The Science Behind Your Pill - Real Food Vitamins
Real Food Nutrition
The Science Behind Your Pill - Real Food Vitamins
Lindsey Toth, MS, RD • September 18, 2018

Let’s face it—our eating habits aren’t always in line with what we know is best. Getting all the nutrients we need to stay healthy can be challenging with modern diets. Unfortunately, research shows that most of us don’t meet the recommended amounts of essential vitamins and minerals each day.1

While supplements aren’t a replacement for healthy eating, they can help us fill the gaps in our diet. And thanks to new vitamins made from real foods, now we can choose supplements that are closer to what we would get from a nutritional diet. Let’s explore the science behind real food vitamins and what makes them unique.

Synthetic vs. Real Food Vitamins

Many vitamin and mineral supplements provide synthetic nutrients. According to researchers, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are inferior.2 In fact, our bodies absorb most synthetic nutrients just as well as natural forms of those same nutrients and some are structurally identical to those found in foods.2 But that hasn’t stopped us from innovating more wholesome, minimally-processed ways to get our supplemental nutrition.

Wellness-seekers are becoming more attentive to what we put in our bodies, and rightfully so! We strive to choose supplements for our wellness routines that are as close to whole-food nutrition as possible. That’s where real food vitamins come in, bringing us supplements formulated from nutrient-rich, nature-sourced ingredients that we recognize by name, like quinoa sprouts, lemon peel and holy basil.

What’s in a Real Food Vitamin?

Real food vitamins are exactly what they sound like—vitamins from real food sources. Scientific advancements have given us the ability to extract nutrients directly from food sources instead of making them synthetically. By finding nature’s richest sources of the essential nutrients we need to stay healthy, extracting those nutrients, then using them in supplemental formulas, we get food-occurring nutrients directly from the source.

For example, our Real Food Multi Men’s Daily provides 19 nutrients derived from 11 real food ingredients, including:

  • Vitamin A as vegetarian, natural beta-carotene
  • Vitamin C extracted from Acerola cherries
  • Vitamin D extracted from Agaricus bisporus, an edible mushroom
  • Vitamin E and iron from a probiotic found in certain yogurts
  • Vitamin K from natto (fermented soybeans)
  • All 8 B-complex vitamins sourced from quinoa sprouts
  • Calcium & magnesium derived from micro-algae minerals
  • Iodine from kelp
  • The adaptogenic herb Ashwagandha to balance stress response and support sexual health
  • Pumpkin seed extract for men’s urinary health
  • Saw palmetto, an herb that helps promote prostate health

Also, check out our Real Food Multi Women’s Daily, featuring cranberry extract for women’s urinary health, and turmeric for antioxidant support, cognitive health & more.

It’s easy to know exactly what you are putting into your body and where it comes from with real food vitamins. Below are the ingredients in our other real food formulations.

Real Food Niacin (Vitamin B-3)

Niacin, also known as vitamin B-3, is a water-soluble vitamin that benefits the entire body, and it may be particularly beneficial for the heart and cardiovascular system.3,4 Niacin also supports energy production, healthy blood lipid levels already within the normal range, brain function, skin health and stress hormones.3

Niacin is naturally present in certain foods, including chicken, tuna, beef, salmon, and peanuts.3 But one particularly beneficial and rich source of niacin may sound somewhat unfamiliar. It’s an herb known as holy basil, and this is the ingredient we chose for our Real Food Niacin supplement.

If you’ve never heard of holy basil (also known as Tulsi) here’s a brief background. Holy basil is revered in Ayurveda for many general health uses.5,6 It’s classified as an adaptogen because it helps reduce the effects of stress on the body.6 Compounds in holy basil also have antioxidant effects.5

Modern science confirms that holy basil has a lot to offer, including healthy nutrients like ursolic acid, rosmarinic acid, and oealonic acid, which provide a wide range of benefits to our health.4

By choosing organic holy basil as the source of niacin for Swanson Ultra Real Food Niacin, we are able to provide 125% of your daily value (DV) of Niacin, plus beneficial co-factors and co-nutrients from those same holy basil leaves, together in a simple, healthful formula.4

Real Food Folic Acid (Vitamin B-9)

Folic acid, also known as folate or vitamin B-9, is another water-soluble B-complex vitamin with unique benefits for the body. Folic acid is vital for new cell growth, DNA synthesis, healthy red blood cells, iron use and more.7,8 It’s also one of the most important prenatal vitamins for supporting a healthy pregnancy.8 Healthful diets with adequate folate may reduce a woman's risk of having a child with a brain or spinal cord birth defect.

Foods rich in folic acid include leafy greens, root vegetables, brussels sprouts, lima and soybeans, beef liver, orange juice, and more.9 We chose the peel of lemon as the source of natural folates for Swanson Ultra Real Food Folic Acid supplement.

