Article at a Glance
- As we have removed ourselves and our animals from their natural environments, we have to supplement our animal’s diet (and our own) just to provide the core basics they need for health.
- There is a huge difference between natural and synthetic supplements, therefore the quality of supplements varies tremendously.
- Man-made supplements, vitamins & minerals are not recognised by the body as ‘real’ vitamins and minerals, and therefore can cause more stress on the body than good when ingested, as they are difficult to digest and assimilate, therefore natural supplements are a better option.
Many pet parents can find it really confusing as to whether they need to add extra vitamins and minerals to their dogs’ food? In this blog we will look into this in more detail.
We often get asked “what is the difference between a vitamin and a mineral and where do they come from, and why does my animal need extra?” In this short blog we will try and answer some of the questions we get asked.
What is a Vitamin?
Vitamins are any of a group of organic compounds which are essential for normal growth and nutrition, and are required in small quantities in the diet because they cannot be synthesized by the body. Vitamins are found in natural food sources and are abundant in plants, including herbs. As they cannot be made in the body, it is key that they are ingested as part of a healthy balanced diet. This is where things can go wrong as we will see below!
What is a Mineral?
Like vitamins, minerals are naturally occurring, we and our animals cannot make them within our bodies, we need to ingest them. Vitamins need minerals to be bio-available in the body. They are abundant in plants, which in turn get them from the soil. The soil gets minerals from water washing over rocks, which releases minerals from the rocks into the soil. This is why we often use ‘vitamins and minerals’ together, as both are needed to be absorbed by the body.
What is an Antioxidant?
Antioxidants are specific vitamins or minerals that protect the cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage cells and contribute to aging and disease.
How can we and our animals get enough Vitamins and Minerals?
Vitamins and minerals must be ingested by us and our animals to get into the body, either from eating fresh foods or from taking supplements. Most people think that feeding supplements, to provide essential vitamins and minerals, is a luxury, but indeed this couldn’t be further from the truth! As we have removed ourselves and our animals from their natural environments, and as much of our land is now devoid of essential nutrients due to poor soil quality, we have to supplement our animal’s diet (and our own) just to provide the core basics they need for health.
Many people don’t get enough nutrients from the diet alone. Currently, over half of the US population takes synthetic nutrients like multivitamins 
Natural verses Synthetic
Is there really a difference between ‘natural’ verses ‘synthetic’ vitamins and minerals? There is a lot of debate about whether synthetic nutrients provide the same benefits as natural nutrients. Indeed, some data suggests that synthetic nutrients may be dangerous.
Here are some of the difference between natural and synthetic nutrients:
- Natural nutrients: These are obtained from whole food / herb sources in the diet.
- Synthetic nutrients: Also referred to as isolated nutrients, these are usually made artificially, in an industrial process.
Synthetic nutrients do not include “whole food supplements,” which are made from concentrated, dehydrated whole foods. Most supplements are made artificially. They are available in many forms: pills, capsules, tablets, powders or in liquid form. Their aim is to mimic the way natural nutrients act in our bodies.
The quality of supplements varies tremendously. Some supplements, like the ones Rocketo provides, are real foods and herbs, minimally processed that can be ingested by the animal or human to fill the gaps from what they are not able to get from their daily food intake. However many supplements on the market are man-made in a laboratory, and bear little resemblance to their natural counterparts. As such, these man-made supplements, vitamins & minerals are not recognised by the body as ‘real’ vitamins and minerals, and therefore can cause more stress on the body than good when ingested, as they are difficult to digest and assimilate. The production process of synthetic nutrients is very different to the way plants and animals create them, so despite having a similar structure, your body (or your dogs) may react differently to synthetic nutrients. One reason for this is that when real food is eaten, you are not consuming single nutrients, but rather a whole range of vitamins, minerals, cofactors and enzymes that allow for optimal use by the body. All these ingredients work in synergy, lab produced just cannot replicate this.
Without these additional compounds, synthetic nutrients are unlikely to be used by the body in the same way as their natural counterparts .
In addition, many synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements contain harmful fillers, binders and preservatives which can do far more damage than good! It is really difficult to tell from the packaging if you are buying synthetic vitamins and minerals, so establishing a trusted list of suppliers is key. This is a particular problem in the animal health market where the majority of supplements and balancers are synthetic and full of harmful ingredients!
