Most dictionaries define the word synergy as follows: “The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.”
When it comes to nature, nature always works in synergy, never in isolation. And so it is with nutrients that come directly from nature—as in real organic food—as opposed to isolated, synthetic nutrients that are created in a lab.
Take vitamin E for instance. 400mg.
That’s how much vitamin E you can get in most vitamin E supplements these days.
But when it comes to the vitamin E found in a real-food like an avocado, one fruit contains a measly 2.6mg of vitamin E. So reach for the store stuff right? WRONG!
Even though it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the supplement has more vitamin E than the food source, it doesn’t mean the supplement is any better, or even as good! But why?
Because as with all nutrients, vitamin E does not play well on its own.
When vitamin E wrestles free radicals (unstable molecules that inflate risks of chronic diseases), it loses its ninja-antioxidant outfit. It then metamorphoses into a free radical itself. This explains why vitamin E supplements are linked to higher risks of heart failure, and hemorrhagic stroke.
However, unlike regular supplements, avocados contain other nutrients like vitamin C and a whole host of next-to-invisible compounds called; micronutrient co-factors (that are also found in real-food-derived supplements). These other nutrients can sacrifice their antioxidant capes in order to recycle the free radical back into vitamin E.
The amazing thing is, after nutrients like vitamin C lose their capes, they too become free radicals. Thanks to the laws of synergy, further nutrients like glutathione—also present in avocados—sacrifice their antioxidants and the cycle repeats itself over and over again.
Take-home message: Vitamins are team-players. And they need their team to exert health benefits. This is called the power of nutrient synergy.