Supplements, what and why?
Supplements are a pretty divisive topic. There are the pill-poppers who are certain that without their handful of pills every day, their body couldn’t sustain itself. Then there are the skeptics who believe everything we need is in food, and supplements are nothing but a useless – or even harmful – marketing ploy.
So which one is it?
Should you be incorporating any supplements into your self-care routine?
Well, you can certainly have too much of a good thing, and having a varied, balanced diet is of course key. You shouldn’t rely on supplements to get the nutrition you need.
That being said, some supplements – especially those that are a whole, natural substance rather than an isolated active ingredient, can bring a whole new dimension of health benefits, and since they are essentially a food – are absorbed easily and without that same risk of buildup that an isolated vitamin or mineral can inflict.
Our favourite natural supplements
1. Ginkgo Biloba
The therapeutic properties of the Ginkgo Biloba plant are said to improve brain and eye health as well as blood circulation. It is a common supplement for memory or boosting your brainpower. You can buy it cheaply in capsule form and since it is it its natural form, you don’t risk the side-effects of other pills claimed to boost your brain performance.
We could all use the extra cognitive pep right now – but if you suffer from migraines, seizures, or brain fog, then this supplement could be especially useful.
As already discussed in my article on hormone imbalances, this ancient Peruvian secret has been gaining popularity in the rest of the world for some time now. As an adaptogen, when ingested, maca root adapts to your specific hormone levels and encourages a natural increase or decrease in each hormone, depending on your profile.
Maca has long been used as a natural remedy for improved fertility, hair, skin, and nails, as well as for treating PMS. In its mild and sweet-tasting powder form it can be added to hot drinks, cereal, or porridge – or simply taken as a capsule.
From calming anxiety to improving sleep quality, magnesium has amazing calming and grounding qualities. In fact, Magnesium is the eleventh most abundant element in the human body and is an essential component for your cells and vital enzymes.
Most of us could do with more magnesium, which could be one of the many factors contributing to widespread anxiety and insomnia today – but even the natural-derived magnesium supplements are high-strength as they come in the undiluted mineral form – so be sure not to take more than you need and affect the delicate balance of your body, as this could cause new problems.
If you’re someone who often feels nervous, anxious, or on high-speed at all times, then taking a magnesium supplement not long before bedtime, or when you feel most intense, can work wonders.
4. Hemp Oil
As discussed previously, CBD oil has myriad benefits for your health and wellbeing. While retaining some stigma attached to it due to its association with cannabis, this compound of the marijuana plant has no high, but only the calming effect.
Taking a few drops of hemp oil under your tongue will not have the dramatic light-headed effect you may either fear or hope for… But regular use can help to reduce inflammation (for instance, helping with allergies, arthritis, or acne) and also improve your brain health and mental clarity.
5. Flaxseed Oil
Of course, I had to mention this Omega-3 saviour! As I discussed in my hormone imbalance, mood disorder, and quarantine healthy food staples articles, Omega-3 is crucial for our overall health and wellbeing – and flaxseed (also known as linseed) oil is a great way to get your fix every single day.
If you struggle to incorporate flax seeds or flaxseed oil into your meals, you can easily take it in capsule form – or simply take a teaspoon of oil as a supplement each day – and feel safe in the knowledge that your Omega-3 your needs are met.
Ginseng is a long-adored healthy herbal supplement that has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine. It is known for its high antioxidant content and powerful anti-inflammatory effects. It could also help regulate blood sugar and energy levels, strengthen your immune system, and decrease your risk for certain illnesses in the long-term.
You can buy a variety of types of ginseng in small tablet or liquid supplement form as a great addition to your health routine.
7. Vitamin C
Perhaps the first supplement you ever took as early as childhood or whenever you come down with a cold, vitamin C cannot go overlooked just because now your knowledge of health and wellness has expanded.
Most of us are well aware of this immunity-boosting hero, but we only reach for it when we’re already ill. Granted, most fruits and many vegetables have copious amounts of this good stuff, so if you’re eating citrus fruits, pineapple, red peppers, or broccoli every day, then you may not need to supplement too. But, if like many of us, you are currently having a hard time getting hold of enough fresh produce, then it may be a good idea to hedge your bets with a simple vitamin C supplement. If you prefer to keep your supplements natural, opt for one that is transparent about its origins – for instance, rosehip or acai berry supplements.
8. Vitamin D
As already discussed in my whole article about vitamin D deficiency – since this one deserves an article all for itself, trust me – adequate vitamin D intake is essential.
From keeping your hormones in check, which in turn keeps mood swings at bay, to the essential bone and muscle-building properties when it teams up with calcium (another nutrient you must make sure you’re getting enough of!) – vitamin D really can’t go overlooked. And since most of us don’t spend enough time outside at the best of times, let alone with quarantine and British weather making our exposure to the rays even rarer, supplementation is vital for most of us.
Again, if your concerned about where your supplement is coming from, then bear in mind that most vitamin D3 supplements on the market are derived from the lanolin in sheep’s wool. If you are vegan or simply are put off by this fact, then you can also opt for supplements derived from mushrooms or other edible fungi.
To Supplement or not to supplement?
Many of us are tempted by the allure of prettily packaged supplements claiming to change our lives one pill at a time. Although there are many natural supplements that can have a real noticeable impact on your overall health and wellbeing when taken responsibly, we can also run the risk of getting a little carried away, popping the pills as though this will fix all of our health concerns.
Instead, I recommend doing your research into supplements that you may personally benefit from – but maintaining a varied and balanced diet as your number one health priority. We all have particular needs – especially when it comes to hormones and mental health – but as a general rule, try to meet most of your nutritional needs through your food intake.
If you feel a little overwhelmed by all of the nutrients you feel you should be getting, then before you buy every supplement under the sun, try out a free app such as Cronometer to track your current daily nutrient intake every once in a while. There’s no need to do this every day and become obsessed, but if you monitor once in a while how your food intake is or isn’t meeting your needs, it can either put your health anxiety at rest or point out some real gaps in your nutrient profile that need to be addressed ASAP.
Are you a supplement-supporter or do you prefer to stay clear of the pills? What supplements do you take or are considering to start taking? Let us know in the comments!