Good question and excellent thought process about this topic.
Anytime you purchase a whole-foods supplement it will be lower potency than one that is made from pure, isolated nutrients.This is because you're getting either whole dried foods compacted into a tablet, or whole dried foods compacted into a tablet with some added food-grown nutrients. You just can't get a large amount of any one nutrient into an easy to swallow tablet when there's so much food in it. Only purified nutrients, with few or no synergistic factors can be squeezed in high dosages into a small space. Even so, you'll see on labels that whole foods nutrients often require you to take several rather large tablets for your daily dose because the tablets are mostly food.
But here's what I consider the more interesting part. All supplement companies, even very high-end ones, advertise the high absorption rates of their products. And they're right. Most high-end supplements absorb very well into the bloodstream. There's a difference, however, between what we absorb and what our bodies are able to fully utilize. And, aye, there's the rub (pardon my misplaced Shakespeare).
I've spoken with James Doherty on several occasions and have attended some of his webinars (I recommend these), and there's ample evidence to indicate that it's whole foods that the body fully recognizes and can most easily use. This is why isolated nutrient supplements need to be so high potency: It's so enough of each nutrient can actually get into your body to do something. Whole foods supplements seem to be more readily available to the body's cells, where they're used. Don't forget that our bodies evolved eating whole foods, and they have an innate intelligence that recognizes the right and wrong forms of nutrients (my opinion).
This is not to say that high-potency supplements don't have their place in the world. For therapeutic purposes they're indispensable, and some people have ongoing needs for nutrient therapy. For most of us, however, who need that "insurance policy" to make certain we obtain what we need, as I say over and over, I much prefer whole-foods supplements (even if they're spiked a little with nutrients to keep their size down) for everyday maintenance use. Don't forget that you're getting plenty of nutrients in your E4H diet with booster foods. And this is what so many of us are forgetting. Say, for instance, we require 1200 mg. of calcium per day. So, we purchase our 1200 mg. supplement and take it faithfully. But what if we're already getting this amount in our dairy products, leafy greens, seeds, etc? Do we even stop to think about the nutrient content of our foods?
As for how much of each nutrient any one individual requires, well, you know, that's totally individual and can be at least partially determined through various methods of testing. If you have a chronic health condition, you can work with an NC or an ND to help you determine your specific needs. Otherwise, a varied whole foods diet with booster foods and optimal digestion, and a whole foods "insurance policy" supplement may be all you need.
The Organic Consumer's Association (www.organicconsumers.org
) is offering a book on this topic of whole foods vs. synthetic supplements. A couple of its chapters are excerpted here: http://www.organicconsumers.org/nutricon.cfm