Supplements for Healthy Life is the third post in the series of articles related to my nutritional ideology. My main objective is to be healthy. I spoke about my dietary habits in my article Eating for Healthy Life. I also had a look at food that I had during my past travels in Is Healthy Nutrition Possible When We Travel? That was an interesting post as it referred to the period before and after I had become sufficiently informed to pay attention to my diet. Anyhow, learning about that what we eat directly affects our health is a never-ending process. I closely watch what I eat every day and I will write about my findings in future posts.
Nevertheless, I still think that it is difficult to adhere to a particular dietary regime when we travel. I believe the main reason is mainly because it is difficult to be completely in control of our choice of food and its preparation. Very often when I travel and I am hungry, I look for the nearest place to eat. I always try my best to go for healthier options, but that’s not always possible. Sometimes, the actual situation in which I find myself forces me to make a choice that normally I would not make. In other words, if there is only one place where I can eat, I don’t make any fuss and I eat there.
If we regularly eat, good, healthy, natural food, we should get all nutrients necessary for healthy functioning of our bodies. But, it is not always possible to eat nutritious food. This is especially the case when we are away from home. Also, some nutrients are only available is certain foods, which may or may not regularly feature in our diet. Certain nutrients are scarce or they may only be available in reduced quantities, especially in vegetables grown in nutrients depleted soil.
This is why I use supplements. I try hard to eat well but I also think that it is important for me to complement my diet with selected supplements. I more or less have a pretty good idea of what I get in sufficient quantities and what I miss in my diet. For example, selenium is a scarce mineral, available in trace quantities in a limited number of food products. Brazil nuts are the best source of selenium. But, how often do I buy and eat Brazil nuts? That’s why I take selenium as a supplement.
In this post, I will talk about supplements that I take on a regular basis. Some I take every day and some from time to time. I do this in order to help my body function properly, to increase and maintain immunity and to help my body detoxify and to get rid of toxins.
This is the list of my favourite supplements:
1. VITAMIN C
Vitamin C is readily available in a number of different products. Citrus food is the best source of Vitamin C. I regularly eat fruit but in limited quantities, because of its fructose content. Fructose is sugar. I try to limit my intake of sugar as much as possible. That’s why I take 500mg Vitamin C supplement in addition to what I get from food that I regularly eat. Our body cannot store Vitamin C and only uses the necessary daily amount. The excess quantity of Vitamin C is eliminated. This means that there is no point in taking bigger quantities of this important vitamin, as it is simply wasted. But, this also means that we have to make sure that we take Vitamin C every day, either in food or as a supplement.
Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory herb. People have been using turmeric for centuries to treat various health issues. This root is native to Southeast Asia. It has a beautiful golden colour and people also call it “Indian Saffron”.
Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, has been extensively studied for its disease fighting properties and health benefits.
The body does not absorb curcumin very well on its own. To help our bodies get the maximum benefit, we need to consume curcumin with black pepper. Piperine, a compound in black pepper, increases bio-availability of curcumin by 2000%. This is very important to keep in mind. You can also use curcumin as a spice when you prepare food, but you have to add black pepper. The alternative is to choose a good curcumin supplement with piperine extract. Benefits are impressive:
- It is anti-inflammatory
- Supports healthy joints
- Promotes heart health
- Encourages healthy cholesterol levels
- Boosts stress tolerance
- Supports weight loss
- Supports healthy metabolism and helps maintain normal blood sugar levels
- Optimises vitality
- Supports brain health
- Reduces risk of cancer by inhibiting the growth and the spread of tumours
Of all supplements that I take, I consider this one to be the most important.
Chlorella is a fresh water single cell green algae. It is a natural whole food that contains nutrients perfectly designed by nature, such as Iron, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and Folic Acid. Benefits of Chlorella are many:
- It is very nutritious. Because of its impressive nutritional profile, they call it a “super food”. Although, its exact nutrient content depends on growing conditions, species used and processing. Every good brand provides this information clearly
- It binds to heavy metals and helps the body detoxify
- Chlorella helps enhance the immune system
- It may help improve cholesterol levels
- Acts as an antioxidant. It contains several antioxidant compounds such as chlorophyll, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein. These substances can help fight many chronic diseases
- It helps keep healthy blood pressure
- It could improve blood sugar levels. One study found that taking chlorella for 12 weeks lowered fasting blood sugar levels in both, healthy individuals and those that have a high risk lifestyle
- Chlorella may enhance aerobic endurance
The current scientific literature does not indicate a specific dosage. This is because there is no sufficient evidence to determine the quantity needed to see therapeutic effects. Most supplements indicate a daily dosage of 2-3 grams. The supplement that I use comes in 200mg tablets. I normally take 5 tables or 1 gram per day. The manufacturer recommends 15-40 tablets per day, but I don’t think it is necessary. The evolution has perfectly programmed our bodies to detoxify on a daily basis. We just need to help our body accomplish that vital mission with good nutrition and perhaps with several key supplements. This is why I take chlorella.
