ base such as spirulina. 

Food-based supplements are more difficult to produce than synthetic multivitamins, and are often at a higher price point and require more than a single tablet daily to meet nutritional needs.  Though their labels may show lower potencies than equivalent products, whole foods supplements offer greater bioavailability.