September 01, 2020

Food Synergy Nutrition: Why Real Food?


When it comes to food, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Often, our bodies absorb and metabolize nutrients from whole foods much more efficiently and effectively than nutrients singularly isolated in vitamins and pills. Recognized 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.

Your Body is an Orchestra

Our approach to nutrition and supplementation is incredibly linear— we receive blood test results that indicate we have a calcium deficiency, so we start taking a calcium supplement. We’re told we need more vitamin C and, instead of grabbing an orange, we reach for a vitamin C tablet. In theory, this seems appropriate. In practice, this doesn’t work. Think of food synergy like an orchestra. The concert doesn’t work with one violin. And the main conductor (your cells) can’t orchestrate without a full band. Each individual in the orchestra harmonizes together to create a beautiful production. Alone, it falls flat. GEM was designed under a similar philosophy— one that believes that food should come first— simply because it results in the most effective nutritional practices for our body. 

Eating for optimized nutrition can feel like a cacophony of deafening noise— an orchestra that is ostensibly out of tune. Too often we are told, “Eat this, don’t eat that – and only within this timeframe.” However, if we tune out the noise, we’d realize we possess an ageless wisdom when it comes to food synergy. A wisdom developed long before the modern era of pills and gummy vitamins. Have you ever noticed that in certain cultures, foods are eaten together or in a sequential order? Take the spice turmeric— a staple in Indian cuisine for thousands of years. Turmeric is extremely rich in curcumin, a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound with over 320 clinical studies (1). While somewhat effective on its own, a pinch of black pepper can optimize curcumin’s medicinal effects. Piperine, the bioactive compound in black pepper, increases the bioavailability of curcumin in the body by up to 2,000%, making the two spices a synergistic match (2). No wonder you’ll find the combination of turmeric and black pepper in many Indian dishes.

Trendy to Nutrition Powerhouse

Even our modern diets reflect our ageless wisdom and our subconscious craving for food synergy. For instance, the ubiquitous #avocadotoast. While seemingly simple, its excitement lies in that it’s a blank canvas just waiting to be painted with a kaleidoscopic assortment of ingredients. Top your avocado toast with sliced tomatoes, and you’ll elevate your breakfast from trendy to nutritional powerhouse. The vitamin E in avocados helps the body absorb lycopene, a powerful antioxidant in tomatoes. While these foods are often paired together because they simply taste delicious, the fact that they make you feel good too inadvertently reinforces the magic duo. 

More Magic Duos

At the heart of GEM is this desire for all of us to feel our best through food synergy— a science we define as blending ageless wisdom with modern molecular biology. An approach to your health that begins at the cellular level through a powerful blend of synergistic superfoods. A design powered by the symphony of ingredients working together to better one another. The best example of this synergistic dance is the Vitamin D, calcium and vitamin K2 trio. It’s estimated that 75% of US teens and adults are deficient in vitamin D, but without vitamin D, only 10-15% of dietary calcium is absorbed (3) (4). While vitamin D enables calcium absorption, vitamin K2 is necessary for directing calcium to the bones. Without vitamin K2, calcium accumulates in soft tissues instead of the bones, resulting in both osteoporosis and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). While it’s relatively easy to consume calcium through our daily food intake (in the form of dairy, leafy greens, tofu, nuts, fortified products and more), it is much harder to consume vitamin D and vitamin K2 in the average American diet. This is why GEM includes both vitamin D and K2 to fill in the gaps and work in harmony with the calcium you eat daily. 

Don't Isolate

While it may seem plausible to run to the store and grab a vitamin E and lycopene supplement to replace your avocado toast, in reality it doesn’t quite work. It’s more effective to consume the nutrients in whole food form whenever possible. The core problem with vitamins and supplements is that they’re based on a reductionist paradigm— an approach to nutrition in which the focus is breaking down whole food into its isolated parts like vitamins, protein and antioxidants, and then infusing these parts back into capsules/pills or foods (think fortified bread or antioxidant boosted water). When you buy a vitamin E supplement, you are consuming an isolated (and often synthetic) compound. Even if you combine it with a lycopene supplement, you are still missing out on compounds found in actual food that are vitally important to our health. 

Your Orchestra's Stage Crew

Which brings us to the last, critical component of food synergy science: phytochemicals. These are compounds that extend beyond vitamins and minerals, and include a category of non-essential nutrients. You can think of them as the orchestra’s stage crew. Phytochemicals help make sure the show runs to its full potential. From set up to stage lights, they take the performance from ordinary to extraordinary. Just as some aspects of the stage crew aren’t essential to a show, phytochemicals are not necessary for survival. But that doesn’t mean they’re not critically important. Phytochemicals boast an array of impressive anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may help with protection against cancer and heart disease (5). While there are thousands of phytochemicals— some known and others unknown— that will never make it into a pill, it’s the combination of phytochemicals that largely produces the healthy benefits of a whole foods diet.

While vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals are quintessential to our health, they’re harder to consume in their true state than they once were. Our modern industrial world— as well as our fixation on convenience and processed foods— has decreased our whole foods intake while also stripping our food of its full nutrient potential, resulting in 90% of Americans being micronutrient deficient (6) (7).

Try Your Best

Even if you eat absolutely perfectly, it’s near impossible to consume all the key nutrient essentials, making supplementation a necessary and wise choice. But note that a supplement is an activation, not a replacement of a healthy and balanced diet. While we prefer a whole foods approach to supplementation, that doesn’t mean that all synthetically derived and isolated vitamins are evil. We believe in modern science and are excited by its advancements to bring us better health. Yet as a general rule of thumb, we seek a food first philosophy and science that is rooted in nature’s synergistic practice.

Real Food First

Since GEM is designed as a real food vitamin, each chewable bite delivers the phytochemical, vitamin & mineral compounds that your body needs to nourish on a cellular level. GEM gives you the tools to be the conductor of your own orchestra: a melodious blend of synergistic nutrition that allows your body to feel its best. 

This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and contains trusted sources.

Our goal at GEM is to give readers up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics. GEM content is written by experienced health and lifestyle contributors and articles undergo an extensive review process.

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