vegan vitamins

Why Real-Food, Plant-Based Vitamins?

Whether you follow a diet that is a plant-based vegan diet, keto, omnivorous, or something in between, it’s tough to get 100% of your daily needs through diet alone. Our modern industrial world—as well as our fixation on convenience and processed foods—has decreased our whole foods intake while stripping our food of its full nutrient potential, resulting in 92% of Americans being micronutrient deficient.¹ Even if you eat absolutely perfectly, it’s near impossible to consume all the key nutrient essentials, making vitamin supplements a necessary or wise choice. Cue plant-based or vegan vitamins to fill the gaps in your diet, especially if you want to prevent any nutrient deficiencies.

“…92% of Americans [are] micronutrient deficient.”

- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Whether you follow a diet that is a plant-based vegan diet, keto, omnivorous, or something in between, it’s tough to get 100% of your daily needs through diet alone. Our modern industrial world—as well as our fixation on convenience and processed foods—has decreased our whole foods intake while stripping our food of its full nutrient potential, resulting in 92% of Americans being micronutrient deficient.¹ Even if you eat absolutely perfectly, it’s near impossible to consume all the key nutrient essentials, making vitamin supplements a necessary or wise choice. Cue plant-based or vegan vitamins to fill the gaps in your diet, especially if you want to prevent any nutrient deficiencies.

What are Plant-Based Vitamins?

Plant-based vitamins are vitamins made from vegan ingredients—no animal products included. With nearly ten million people in the US following a plant-based diet or vegetarian diet, the demand for plant foods or vegan vitamins has followed suit, delivering essential nutrients in a cleaner, plant-derived form.²

Plant-based vitamins differ from standard vitamins in that they incorporate nutrient-dense whole food ingredients such as herbs, spices, and adaptogens. Function-specific vitamins (such as immunity vitamins, vitamins to help sleep, or stress) might include ingredients such as ashwagandha for stress, valerian for sleep, turmeric for inflammation, or lemon balm for calm. Vegan omega-3 supplements now replace fish oil with algae, and vegan vitamin D3 supplements replace sheep’s wool with lichen (a type of algae).

Just be careful when shopping for a plant-based vitamin or dietary supplement and always read the label, especially if you follow a strict vegan diet. Ideally, opt for choices that are made 100% real from whole foods and vegan sources. Otherwise, be sure to only choose options that are listed as 100% natural. Labels can be confusing, and supplements are allowed to deem themselves “natural” as long as 10% of the ingredients are from natural sources, meaning the remaining 90% can be synthetic—yikes.

GEM's Real-Food Bites

What are Synthetic Vitamins?

Synthetic vitamins are likely what you picture when you think of the standard multivitamin. The discovery of vitamins within food was first made in the early 1900s, and synthetic vitamins quickly followed suit. Today, in the United States alone, the vitamin and supplement market is more than $36 billion, with the large majority of vitamins produced being synthetic.³

Synthetic vitamins, such as gummy multivitamins, for example, are different from plant-based vitamins in that they’re made in a lab and are manufactured to have the same chemical constituents or molecular structure as the vitamin found in its true form. Manufacturers often lean toward synthetic vitamins like gummy vitamins made with fortified food because they are cheaper and easier to manufacture. Unfortunately for consumers, most synthetic vitamins contain harmful ingredients such as artificial ingredients, chemicals, added sugar, GMOs, or common allergens such as gluten, corn, or soy. Thanks to confusing and deceptive supplement labels, these dangerous ingredients often slip by unnoticed by the user.

Despite synthetic vitamins sharing similar chemical make-ups, they’re still not the same as a vitamin found in nature. Take one of the essential nutrients, vitamin C. Most synthetic vitamin C is in the form of ascorbic acid—a salt form of the vitamin. While ascorbic acid has the same molecular structure as vitamin C, because it is an isolated nutrient, it lacks the other compounds that are typically found alongside natural vitamin C. This leads us into our next differentiator: how our body utilizes plant-based vs. synthetic vitamins (hint: our body prefers nutrients in their whole food form).

