Nutrition: Supplements, Vitamins And Herbal Treatments
Nutrition is a huge part of health and wellbeing, because getting enough proteins, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients helps to fight off illness and keep your body strong. But, in today’s modern world, this kind of nutrition is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve.
The nutritional decline
A 2012 study by Popkin et al. shows that our diets have changed significantly over the last few decades. With modern diets too often dominated by processed foods, unhealthy fats, and sugar, we’ve seen sharp global spikes in statistics relating to lifestyle illnesses like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Terrifyingly, even if your diet does contain fresh vegetables, they’re probably not providing the same nutritional clout as 50 years ago. According to Scheer and Moss (2018) of Scientific American, the soil depletion that is caused by intensive agricultural methods means that the nutritional value of our fresh fruits and vegetables is decreasing too.
Ray (2015), of the New York Times ‘Science Q&A’ column, says that this nutritional decline is caused by more than just soil depletion. It can also be attributed to changes in farming methods, processing, preparation, pesticides, chemical fertilisers, and the preference for high-yielding crops – which is associated with lower nutritional density.
The role of supplements
How can we get enough nutrients to keep us healthy? Ray (2015) explains that the best approach is to eat “more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and beans, and less refined sugars, separated fats and oils and white flour and rice, which… have all suffered losses much greater than the potential losses for garden crops.”
Additionally, you can take nutritional supplements like vitamins and minerals. While they’ll never replace a healthy diet, many experts believe that supplements can help to bridge the gap between the nutrients you get from your food and what your body needs.
These are some of the common supplements:
According to MedilinePlus (2018), there are 13 essential vitamins that we need for healthy cell function and development, including vitamins A, C, D, E, K, multiple B vitamins, and folate (folic acid). According to Whitaker (2018), a daily multivitamin can support your health in many ways, including helping you to:
- Manage your stress
- Improve your skin
- Boost your mood
- Detoxify the body
- Boost energy levels
- Support healthy aging
- Maintain muscle strength
- Correct nutritional deficiencies
2. Omega fish oils
WebMD (2017) explains that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are especially important for preventing and managing heart disease. Studies have also found that omega-3 helps to:
- Reduce triglycerides
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce abnormal heart rhythms
- Slow the development of plaque in the arteries
- Reduce the likelihood of heart attack and stroke
- Reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death in people with heart disease
According to Brown (2016), dietician and writer for Healthline.com, probiotics are the bacterial micro-organisms that live in your gut. When this stomach flora is out of balance, supplementing with a probiotic can help to:
- Reduce cholesterol
- Lose weight and belly fat
- Alleviate digestive issues
- Boost your immune system
- Improve several mental health issues
- Reduce the severity of some allergies
4. Green supplements
Mohr (2017), a nutrition consultant and author, says that less than 6% of men and 9% of women between the ages of five and 34 consume the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Leafy greens form an especially potent part of that fruit and vegetable count when it comes to nutrition. According to Alam (2017), they may even prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s. If you don’t get enough leafy greens in your diet (like in salads or smoothies), taking a powdered or capsuled supplement can help.
5. Herbal treatments
EnCognitive.com author Nancy Kalish (2018) says there are many powerful herbal and natural supplements available too, like:
- Turmeric, for inflammation
- St John’s Wort, for depression
- Cinnamon, for blood sugar control and cholesterol
- Garlic, for cardiovascular health and cancer prevention
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So, do they really work to achieve better nutrition?
Not all nutritional supplements have been tested for efficacy, warns Harvard Health Publishing (2013). As Schedule 0 Category D substances, nutritional supplements are also relatively unregulated. But they shouldn’t be underestimated. So if you want to add a new supplement to your regimen, do your research and, most importantly, chat to your pharmacist or local health professional.
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