Thursday, May 26, 2011

Supplementally Yours

In a perfect world, food would be enough.  There would be no irradiation, no genetic modification, no pesticides.  In a perfect world, everything would be seasonal, locally and sustainably grown, and grown in nutrient-rich soil.  In a perfect world, everyone would have a complete diet, and in a perfect world, no one would have any need for anything more than that.

This is not a perfect world.

Supplements have a bad rap.  A few months ago, I was talking to someone about the viability of a vegan diet, and gave several examples of people (including myself) who thrive on it.  The response was, "Yeah, but they all have to supplement a lot."  My response was, "Of course they do.  You probably should, too."  The fact of the matter is, no matter how healthy you think your diet is, chances are, it could use a little supplementing.  Granted, I take things to an extreme, as I live and breathe health and nutrition, but most people could stand to, at minimum, take a good multivitamin.  (I do my multi in the form of a Vega shake made with unsweetened almond milk for breakfast every day, and add into that a greens supplement, as I strongly believe you can never have enough greens, and a berry supplement for inflammation control, as inflammation inside the body leads to serious illness).

These are the supplements I take every day, and the reasons I take them.  I know it sounds like a lot; it hasn't been a big deal for me and it's become so routine that I don't really think about it much.  I know that my lifestyle isn't for everyone, but it works really well for me.  And, while I am very, very conscious of my diet, I am absolutely not a "food is fuel" type person.  I love food.  I love good food.  I cook a lot, and I go out to eat a few times a week.  My life is not on hold because of my eating choices.  This is just for informational purposes; do with it what you will.

Oh, come on.  It's not that bad.


-Strontium:  Very important for bone health.  I wrote about it in detail in this post.

-Hyaluronic Acid:  Hyaluronic acid has been proven in study after study (like this one, for instance) to improve joint integrity, relieve arthritis, improve wound healing, and more.  Arthritis runs in my family, and as I work with my hands a lot and do a lot of heavy lifting, staying as pain-free as possible is very important.  Plus, I'm a klutz and have cats with pointy feet, so anything that speeds up wound healing is a good thing in my book.

-A vegan DHA supplement (made from algae):  As a vegan, the fatty acid DHA is hard to come by through diet alone.  It is generally found in fish oil.  DHA has been linked to the prevention of mental decline (and I can use all the mental help I can get!  ;) ), is protective against cancer and renal disease, and much more.  I highly recommend all vegans take a vegan DHA supplement.

-CoQ10:  As you may know, my father had his first heart attack at age 33, and had a slew of other heart problems throughout his life.  I make sure I take care of my heart.  CoQ10 is one way I do this.   This coenzyme has a strong role in heart health, and is being studied for its role in cancer prevention.   It also helps with migrane headaches, Parkinson's Disease, periodontal health, and shows potential in increasing lifespan.  In short, good stuff.

Resveratrol:  This phenol is the reason that wine is supposedly good for you.  Well, wine also leads to breast cancer in women and adds a lot of calories to the diet (plus alcohol tends to stimulate the appetite, all of which leads to weight gain) while the resveratrol alone seems to inhibit breast cancer, so I'd rather just take the phenol and call it a day.  Resveratrol has been shown not only to improve heart health, but to be useful for preventing a host of age-related chronic diseases, so it is definitely on my list of must-takes.

Turmeric:  for its anti-inflammatory and brain health-enhancing properties.  More on that here.

GPC/PS (Glycerophosphocholine, phosphatidylserine):  This powerhouse combo of complicated-sounding chemicals is a one-two punch for Alzheimer's prevention and brain health.  (GPC)(PS)   PS has also shown applications for sports recovery (very useful for me!).


