Delicious Living decodes key differences between whole-food and food-based supplements.
Whole-food supplements are made by growing nutrients in yeast, where a whole food’s various beneficial compounds, including vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, concentrate in the yeast cells. Though these supps often contain smaller amounts of nutrients, they’re free from fillers and binders, which can affect bioavailability. Some experts say your body more readily absorbs nutrients from whole foods, but others question whether research supports these claims. Look for “100-percent whole food” on labels. If a package only says “whole food,” it may contain some synthetic nutrient forms.
Food-based supplements are made by using enzymes to compound synthetic and natural vitamins with vegetable proteins, or blending natural and synthetic nutrients into a whole-food or herbal base. Neither process delivers a whole food's entire nutrient profile, but each integrates key vitamins and minerals. The nutrient quantities can be high, though nutrients may still be in synthetic form; the supplement may contain some fillers and binders.