Herbs are a class of plants that are rich in vitamins and minerals; they provide a source of easily assimilated nutrients. The minerals contained in herbs, vegetables, and most fruits balance the effects of the acidic foods, which are a major cause of imbalance in the body for humans and animals alike. Because of all the processed foods we and our animals often eat, the toxins we’re exposed to on a daily basis, and the increasing amounts of daily stress, our bodies need more than just the basic supply of nutrients. In addition, most of the soil used to grow plants in is now mineral deficient, so it is really difficult to get the range of vitamins and minerals needed in a normal balanced diet. More and more people are turning to vitamin and mineral supplements for themselves and their animals to balance their bodies and improve their health. But beware, as we have seen above, not all supplements are created equally – in fact many of the supplements that most people reach for are a far cry from healthy.
Food verses Supplements
One of the problems with supplements is that they are intended to be just as their name suggests, a supplement to a healthy lifestyle and diet. However, most people use supplements for their animals as a substitute for healthy living, not a supplement. If you use supplements in this way, you’re simply fooling yourself but not your body. At Rocketo, we encourage and help all our customers to use vitamin and mineral supplements in their most natural, pure, unadulterated form, as herbs and whole foods, in as natural a form as possible. In the wild animals would self-select and forage for these, but alas in captivity often they do not have the opportunity to do this.
As the name suggests, whole food supplements are derived and made from whole foods & herbs. This is a supplement that your body can see for what it is – food. Therefore, the body is able to properly digest, assimilate, and use the nutrients for your body’s good. The whole food supplements that you want to choose are the ones that are derived from raw, whole foods. When your body consumes any whole food, the body recognises it as a ‘food’ and therefore knows exactly how and where to use it! When vitamins are synthetic they’ve been isolated from the food source thereby eliminating the vital information needed by the body to recognise, and hence be able to use it. This means the body is able to use only very little of the already compromised nutrients in the supplement. So even if you are faithfully giving supplements to yourself or your animal on a regular basis, you may not be getting very much nutrition at all.
It’s About What’s Missing and What’s Added
Whole Food / Herb Vitamins and minerals from herbs offer:
- Uncompromised essential nutrients – in their natural form, so available in a form that your animal has evolved to absorb and assimilate.
- Minimal Processing – low heating of the herbs means no vital compounds are altered or destroyed in any way.
- No toxins formed because there is no heating or alteration of foods.
- Important enzymes remain intact to aid in the digestion and assimilation process
- When you select whole food / herb supplements you are getting the best nutrients available short of the raw fresh herb itself. Choosing a whole food / herb supplement instead of a synthetic supplement is like eating a raw, whole food as opposed to a highly processed one.
What you want to avoid is important as well. Be sure your whole food multivitamin doesn’t contain any of the following:
- Artificial Colours
- Fillers and Binders
- Allergens such as dairy, gluten, and soy or animal by-products if feeding to a horse.
When you buy food and supplements from Rocketo you can be sure you are getting the best quality, most natural vitamins and minerals for you and your dogs. This can make a dramatic difference to their health.
How do you know if a Supplement is Natural or Synthetic?
It’s vital that you read labels carefully, to check if a supplement is synthetic or natural. Natural supplements usually list food sources or are labeled as 100% plant or animal-based. In contrast, supplements that list nutrients individually, such as vitamin C, or use chemical names like ascorbic acid, are almost certainly synthetic. In nature, no two apples would have the same amount of vitamin C, as an example, so it is impossible to list exact amounts when 100% natural ingredients are used, at an individual mineral or vitamin level.
However, the production process of synthetic nutrients is very different to the way plants and animals create them. So despite having a similar structure, your body may react differently to synthetic nutrients.
Additionally, it’s unclear how well synthetic nutrients are absorbed and used in the body. Some may be more easily absorbed, not others . For example, studies show that natural vitamin E is absorbed twice as efficiently as synthetic vitamin E .
So in summary, It is unclear how well synthetic nutrients are absorbed and used in the body. Your body will use nutrients best when taken in whole food form, with a wide variety of food compounds.