Nutrient Synergy

Kari Collett, RDN, LDN, CLT with A to Zinc Nutrition, LLC


Vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients don’t work in isolation.

Typically, a good study design makes the best attempt at controlling all variables except for the one the scientists are trying to measure. For a simple example, a study designed around the effects of magnesium on blood pressure might have 10 people in a study in which five take 200 mg/day of magnesium and five take a placebo. At the end of the study, blood pressure data are analyzed. The challenge in this design is the variability in people. Everyone has different genetics, nutrition status, and lifestyle activities. There could be a number of things that impact blood pressure. Therefore, scientists try to select study participants that are as much alike in all those factors as possible. This better assures that the study is truly measuring the impact of magnesium on blood pressure.

While this is good study design for some things, it’s not so good for studying individual nutrients in foods. For example, scientists discovered that turmeric helps many people with inflammation. Wanting to know what exactly about turmeric helps with inflammation led to the discovery of curcumin, one of the key active phytonutrients in turmeric. But what was discovered later was that curcumin wasn’t nearly as effective at reducing inflammation as turmeric even though it was the active component. Why?

Foods Have Nutrient Synergy

Many studies have looked at the relationship between whole, nutrient dense foods and chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. The studies consistently demonstrate that nutrients working together within the context of the whole food are more effective at preventing chronic disease than taking isolated, individual nutrients even when they are identified as the key active component.

Let’s look at almonds:  almond skin is rich in phytonutrients and the inside nut is rich in vitamin E. Separately, they are both great but together their antioxidant power is more than doubled. When looking at the effect of almonds on LDL cholesterol, almond skin alone reduced oxidation by 18%. But when adding the vitamin E found in the meat of the nut, oxidation was reduced by 52.5%!

Variety Further Increases Synergy

If the synergy in almonds is that dramatically different when consuming it whole compared to the parts, imagine the potential of a diet rich in a variety of foods. Not only does each whole food have its own synergy, but foods work together with the nutrients of other foods to create a different type of synergy. Eating an abundance of whole, nutrient dense foods has consistently been shown to result in reduced risk of chronic disease. Furthermore, those that consume the most fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, essentially a plant-based diet, have been found to have an even lower risk.

Do You Have Variety?

The best way to discover what you’re eating is to track what you’re eating. This will increase your knowledge and awareness of your eating patterns. Many people eat the same foods over and over because they fit a routine and are easy. If you discover that you are truly eating a varied diet and you don’t have any health complications – great!  But, if you’re following a whole food varied diet and still aren’t feeling your best, you might need some guidance.

Diet personalization is best all around. No two people are exactly alike! Getting professional guidance can help individuals reach their health goals by creating a diverse list of whole foods for their unique immune system.

To learn more about personalizing your diet plan, schedule a free Discovery Call:

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