Plant-based vs. Synthesized Nutrients — Which Is Better?

While synthetic vitamins are nearly identical in structure to vitamins in their natural form, they lack the critical cofactors, phytonutrients, and enzymes that are naturally present in whole foods. It’s these compounds that can help enable our body to efficiently and effectively utilize and metabolize nutrients found in real food. Known as food synergy, nutrients from food are absorbed together, and work synergistically to produce balanced health benefits that far exceed the merits of a nutrient on its own.

A study by Cornell University’s Department of Food Science perfectly highlights the science behind food synergy and the power of nutrition in its whole food form. The research team sought to determine the antioxidant property of whole apple extracts. The study found that 100g of fresh apple exhibited vitamin C-antioxidant-like activity equal to 1,500mg of Vitamin C. However, when chemically analyzed, that same apple only contained 5.7mg of vitamin C.

Put simply, the research team discovered that an apple contains thousands of vitamin-C-like antioxidants that will never make it into a pill, yet it’s the combination of these compounds working together in unison that deliver the powerful antioxidant health benefits of real food. For this reason, plant-based vitamins derived from real food tend to have higher bioavailability (the proportion of a nutrient that is absorbed and utilized by the body). One such example is vitamin E: vitamin E in its natural form is absorbed and utilized twice as efficiently by the body as synthetic vitamin E. The higher the nutrient bioavailability, the greater the potential health benefits.

Health Benefits of Plant-Based Vitamins

Plant-based food vitamins and vegan vitamins offer an array of kaleidoscopic health benefits thanks to their whole food format:

Cleaner Ingredients

By steering away from synthetic vitamins, you’re eliminating artificial ingredients, additives, preservatives, irritating allergens, and other unnecessary ingredients that are typically found in synthetic vitamins and supplements. Additionally, since plant-based vitamins are vegan, they do not contain any animal products. Research shows that plant-based ingredients are healthier than animal products; evidence suggests plant-based diets can lower the risk of chronic disease, whereas omnivorous diets (especially those that focus on processed meats and animal products) can promote disease. By opting for a plant-based or vegan supplement, you’re choosing better-for-you ingredients that support whole-body health.

Food Synergy

Critical cofactors, coenzymes, phytochemicals, and other nutrients naturally found within whole foods work synergistically with vitamins and minerals to increase absorption and utilization. When you take a synthetic and isolated nutrient, you’re missing out on the key components that will help your body feel its best self.

One example of food synergy in action is vitamin D, vitamin K2, and calcium. Vitamin D enables our bones to absorb calcium, whereas vitamin K2 directs dietary calcium to our bones. Without vitamin D, your body can only absorb 10-15% of dietary calcium.⁷ While calcium is relatively easy to obtain through diet, vitamin D and vitamin K2 are much harder to consume through diet alone. That’s why each GEM Daily Essentials bite contains both vitamin D and vitamin K2.

No Megadoses

Synthetic vitamins typically contain nutrient amounts that far exceed the recommended daily intake. Not only does your body have a harder time recognizing and understanding synthetic vitamins compared to plant-based or vegan vitamins, but it also has difficulty absorbing exorbitant amounts of isolated nutrients all at once.

This is especially true depending on the type of vitamin you’re consuming: water-soluble vs. fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C and B-complex. These vitamins dissolve in water, are easily absorbed by the body, and are more readily metabolized than fat-soluble vitamins. Excess water-soluble vitamins are excreted through urination, meaning there’s a low chance of a build-up in the body. ⁠

Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K. These vitamins are dissolved in fat globules and transported throughout the body via the bloodstream. With fat-soluble vitamins we must be wary of megadoses—any excess is stored in fatty tissue where it can accumulate over time and eventually lead to toxicity.

GEM’s Plant-Based Vitamins

Nutrition in its whole food form is powerful thanks to food synergy nutrition, yet it isn’t always possible to receive your daily nutrition through diet alone. That’s where plant-based or vegan vitamins come into play. GEM’s real-food, plant-based vitamins, not vegan multivitamins, can offer your daily nutrient essentials in the form your body knows and loves: real food.