Plant-Based vs. Synthesized Nutrients: When is Synthesized Better?

3 min read

Learn about the difference between plant-based and synthesized nutrients.
Learn about the difference between plant-based and synthesized nutrients.

What does synthesis mean, and how does it apply to nutrients?

Simply put, synthesis is putting together compounds to make different compounds. Life does this naturally all of the time—we’re all synthesized from pieces of foods we ingest. You literally are what you eat. Trippy, right?

Synthesis can also happen in a lab. When we synthesize compounds from nature in a lab to create nutrients, we can make the exact same molecules that plants or our own bodies make. Meaning, the outcome is exactly the same—the only difference is where the process takes place, a.k.a whether it’s in a lab, plant, or animal.

Doesn’t my body prefer plant or food-based nutrients over synthetic ones?

A lot of people assume that plant or food-based nutrients are better just because they’re found in nature. Well, get ready to have your world rocked: plant-based isn’t always the best option. Truth is, your body can’t tell the difference between a plant-based nutrient and an identical synthesized molecule made in a lab. In some cases, synthesized nutrients may be designed to be easier for your body to absorb. Can a synthesized nutrient actually be “clean”? Spoiler alert: Yes.

A lot of people assume that synthesized means “fake,” and that the nutrient was extracted from nasty chemicals like the kind found in gas or petroleum. Well, that’s not totally right. While some nutrients on the market are created that way (and it’s 100% not wrong to be wary of ingesting them–yuck) there is a clean way to make vegan-friendly, synthetic nutrient forms without allergens, shady fillers, toxic mystery ingredients, unnecessary sugar, or gluten.

Case in point: nutrients like Folate can be made through yeast fermentation, the same process used to make beer and wine (cheers!). And the synthetic version of Vitamin K2 can start with compounds found in flowers—who doesn’t love a nice bouquet? These compounds are carefully reacted together so that they have the same makeup as molecules found naturally in food. So, even though the process is done in a lab, the nutrients are still made from compounds found in nature, and their molecular makeup is identical. See? Synthetic isn’t all bad.

When is a synthesized vitamin better than a plant-based version?

Your brain might still be exploding from learning that plant-based isn’t always better when it comes to the nutrients in your daily vitamin, so let’s break it down a little further. When deciding if a plant-based or synthesized nutrient is the best choice for a vitamin ingredient, here are three determining factors: When it’s impossible or unsustainable to find a plant-based source

1. To keep a vitamin vegan-friendly, you can use bioidentical, synthesized versions of nutrients that are otherwise only found in animal products.

Example: certain nutrients, like Vitamin B12 are nearly impossible to find in plant-based sources. In those cases, we can turn to a lab to create vegan-friendly forms that are identical to the same nutrients found in nature—but not harmful to animals, or your body.

2. The fiber and minerals in many plants can effect the absorption of some nutrients.

This means that even though a certain food is high in nutrients, other compounds inside of that food can get in the way of your body absorbing—and reaping the benefits of—them. Clean, synthetic versions can be designed to take out all of the extra stuff that gets in the way of nutrient absorption—giving your body just clean, nature-identical forms that it knows exactly what to do with.

3. When the plant extraction process weakens a nutrient’s potency.

In order to remove unwanted contamination in plant-based sources, they need to be processed. Those processes can degrade the forms of some nutrients and weaken their potency, making them less effective. This is especially the case for vitamins like Omega-3, which is super important to things like brain health. Creating those same nutrients synthetically allows us to maintain optimal potency, so your body can make the most of them.

Ritual’s Nutrients

Here at Ritual, we’ve searched high and low to find ideal, clean forms of every nutrient in our vitamins. Sometimes, that means using a plant-based version. Other times, we go synthetic. Either way, we’re committed to giving you the best forms for your body and your health.