Whole Food vs Supplements: The Big Debate

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The idea that food and supplements are equal to each other is a long-debated topic. Recently, the popularity of veganism and body conscious individuals have refueled the debate. The idea being that supplements are animal friendly and still ensure that you receive maximum nutrients on your diet which is also important for body conscious individuals who are on strict diets.

The reason that the food vs supplements debate has been raging for so long with no favoured opinion is because there are several ways to view and understand the role that supplements should play in your life. Below we are going to break down the approaches to supplements, so you can decide where supplements land in your diet.

One of the major views regarding supplements is that people who are deficient in something need supplements to ensure that they are at their best. This is especially for older people because their age stops them from being able to eat the way that they need to. Mobility and illness may limit their intake and cause deficiencies that supplements are needed for. These supplements include: calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D.

Along the same lines as the deficiencies within the older community, people who comply with a strict diet such as veganism also use supplements in order to ensure the healthiest possible outcome. A lack of meat and other animal related foods could cause deficiencies which supplements such as Zinc, calcium and vitamin B12 could help with. Supplements are popular among vegans because it makes their lifestyle possible while ensuring their bodies receive what it needs to function correctly.

Strict dieters such as body builders are also another group who benefit from supplement use because their diet requirements could cause issues. This is mainly because bodybuilding becomes a lifestyle which has a massive impact on the body. Bodybuilders may benefit from taking multivitamins, creatine, and glutamine. Supplements also help bodybuilders eat less while having a lot to shred because of their potency. For example, 3 scoops of 55 grams is equal to 9 chicken legs or 4 scoops of 5 grams is equal to 78 McDonald’s beefs patties. The nutrients without the large meal allows bodybuilders to maintain their lean physique without becoming unhealthy.

In these situations, supplements are attractive because they allow people to remove something from their lives and still be able to achieve the benefits from the nutrients that they provide. However, on the other side of the spectrum, there are people who completely refuse to use supplements and will not consume anything not considered ‘food’.

One of the major reasons for this is because some people believe that supplements have not been fully proven to work and are just hyped up by companies who wish only to make money. In the face of deficiencies, there are people who believe that supplements will not work the same way that food would which means that there are there is no real reason to consume them. Supplements make large claims but are not properly regulated which means that anything could be present within the mixtures that can cause harm to the body. The regulation issue has cause controversies and brokered the idea that the supplement industry offers no real value and is just scheme for companies to make more money.

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Similarly, some people also believe that food will always have major benefits over supplements. These points include: greater nutrition, essential fibre, and protective substance source. Food offers greater nutrition because they contain complex micronutrients which supplements cannot replicate. It is also believed that food as opposed to supplements holds essential fibre because there is more in the food for the body to digest which allows the body to complete its processes more efficiently. The  complex nature of food creates protective substances such as antioxidants which cannot be replicated in supplements and are essential to the body.

Another issue that many people take with supplements is that people could easily harm themselves by taking too much. This is because the general population doesn’t really monitor themselves very closely. Supplements can change levels within the body which means they have the potential to sway them into the danger zone. Without closely monitoring intake and the body, overtaking supplements can become an issue.

This basically means that like many concepts, there are both points which highlight the ‘for’ and ‘against’. Some people refuse to consume supplements while other people rely on them in their day to day life.

To quickly recap what we just read:

Reasons For

Reasons Against

People may have deficiencies which they cannot fix such as:

  •          Pregnant women
  •          People who are 50 or old
  •          Picky eaters
  •          Vegans/vegetarians/restrictive diet/lactose intolerant
  •          Don’t consume three servings a week of seafood
  •          Medical condition that affects nutrients absorption
  •          Women with heavy bleeding during periods


  •          Not fully proven to be useful
  •          Money Scam
  •          Food offers more benefits
  •          Could be over taken and cause more issues


Supplement serving and their food equivalent

Image Source: Supplement Centre

Now that you’ve read through the pros and cons, why don’t you tell us what you think in the comments?

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