Everyday Essentials: Top Five Basics for Health
by Jennifer Palmer, N.D.
Keeping in peak health is essential this summer; here's what NEEDS recommends for the basic five!
Many of us would benefit from supplementation because we concede that it can be hard to eat ideally most of the time. However, even if we ate perfectly, many of these foods are harvested from nutrient-depleted soils. A good quality multi-vitamin is an excellent way to fill in the gaps. In fact, the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that people who take multi-vitamins have less risk of chronic disease.
There are two main categories of multi-vitamins:
• Standard USP vitamins
• Whole-food vitamins
USP vitamins are standardized to provide consistent levels of each nutrient. There are different varieties of each vitamin, so watch out for inexpensive products that may contain poorly absorbed versions of each nutrient. "Whole-food" vitamins differ from USP in that they are cultured or fermented in a medium which alters the configuration of the nutrient and makes it more bio-available and absorbable.
2. ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS (EFAS)
One of the most glaring deficiencies in the American diet is a member of the essential fatty acid family, Omega-3. These fats, though crucial for limiting the production of inflammatory mediators which have detrimental health effects, ironically cannot be readily synthesized by the body. People with EFA deficiencies commonly experience dry skin, dry scalp, eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, or heart disease. Fish oil is one of the best sources of Omega-3s, and is the one most efficiently used by the body to tame inflammation. Fatty fish is certainly an excellent source of EFAs, but heavy metals and toxic chemicals have contaminated a large percentage of this important food source. High quality supplemental fish oils are processed to remove any toxins and are truly a safer way to keep inflammation in check.
Probiotics, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidus, are the "good" bacteria that reside in the intestinal tract. These friendly bacteria are necessary for healthy digestion, immune function, and to prevent the growth of pathogenic, or harmful, bacteria and yeast. Probiotics are easily depleted in our intestines by diets high in sugar and animal protein, drinking tap water with chlorine, taking antibiotics, having hormonal imbalances, stress, and even the natural process of aging. Additionally, even if we already have good "microflora" in our intestines, the physical act of taking probiotics has been shown to increase immunity not just in our GI tract, but also in our entire bodies. A warning to those who are milk sensitive: probiotics are often cultured in a lactose medium so look for a dairy-free version.
4. GREEN DRINKS
These are highly concentrated forms of fruits, vegetables, and/or other foods, such as sprouts, grasses, sea vegetables, and probiotics, which have been shown to be extremely beneficial, yet difficult to incorporate into our diets on a regular basis. They can have profound influences on our health, such as reducing pain and inflammation, boosting our immune systems, and helping to increase our energy. Generally, they are powders that can be mixed into water, juice, or a protein shake. Their shelf-life is much longer than that of fruits and vegetables, making them easy to keep at the office or for travel.
Depending on your daily diet, it may be beneficial to add supplemental fiber to the diet. Low intake of fiber is associated with a variety of health problems, including constipation, colon cancer, and high cholesterol, just to name a few.