Lemon peel might not be something you think of eating very often, aside from using the zest now and then, but lemon peels contain 5 to 20 times more vitamins than lemon juice, including vitamin C, vitamin A, beta carotene, folate, calcium, magnesium and potassium.10 This surprisingly rich source of nutrition also offers plenty of co-nutrients like citrus bioflavonoids. Learn about the benefits of citrus bioflavonoids in the article What Are Citrus Bioflavonoids?

Swanson Ultra Real Food Folic Acid contains a 100% certified organic form of folic acid derived from lemon peels using a patented extraction process that retains co-nutrients like water soluble natural folates from the peels, bringing you a nutritious source of folate that is closer to what you would get from real food sources.11

Real Food Biotin (Vitamin B-7)

As another member of the B-complex family of vitamins, biotin is also known as vitamin B-7. It plays a role in metabolism and improves the body's keratin structures, which are needed for strong nails, thick hair and healthy skin.12,13 That’s why biotin is often referred to as the beauty vitamin, and both men and women can benefit from this nutrient.

Food sources of biotin include organ meats, eggs, and nuts, but one of nature’s richest sources of biotin is Sesbania grandiflora, also known as hummingbird tree. While most Americans may not recognize hummingbird tree as a food source, it is cultivated in South East Asia, Northern Australia and parts of India for its edible flowers (which are eaten as a vegetable) and for its beneficial health properties.14 Hummingbird tree is a rich source of vitamins, minerals and protein.14,15

Swanson Ultra Real Food Biotin is made from 100% certified organic Sesbania grandiflora extract, along with the cofactors of this nourishing plant, providing 5,000 mcg of biotin in every 2 capsule serving. Read Biotin Benefits for Every Body to learn more about how biotin nourishes your body.

Real Food B-Complex

Individual B vitamins like the options mentioned above are excellent for filling in specific nutrient gaps, but all 8 B-complex vitamins are needed for optimal wellbeing. They all play complimentary but unique roles, so to cover all the bases we also developed a Real Food B-Complex Vitamin.

Our scientists and nutritionists took a close look at the available options for creating a well-rounded B-complex supplement from whole food sources. The answer was nutritionally-dense, organically-germinated quinoa sprouts.

Staying true to our promise of providing simple, effective solutions for modern wellness, this single superfood source gave us everything we needed to create a real food B-complex supplement. Swanson Ultra Real Food B-Complex vitamin provides the full spectrum of organic, botanical B vitamins.

Read Your Complete Guide to B Vitamins to learn about the benefits of the entire B-complex family of vitamins.

Real Food Nourishment for a Healthier Life

At Swanson Health, we are continuously working to develop superior products that make a real difference to your wellness journey. That includes bringing you cleaner, more transparent labels and supplement ingredients backed by science.

Keep an eye out for more articles in our Science Behind Your Pill series, and sign up for Swanson Health emails to get new promotions, articles and product announcements delivered to your inbox.

Also, check out Real Food: A Revival or a Revolution? to learn more about why we believe real food ingredients are here to stay, and read How to Choose Quality Supplements to get the scoop on what to look for in your next supplement purchase.

Lindsey Bristol, Swanson Health Products



About Lindsey Toth, MS, RD
Registered Dietitian, Swanson Health

Lindsey is a nationally recognized registered dietitian and nutritionist with a soft spot for ice cream. She empowers people to take charge of their health by finding the balance between the pleasure and nourishment in food.

Her philosophy is that you should take care of your body because it’s the only permanent home you have. It’s what inspired her to pursue a career in nutrition and, ultimately, led her to Swanson Health.


1 Most Americans Don’t Get Enough Nutrients, But They Consume Over-The-Top Levels Of Fat And Sodium: Study. (Accessed 08/10/2018)

2 Do vitamins in pills differ from those in food? (Accessed 08/10/2018)

3 9 Science-Based Benefits of Niacin (Vitamin B3). (Accessed 08/10/2018)

4 What is Orgen-N®? Orgen® Family. (Accessed 08/10/2018)

5 Holy Basil. WebMD. (Accessed 08/10/2018)

6 Holy Basil. (Accessed 08/10/2018)

7 The Benefits of Folic Acid for Women. (Accessed 08/10/2018)

8 Folic acid in diet. MedlinePlus. (Accessed 08/10/2018)

9 USDA Food Composition Databases. United States Department of Agriculture. (Accessed 08/10/2018)

10 Lemon Peels: The Cheapest Investment In Your Health? MindBodyGreen. (Accessed 08/10/2018)

11 What is Orgen-FA®? Orgen® Family. (Accessed 08/10/2018)

12 Biotin Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health. (Accessed 08/10/2018)

13 Biotin for Hair Growth: Does It Work? Healthline. (Accessed 08/10/2018)

14 Sesbania grandiflora (L.) Poiret: A Potential Agroforestry Tree Species. ResearchGate. (Accessed 08/10/2018)

15 What is Orgen-Bio®? Orgen´Family. 08/10/2018)

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.