What Are Real Food Vitamins? Ask An Expert

Last Update: March 7, 2024

The supplement aisle can be a confusing place. Real food vitamins, probiotics, prebiotics… where are you supposed to begin?

With so many products to choose from and such a wide range of price points, it can be a challenge to figure out which supplements and real food vitamins are the best for you: your unique needs, your dietary restrictions, your lifestyle, and your budget.


When we have questions about supplements, we bring them to Sara Rodich, Vitamin and Supplement Product Innovator at Thrive Market. Below, she shares some helpful insights from her career in the supplements industry, and explains how our new wellmade by Thrive Market Real Food Vitamins take ingredient scrutiny to the next level.

First off, why does it matter what supplements are made of?

Whatever your reason for taking real food supplements or probiotics—to help with digestion, boost your energy levels, or improve your sleep, for instance—you want it to work, right? In that case, it’s important to look beyond the lofty claims in that targeted Instagram ad you keep seeing. 

If you expect your supplements to do what they’re intended to, you need real ingredients, not “fairy dust.” That’s what Rodich calls the common industry practice of throwing everything but the kitchen sink into a supplement formula and calling it a cure-all. She explains that when brands include a large number of ingredients in a single supplement, it’s highly unlikely each of those ingredients could possibly be present at an efficacious level. “It’s very rare that [brands] have scientific literature demonstrating each of those 50 ingredients is at a potency that corresponds to an actual effect,” she says.  

Aside from lack of transparency in real food vitamins and overall supplement formulation leading to products that, simply put, just don’t work, Rodich says that the supplement industry also lacks consistent quality testing; while third-party testing for purity and potency is considered industry standard, unfortunately, not all brands do it.

Fortunately, Thrive Market does—and then some. No matter which wellmade by Thrive Market real food vitamins and supplements you choose, they will be third-party tested and free from 150 ingredients, including:

  • Hydrogenated oils 
  • High fructose corn syrup 
  • FD&C colors 
  • Artificial flavors 
  • Petroleum or petroleum byproducts 

“Our quality team is really focused on making sure everything is vetted to the Nth degree,” Rodich explains, adding that Thrive Market has a particularly robust quality process.

So, what are “Real Food Vitamins”?

Real food vitamins are pretty much what they sound like: vitamins made from real food ingredients. All of the food-based ingredients in wellmade by Thrive Market’s new Real Food Vitamins are vegan and non-GMO, and most of them are also organic.

What are some of the real foods in Real Food Vitamins?

Our Real Food Vitamins contain extracts from plant-based food ingredients like:

  • Amla: Also known as Indian Gooseberry, amla is a fruit that’s long been used in Ayurvedic medicine. It contains a large amount of vitamin C [1].
  • Moringa: The leaves of the moringa tree contain minerals like iron and magnesium, while the pods contain vitamin C.
  • Holy Basil: Also known as Tulsi, holy basil is an adaptogen that may help protect the body from the effects of various stressors [2].
  • Sunflower seed kernel: These seeds provide vitamin E, an important antioxidant.
  • Achiote: Also known as annatto, this seed from the achiote tree is a source of antioxidants
  • Shiitake: This functional mushroom contains compounds that may support immunity.

What’s the difference between vitamins made from real food and regular vitamins?

Most vitamin and mineral supplements on the market contain synthetic ingredients [3]. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as they have been thoroughly tested and free of any potential allergens or harmful compounds. 

The big question is, do real food vitamins work better than supplements made with synthetic ingredients? Unfortunately, it’s a tough one to answer definitively. 

When you get your vitamin C from an orange instead of a vitamin C supplement, you also benefit from the other nutrients in the fruit, like fiber, vitamin A, and calcium. The same logic could, theoretically, be applied to supplements, Rodich explains; some vitamins made from real food may offer trace amounts of additional nutrients that isolated synthetics don’t.  

Some research has sought to prove that the human body can better absorb and use the nutrients in real foods than synthetic ingredients; therefore, vitamins made from real foods might be more effective because their nutrients are more bioavailable. But this concept is little more than a theory at this point—additional research is needed to determine the true nature of bioavailability as it relates to supplement ingredients. 

OK, so how do I decide which supplements are the best for me?

Supplements may offer health benefits whether they are made from synthetic ingredients or contain real food extracts [4]. Ultimately, it’s the quality of the ingredients that really matters, as well as formula transparency (so you don’t waste your time and money on a supplement that can’t possibly do everything it claims).

As always, talk to your health provider before taking any new real food supplements.

Buy Real Food Vitamins at Thrive Market

Real Food Organic Prenatal Multivitamin

An easy-to-digest, Certified Organic and vegan prenatal multivitamin to help provide nutritional support for mom and baby

Real Food Organic Women’s Multivitamin

A Certified Organic and vegan multivitamin formulated with women’s needs in mind and designed to help support optimal health, energy and well-being.

Real Food Organic Men’s Multivitamin

An iron-free multivitamin that is Certified Organic, vegan, and formulated with men’s needs in mind to help support optimal health, energy, and well-being.

Real Food Organic Calcium and Magnesium

Two essential nutrients to support bone density and strength, made with organic algae.

Real Food Vitamin C

A 500mg dose of this powerful antioxidant known for protecting cells against the effects of free radicals. 

Real Food Organic Vitamin D3

A Certified Organic and Vegan supplement to support the immune system and bone health.

Real Food Organic B Complex

A Certified Organic and Vegan B complex supplement to support energy, stress, and healthy metabolism.

Real Food Organic Iron

An organic, non-GMO, vegan iron supplement made with real food ingredients like organic sprouted amaranth, which is highly absorbable and gentle on your stomach.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before changing your diet or healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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Kirby Stirland

Kirby Stirland is a writer, editor, and New York transplant living in Los Angeles.

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