As the weather gets warmer, I love walking through my favorite park in New York City- Prospect Park. Dubbed, “The Central Park of Brooklyn,” this is my favorite place to go for a run, to visit the Farmer’s Market, and especially to spend time in as the seasons change.
I love visiting the year-round farmer’s market, especially as the weather gets colder, to stock up on fall foods. The greatest defense against cold-weather bugs is a healthy diet full of colorful, antioxidant-rich foods.
However, many of us try to prepare for this season, and other times of year, by stocking up on supplements to prevent colds and flus. Supplements cannot replace a healthy, whole-food diet as very few things created in a lab are better for you than that which occurs naturally.
The whole is not equal to the sum of its parts. A food is not a compilation of fragmented nutrients. Eating whole foods will lead to the greatest health benefits because the food is in its complete, unprocessed form. The interaction of all nutrients in the complete food provides the highest nutritional value.
Walking into a drugstore, we are met with entire aisles of vitamin and mineral supplements, powders, bars, and shakes. None of these is a replacement for actual, whole food, and isolated nutrients are not likely absorbed as well as the nutrients within a whole, unprocessed food. It can also be difficult to identify the source, and quality of the source, in many supplements.
As a general rule, I steer clear of bars, shakes, and powders as many of these are full of sugar and other additives with names I rarely recognize. However, there are a few key supplements that I recommend others to consider because it can be difficult to obtain needed quantities of these key nutrients. No supplement is a replacement for a healthy diet or for consuming the foods in which the supplement is found. The following describe the nutrients in which many of us are deficient due to the Standard American Diet and modern lifestyle changes.
Our bodies make vitamin D through sun exposure. Vitamin D also helps the body to absorb calcium, keep the bones strong by maintaing bone density, and can help to prevent colds and flus. Vitamin D can also be found in fortified dairy products.
Because many of us now work very hard to protect ourselves from sun exposure, and because the sun is often not strong enough in the Northern Hemisphere to provide adequate amounts of Vitamin D, a supplement is helpful. Some studies have shown that Vitamin D can also improve anxiety, depression, and other psychological ailments, and generally boosts the immune system.
Recommendation: 2,000 iu of Vitamin D/ daily
Fish oil contains important Omega-3 fatty acids which help to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation occurs naturally as a defense mechanism in the body when foreign invaders are detected. Blood rushes to these sources and inflames them to eliminate the invaders. However, due to poor diets and lifestyle, many of our bodies contain chronic inflammation because the body must increase its inflammatory responses because of the increase in foreign invaders.
Fish oil helps to balance inflammatory responses.
Sources of Omega-3:
- salmon (seek wild salmon, like sockeye, for the fewest toxins)
- flax seed
Probiotics are the essential microorganisms, bacteria, in your gut to help keep your digestive tract in balance and to prevent inflammation. The rise in the use of antibiotics often leads to the elimination of these essential bacteria and can cause intestinal problems.
Probiotics are less of a supplement because there are many source of probiotics in food, including real yogurt (not the laboratory-created yogurt like Yoplait), kefir, fermented foods like pickles, kimchi, and sauerkraut. My favorite source of probiotics is Kombucha- a fermented tea beverage.
A probiotic supplement can also be taken to help balance the gut and support the digestive process.
*Please note, these recommendations come from research during my schooling with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and are intended to inspire the reader into additional research. These recommendations are not intended to replace medical advice. Please consult with your doctor before beginning a supplement program.