SPORTS RECOVERY/ANABOLICS:

No, I don't do steroids.  I do, however, take supplements that have been proven to help muscle recovery and improve muscle growth, such as these:

-BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids) :
http://jn.nutrition.org/content/134/6/1583S.full

-Mucuna Dopa:  http://www.naturvitae.com/UK/ERBE/Mucuna_pruriens_Velvet_Bean.php

-Beta Alanine:
http://www.nrjournal.com/article/S0271-5317%2807%2900277-1/abstract;
http://www.springerlink.com/content/j471337168464032/

-Creatine Monohydrate:  Creatine supplementation is extremely controversial, for some reason.  However, the fact of the matter is, it is one of the most researched sports supplements out there, and there is little to no evidence that oral consumption of CM (about 5-20ish grams/day) has side effects or that it causes liver or kidney damage, as many people like to report.  What it does do, and has been proven to do over and over, is increase muscle strength and endurance in healthy adults.  As a matter of fact, it even shows significant benefits to those with neuromuscular diseases such as ALS.  As an added benefit, creatine supplementation has been shown to benefit cognitive abilities


So yeah, in a perfect world, all of this would easily come from our diet.  But when it comes down to it, we could all need a little help (some of us more than others).  Supplementation is not a bad word.  As a matter of fact, it's a word that will likely significantly enhance, if not save, your life.


Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Body, Meet Food.

I have recently started helping a friend of mine on her road to good health.  She told me she's never really thought about what she's put into her body before, and that the suggestions I was making were extremely eye-opening for her.  If the box said the food inside was healthy, she assumed that must be the case.  I believe that this is the norm for most people. 

Advertising is tricky.  Sneaky.  Underhanded.  The whole purpose of advertising is to get you to buy the product.  And while there are laws to keep things honest-ish, there are a million ways to get around them.  One of the things my friend asked about were Fiber One bars.  Let's take a look at the label:


On this label, I see no fewer than 5 different listings for sugar (sugar, honey, fructose, high maltose corn syrup, malt extract), and not a whole lot of ingredients that impress me as being worth the calories and sugar this bar provides.  However, because it is so high in fiber (a Health Food!), and because fiber is slapped on the label and featured prominently in the product's name, it's assumed that this is a healthy choice, when, in fact, it's pretty much a candy bar with fiber in it.  You're really much better off getting your fiber from naturally occurring foods like fruits, veggies, and sprouted grains.
Some sneaky advertising words to watch out for:  

-"All Natural"  (There is no legal basis for the label "All Natural."  All this means is that at some point, something in the food started out as something coming from nature.  Know what's natural?  Arsenic.  Think about it.)

-"Made With Whole Grains"  (Yeah.  So?  Read the rest of the ingredients.)

-"Lower in sugar"  (Than what?  If there's added sugar, don't get it.)

-"Low fat"  (Most of the time, low fat means high simple/processed carbs.  Don't fall for it.  Besides, low fat is not necessarily what we're going for here.  Fat isn't generally the problem, as long as you're eating healthy fats.  Processed carbs and sugars are the problem.)

As a general rule for label-reading, you want to see as few ingredients as possible, and they should all be ingredients that you recognize.  If you don't recognize the ingredients, look them up, and then decide if this is something you want to put in your mouth.  


Ingredients:  Apple.  This is good.
Ingredients: Sugar, whole grain corn flour, wheat flour, whole grain oat flour, oat fiber, soluble corn fiber, contains 2% or less of salt, milled corn, dried apples, apple juice concentrate, cornstarch, cinnamon, modified corn starch, yellow 6, baking soda, turmeric color, blue 1, natural and artificial flavor, red 40, BHT for freshness.

Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamin C (sodium ascorbate and ascorbic acid), niacinamide, reduced iron, zinc oxide, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), vitamin A palmitate, folic acid, vitamin D, vitamin B12.
 
We also talked about juice.  Juice is not a health food.  It's all the sugars from the fruit squeezed into a glass without any of the good stuff.  Think about how many oranges it takes to make a glass of orange juice.  Why not just eat an orange and get the fiber and other benefits eating the whole fruit provides?  If juice is a must for you, get yourself an excellent blender like a VitaMix or similar, and throw your whole fruit in there.  You'll still get to drink your juice, but it'll be in the form of a whole food.  Keep in mind that fruit is great for you, but it is still sugar, so don't go crazy with it.  

So don't get fooled by deceptive advertising.  Choose your food wisely.  Think about what you're eating.  Keep it close to nature.  As Michael Pollan wisely states:

1. Eat food.
2. Not too much.
3. Mostly plants.

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!