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Whole Food Nutrition

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Greatest Benefits Come from Food, Not Supplements

For over a decade, Dole Nutrition News has been bringing you the latest in nutrition and health research, and has been advocating that nutrition is best served up from food, not pills. Though supplements comprise a multibillion dollar global industry, experts agree that health benefits are best derived when whole foods are the focus, not individual nutrients in capsules or powders. However, popular opinion may still need some persuasion.

Two researchers from Cornell University and Pomona College recently tested how the link between nutrition and risk of disease is perceived among 114 university students. Participants were divided into two groups and asked to read a short description of a male character and judge how healthy they thought he was. The first two paragraphs were identical, but the final paragraphs describing the man’s diet focused on either nutrients or whole foods containing these nutrients. One group read that the man ate bananas, fish, oranges, milk and spinach. The other group found out the man ate potassium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, calcium and iron. When asked to estimate the man’s risk of chronic disease, the nutrient-focused group rated the man an average 15% less likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer than the whole food-focused group.

Nutrient-centrism may be the more common viewpoint across the general population, but you simply cannot package health in a pill. “Whole foods offer benefits that isolated nutrients cannot provide,” explains Jenn LaVardera, Registered Dietitian at the Dole Nutrition Institute. “A cup of pineapple not only offers vitamin C, manganese and vitamin B6, it packs in two grams of fiber, the enzyme bromelain and an assortment of phytonutrients. Everything in whole food works synergistically, which best promotes health.”

Supplements are not only a waste of money for most*, they could pose serious health risks. Nutrients in whole foods are buffered by fiber and water, which is not the case in pills, making it easier to consume too much of one nutrient. Another issue to consider is overly processed foods. A box of sugary cereal may boast fortified antioxidant and micronutrient content, but this can’t compete with the benefits of naturally healthy produce and brings the added risks of refined sugars and artificial ingredients.

The message is clear: Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables balanced by lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats and you can reap the nutritional benefits from food for a fraction of the price of isolated nutrients. Looking for a nutrient-packed meal idea? Our Vegetarian Rainbow Hero is an excellent source of fiber and 14 vitamins and minerals and also packs in proteins and healthy fats—nutrition that simply tastes great!

*Certain health conditions may require use of a supplement. Speak with your health care provider for more information.

Published September 1, 2015

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