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Feature

A stock image of veggies

Instead of taking supplements, try eating more varied whole foods.

Whole foods beat single nutrients

By Deane Morrison

From M, spring 2008

If you have a vitamin deficiency, taking a supplement of that nutrient makes sense. But for everyday nutrition, don't rely on single nutrients to do the job of good old whole foods like fresh fruit, vegetables, and grains. Whole foods are unprocessed and are basically the foods your great-grandparents ate. That's the advice of epidemiology professor David R. Jacobs, Jr. In a recent article, he and an Australian colleague urged that whole foods be the basis of diets and the focus of more nutrition research. Studies have failed to show a benefit for single nutrient supplements of beta carotene and B vitamins, for example, but diets with nutrient-rich foods have been linked to better health. "Consumers get the idea that diet and health can be understood in terms of isolate nutrients," says Jacobs. But, he says, that may not be the best way to go about it."