Whole Food Multivitamins vs Synthetic: Which Is Better for You?

Published by Chris Riley on April 12th, 2023

Multivitamins are a popular supplement choice for many people who want to ensure they’re getting all the essential nutrients their body needs.

However, there’s an ongoing debate about whether whole food multivitamins or synthetic options are the better choice.

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between these two types of multivitamins, the pros and cons of each, and help you determine which one is the best choice for your health.

What Are Whole Food Multivitamins?

Whole food multivitamins are made from concentrated, dehydrated, and powdered forms of whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

These supplements aim to provide the same nutrients found in their natural sources, with the belief that nutrients derived from whole foods are better absorbed and utilized by the body. Some popular whole food multivitamin brands include Garden of Life, MegaFood, and New Chapter.

What Are Synthetic Multivitamins?

Synthetic multivitamins, also known as isolated or fractionated supplements, are made from chemically synthesized nutrients in a laboratory. These supplements are created to mimic the molecular structure of natural vitamins and minerals, providing the same essential nutrients but without the additional compounds found in whole foods. Some well-known synthetic multivitamin brands include Centrum, One A Day, and Nature Made.

Comparing Nutrient Absorption

One of the main arguments in favor of whole food multivitamins is that they provide better nutrient absorption compared to synthetic options. Proponents of whole food supplements believe that the body recognizes these nutrients as food, leading to increased bioavailability.

Additionally, whole food multivitamins often contain a broader range of naturally occurring compounds, such as phytonutrients, which may provide added health benefits.

However, research on the differences in nutrient absorption between whole food and synthetic multivitamins is limited and inconclusive. Some studies have found no significant differences in the bioavailability of certain nutrients, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, between whole food and synthetic sources. More research is needed to determine the extent to which nutrient absorption differs between these two types of multivitamins.

Pros and Cons of Whole Food Multivitamins

Whole food multivitamins have several advantages, including:

  • Broader nutrient profile: These supplements may contain a wider array of nutrients, including phytonutrients and antioxidants, which can provide additional health benefits.
  • Natural source: Many people prefer whole food multivitamins because they are derived from natural food sources, which may be perceived as a healthier option.

However, there are also some drawbacks to consider:

  • Cost: Whole food multivitamins are often more expensive than synthetic alternatives due to the higher costs associated with sourcing and processing whole foods.
  • Lower potency: These supplements may contain lower amounts of certain nutrients compared to synthetic options, which could be a concern for individuals with specific nutrient deficiencies.

Pros and Cons of Synthetic Multivitamins

Synthetic multivitamins also have their advantages, such as:

  • Affordability: Synthetic supplements are generally more cost-effective than whole food options, making them more accessible to a wider range of consumers.
  • Potency: These supplements often contain higher amounts of specific nutrients, which can be beneficial for individuals with targeted nutritional needs.


  • Limited nutrient profile: Synthetic supplements may lack the broader range of naturally occurring compounds found in whole food options, potentially missing out on additional health benefits.
  • Perceived unnaturalness: Some individuals may be concerned about consuming chemically synthesized nutrients and prefer a more natural source.

Making the Right Choice for You

When deciding between whole food multivitamins and synthetic options, consider your personal preferences, budget, and nutritional needs.

If you prioritize a more natural source of nutrients and are willing to pay a higher price, whole food multivitamins may be the better choice for you.

However, if you are looking for a more affordable option with higher potency, synthetic multivitamins could be a suitable alternative.

It’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen, as they can help you determine the best choice based on your individual health requirements.

Are whole food multivitamins better than synthetic?

There isn’t a definitive answer to this question, as both types of multivitamins have their advantages and disadvantages. Whole food multivitamins may offer a broader nutrient profile and a more natural source of nutrients, while synthetic multivitamins are generally more affordable and provide higher potency. Ultimately, the best choice for you depends on your personal preferences, budget, and nutritional needs.

Can I get all the nutrients I need from food alone?

In an ideal world, it would be possible to obtain all the nutrients you need from a well-balanced diet. However, factors such as soil depletion, busy lifestyles, and dietary restrictions can make it difficult for some individuals to consume an adequate variety of nutrient-rich foods. In these cases, taking a multivitamin can help fill in any nutritional gaps and support overall health.

How do I choose a high-quality multivitamin?

When selecting a multivitamin, consider the following factors:

  • Look for third-party testing and certification, such as USP or NSF, which can indicate the supplement’s quality and purity.
  • Review the ingredient list to ensure it contains the essential nutrients you need and avoid any unnecessary additives or fillers.
  • Consult with your healthcare provider, as they can help guide you in choosing the most appropriate multivitamin based on your individual health requirements.