By Katie Allen, Guest Columnist.
Supplements are meant to do exactly what the word means: supplement us with nutrients when we can’t seem to fit the essential ones in our diet. In an ideal world, we would all be able to afford and consume the right amount of antioxidants, vitamins and macro-nutrients, but things happen and some days we can’t include a lot of nutrient-rich foods in our meals. Here are a few rules to help save your kidneys and your wallets:
Don’t believe all the hype
The strongest and longest living individuals in human history had very modest diets of unprocessed plants and fresh livestock or fish, so it’s important to keep it simple. We’re talking about body chemistry in the end, so one must not believe everything they see or hear. People on Instagram and around the gym give lots of advice, but they’re not doctors. And even though the employees at vitamin stores are educated, they’re there to sell you their products and again—aren’t doctors. A lot of products may look glamorous from the labels, but when you jump the gun and buy whatever you see, you’ll end up spending unnecessary amounts of money and overworking your kidneys, which have to filter out all those extra proteins and nutrients. More isn’t always better and you could end up really hurting yourself in the long run if you don’t take caution when choosing your supplements.
Make sure it’s backed up!
Nowadays, anybody can put any kind of supplement on the market. Let’s say you are looking for a whey protein powder to drink as a shake for after your workout to help build some muscle. There’s nothing that keeps a protein company from selling something labeled whey protein isolate that actually contains 1% natural whey with a whole lot of artificial or harmful ingredients. Not to mention that it’s expensive! When thinking about going out and getting something, make sure you get what you pay for, which should be the best out there. Believe it or not, even bodybuilding and fitness websites are allowed to publish some bizarre advice. If you’d like to find research-based advice and recommendations, a good website to use is www.consumerlab.com. And a popular company that approves trustworthy products is NSF (www.NSF.com). Look for their dark blue logo of approval for products.
If you’re looking for the smartest and safest way to get condensed forms of nutrients and minerals, include foods in your diet that are naturally nutrient dense, like superfoods or extracts of superfoods. This way, you know that you are getting real food with authentic, disease fighting properties. Here are some well-known superfoods and their benefits:
Acai juice: age-fighting, free-radical fighting, protein, Omega 3, 6, and 9
Wheat germ: folate, thiamin, lowers LDL cholesterol, Omega-3 fatty acid, vitamin E, iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium, selenium and manganese.
Wheatgrass: increased red blood cell count, stimulates metabolism, chemically neutralizes pollutants, detoxification, chlorophyll, anti-inflammatory
Spirulina: immunity, eye health, eases PMS, blood circulation, digestion, zinc, selenium, potassium, vitamin b, c, e and d
Looseleaf, organic green tea: polyphenols like flavonoids and catechins, which function as powerful antioxidants, fights free radicals
Spices and herbs like red pepper, turmeric, nutmeg, cinnamon, garlic, and ginger: fighting e. coli, fights tumors, blood circulation, metabolism, fights bad cholesterol, digestion… the list goes on.
Chia seed: combats diabetes, bone and teeth strength, manganese, Omega-3’s fiber, protein, phosphorus, improves blood pressure
Organic raw cacao (yes that means cocoa): flavonoid antioxidant fights cardiovascular disease, overall heart health
Beet Juice: powerful antioxidants, liver protection, iron, blood circulation
As you explore homemade cooking as a method for being healthy, you can find creative ways to incorporate these foods into your day-to-day life. Thanks to the internet, we have information and recipes at our fingertips. The amount of specific nutrients that one may need varies depending on factors such as age and gender. For example, women need a greater amount of folate in their diet and the elderly usually have a hard time getting enough Riboflavin naturally.
See a nutritionist
Even if you have a pretty good idea of what’s healthy, it’s very important to talk to someone who can clear up any questions and give personalized recommendations. Luckily, VCU students have free access to a knowledgeable nutritionist. Just call or stop by the Student Health Center on Broad Street and schedule an appointment Dr. Cochran. As you learn more about your personalized body needs, read more about how to be the healthiest you can be. If you’re smart and consistent with your health and lifestyle, your body will thank you.