Selenium is a mineral found in Brazil nuts, poultry, fish, eggs and cereal. Its intake is crucial, however both selenium deficiency and excess are harmful. Taking it in the right amount can have wide-ranging health benefits, while its deficiency is linked to numerous health problems:
- Protects the brain
- Fights inflammation
- Helps prevent cancer
- Helps fight viruses and aids the body in producing antibodies
- Stimulates the immune system
- Aids fertility and reproductive health
- May support a healthy heart
It is very important to take this mineral in optimal quantity, which is 55mcg per day. You have to consider all possible sources when you calculate your daily intake. For example, one Brazil nut contains on average 50mcg of selenium. If you eat two Brazil nuts per day and you at the same time eat fish, you probably don’t need to take the supplement. In other words, if you take through your diet approximately 100-150mcg of this mineral per day, that amount is more than sufficient.
But, be careful as its content in Brazil nuts may vary depending on origin and especially on the type of soil where they were grown.
I have been taking selenium on a regular basis for over 20 years now. If I take it as a supplement I pay attention to the daily dose which means that I take one 50mcg tablet every day or one 100mcg tablet every 2 days.
I also buy and eat Brazil nuts from time to time. I eat one or two nuts per day, although I don’t like them very much. When I eat Brazil nuts, I don’t take the supplement.
Echinacea belongs to a group of flowering plants in the daisy family. They are native to North America where they grow in prairies and open wooded areas. Only three of nine different species are used as herbal supplements. Both, the plant’s upper part and roots are used in tablets, tinctures, extracts and teas.
Echinacea plants contain antioxidants which are impressive active compounds that have many health benefits. Antioxidants are molecules that help defend cells against oxidative stress, a state linked to chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and many others.
Benefits of taking echinacea on a regular basis are many:
- Positive effect on the immune system
- May lower blood sugar level
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- May offer protection against cancer, simply by its positive effect on the immune system
I normally take echinacea for two months, then I stop for a month. I especially take echinacea when I get a cold (a viral infection), as I have noticed that I recover much faster and the cold is not as severe as it should normally be. Sometimes I take tablets, sometimes liquid tincture. Recommended doses are 300-500mg for tablets and 2.5ml for tincture. But, I take it only once per day because I do many other good things for my health and immunity.
6. MILK THISTLE
Milk Thistle is a plant with white veins and distinctive purple flowers. The story has it that a drop of Virgin Mary’s milk fell onto its leaves. The active ingredient in this plant is a compound Silymarin.
Milk Thistle protects liver.
It is used as a complementary therapy by people who have liver damage due to various conditions. That can be alcoholic liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver, hepatitis or even liver cancer.
Milk Thistle helps reduce liver inflammation and liver damage caused by free radicals, which are produced when liver metabolises toxic substances.
The main reason why I use Milk Thistle supplement is to help my liver in its daily detoxification job.
7. MULTIVITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS
To conclude the list of supplements that I take on a regular basis, I would also recommend multivitamins. Ideally, we should get all our vitamins from natural and nutritious food that we eat on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, I take multivitamins on and off. I eat a lot of vegetables, thus I believe that my vitamin intake is good. But when I travel, it is more difficult for me to control my diet. That’s why I always take some good multivitamins with me. I normally take one tablet in the morning with my breakfast. The boost of energy that I feel afterwards is amazing.
But, make sure that you carefully choose good quality multivitamins. Also, check all ingredients carefully as very often cheaper variants contain sugar that may be concealed under different names. You do not want to take multivitamins which are mostly sugar.
Like most thing that we do in our lives, we need to decide what is best for us and to take an appropriate action. The same logic applies to choosing right supplements. We are lucky because the information is so widely and easily available now. We just need to do some research. I have invested a lot of time and effort to educate myself in order to improve my overall well being and health. We can all do that. Perhaps, what’s needed is just a gentle nudge in the right direction!
One final note, products that appear in photos in this post are for illustration only, so that you know what I am talking about. I also use these same products, but not all the time. Sometimes I buy different brands. But they are all good quality products. You too make sure to use only good quality supplements!