Often when people want to kick-start a healthy new programme, they begin with a ‘detox’ (something for another post another time), then get the nutrition right and then, because of the clever marketing strategies of the big multinational companies, there are the supplements.
The choices are endless. Should you go with a multivitamin and mineral, or just a multivitamin, should you supplement them individually or go for substances that you have never heard of before but are the latest big news headline?
In my opinion, the average person with a healthy approach to nutrition and a balanced diet doesn’t need vitamin and mineral supplements. In fact, there is a staggering amount of evidence to suggest that to take supplements when you are not deficient in anything can do more harm than good. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
You should be able to get your minerals and vitamins from your food. To make it as simple as possible, a basic, quick way to increase the fibre and also the supplies of most of the vitamins and many minerals (notably vitamin E, which is an essential antioxidant that prevents tissue damage and encourages healing and new cell growth) is to include more green leafy vegetables within the diet.
The ‘Gold Standard’ approach to nutrition is for balance in all things. A varied and diverse balanced diet is paramount, with the body expending energy to both extract vitamins and minerals and to create the necessary fuel for every-day life.
There are, however, some food substances that can be added as ‘supplements’ to the diet which can have huge health benefits.
They are Known as ‘whole food supplements’ or sometimes referred to as ‘superfoods’.
I have already discussed one of the best of these – flax seed oil – in another post. In summary, flax seed provides huge benefits in boosting the important omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in a ratio that pretty much matches the human body and is therefore well balanced and easily integrated into the body.
Following are five ‘superfoods’ which can have great effect on your overall health.
Also known as nooch, this is deactivated yeast.
It has a cheesy, nutty flavour making it a great topping for salads or whole-grain dishes like rice, quinoa or couscous.
It is a rich source of vitamin B12, necessary for boosting energy, protecting brain, and promoting healthy skin, hair, and nails.
It is also a complete protein (a protein source like meat, eggs, and milk that contains all nine essential amino acids), so can be a valuable addition to vegetarian and vegan diets.
Stir 1-2 tablespoons into sauces, soups, or stir-fries to enhance the flavour and add a protein boost without a lot of extra calories (2 tablespoons has about 60 calories).
These miniature black seeds are mostly flavourless, but add a nice texture to salads and soups.
Chia seeds contain a lot of antioxidants, protein, fibre, zinc, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. Chia’s high dose of omega-3s can help to create anti-inflammatory conditions in the body and even possibly slow the ageing process.
You can grind chia seeds or leave them whole, sprinkle chia seeds on cereal, yogurt & salads. They form a gel when mixed with liquid, effectively thickening smoothies, salad dressings, and soups.
Tastes similar to yoghurt, this is a fermented dairy drink like a thick, protein-packed smoothie.
Kefir contains easily digestible proteins and is rich in gut-friendly bacteria called probiotics. Kefir has been shown to improve immune function and lower cholesterol. It’s an excellent source of vitamin D and calcium.
A small glass makes for a light breakfast or a sweet snack. Be careful: Since kefir is so packed with healthy probiotics, you may need to build a tolerance to it. Start with ~100ml and increase the amount every few days.
Can easily be added into your favourite meals by way of seed, nuts, oil or protein powder to improve the nutritional value.
Hemp oil has more essential fatty acids (efa)(omega-6 and omega-3) than any other oil. These fats can help reduce risk of heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and many other chronic diseases. Hemp is also a complete protein food, making it a wise choice for non meat-eaters.
Two tablespoons of hemp seeds mixed into a stir-fry or porridge or added to a smoothie boosts the protein and efa content.
Containing nearly twice the antioxidants of fresh garlic, without the aroma, black garlic—aged, fermented garlic looks ugly but is really good for you.
The powerful antioxidants in black garlic protect your cells from disease, stimulate healing and repair and slow tissue damage. Antioxidants may help slow the ageing process by blocking oxidisation.
It has a gentle, sweet flavour which won’t overpower any recipe in which you’d normally use fresh garlic. Add to pasta dishes, soups, stews and stir-fries for the nutritional benefit without the bad breath.
For both minerals and vitamins, generally speaking, an excess of them from unnecessary supplements is passed out of the body but can also lead the body to becoming lazy – not working to extract mineral or vitamin content and then if you ever stop taking the supplement, the body can get a nasty shock that there isn’t the huge volume of the substance available any more and you can suffer a degree of self-inflicted deficiency before the body learns to work to extract the necessary substances again.
Whilst vitamin supplements seem to have an increasing amount of evidence stacking up against them for otherwise healthy people, superfoods look like a much more viable alternative and to get all your vitamins from general good nutrition is a much better, more balanced approach to diet. Unless you are definitely deficient in some mineral then there is more than enough trace mineral content in a healthy, balanced diet all you do by supplementing more than you need of them is to pass them through your body and out the other end.
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