We’d all love to find a food or “super pill” that will cure anything that ails us, from the common head cold to the extra ten pounds we find ourselves trying to sweat off every Christmas. Many nutrition companies swear that these products are already available on the market. The question is, are they really? Do these products truly offer hope, or are they just more of the same when it comes to nutrition nonsense?
Imagine the improved health and happiness that men and women all over the world would be able to enjoy if there were really such a thing as a weight loss super pill that could help you lose weight while still continuing to enjoy your favorite his calorie latte every morning. Unfortunately, regardless of the claims of marketing companies all over the world, such a thing doesn’t exist.
What’s more, there may be danger in them there hills when people go looking for a fast solution to their weight loss dilemma. Some products sold over the counter, such as herbal preparations that contain the herb ephedra, have been linked to real health problems. Other products, such as those that are supposed to increase serotonin (a neurochemical involved in appetite regulation), just have not been proven. The danger there may lie in wasted efforts (to say nothing of wasted money), pinning your hopes on an approach that takes you nowhere.
Bottom Line: When it comes to healthy weights, there’s no substitute for healthy living. It’s a pleasant, safe way to be the best you can be.
Ask women why they take herbal supplements such as ginseng, echinacea, gingko and St. John’s wort, and some of the most common responses are to:
Promote weight loss
Improve mental performance
Do these herbs really have such wonderful effects? Well…maybe. But it’s wise to be cautious. In most cases, there is just not enough research to hang our hats on. Even if there were, product consistency is sorely lacking. There’s no guarantee when it comes to the amount of active ingredient you actually get when you buy various supplements – you could get too little in some and too much in others. Finally, these herbal preparations may have a severely negative effect on the medications that you’re already taking, leaving you feeling like the cure was worse than the disease.
Bottom Line: Take the claims that these supplements make with a grain of salt, and make sure your health care provider knows about herbs you take. She or he can give you guidance based on your individual situation.
The first food that comes to mind when you start talking about super foods is soy. Is it the answer to the challenges women face as they get older, such as menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis, cancer and heart disease, as so many people claim? There’s no question it’s a great food , but is it really a super food? Soy provides protein for vegetarians and anyone else who wants to reduce the amount of animal food they eat. What’s more, research does show that eating a diet rich in soy can help cut risk of heart disease. Whether it cuts cancer risk or prevents hot flashes – that’s not so clear. Then there’s the challenge – do you like the stuff?
Bottom Line: Steer clear of pinning your hopes on these so-called “Super foods”. The best advice remains the same: Eat a variety of foods that include grains/starchy vegetables, protein foods, vegetables and fruits. That way, if you don’t like one particular food, you will likely be able to get similar benefits from others foods you enjoy.
But give soy (a protein food) a try. There are plenty of choices, and you may find that you enjoy them far more than you originally believed. Try tofu instead of chicken in stir fries, sample soymilk if you can’t drink regular milk (get the calcium-fortified kind), and enjoy a veggie burger made with soy instead of a hamburger occasionally. The jury’s still out in soy powders – whether they really provide the benefits you want from soy. Best to stick with the real stuff.
Antioxidants & Other Vitamin/Mineral Supplements
After several years of recommendations from very credible sources to take antioxidants daily, recent studies indicate supplements of vitamins C, E and beta-carotene offer no increased protection against heart disease. Once again, it seems that the higher levels of antioxidants from the foods we eat, e.g. fruits and vegetables, rather than single nutrients are the best way to go. Why? Perhaps because foods also contain additional components such as fiber and other nutrient and non-nutrient components that are not found in single supplements.
Here’s a quick list of phytonutrients (plant nutrients, including antioxidants) that may offer real health benefits and the plants they come in:
Beta carotene — Enjoy apricots, mangoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, broccoli, spinach and other dark-green, leafy vegies.
Lutein — Try kiwi, broccoli, spinach.
Lycopene — Pink grapefruit and tomatoes are among the best sources.
Anthocyanins — Blueberries, cherries, plums and strawberries fill the bill here.
Phenolic compounds – Savor berries, grapes, tomatoes and apples.
In addition, there’s plenty of time-tested research that shows many women don’t get enough calcium or vitamin D, particularly those over the age of 40 and those who live in northern climates and/or do not drink milk. Adequate folate is critical for women of childbearing years, to reduce risk of birth defects. It’s also important to control homocysteine levels in the blood — too much is linked to heart disease. Fortified cereals and other grain foods, leafy greens and legumes are excellent sources of folate.
Younger women likely need supplemental iron, but it is not recommended for postmenopausal women. Fortified cereals are an easy way to add iron to the diet.
Bottom Line: Nutrient deficiencies in the diet are not at all uncommon, but there’s no need to overcompensate. At this time, many researchers believe that multivitamin/mineral supplements, or individual supplements that provide no more than 100% of the daily needs for a individual nutrient, or fortified foods are preferred methods by which to supplement the diet.
The Bottom, Bottom Line
It comes down to this. While there may some truth to many of the nutrition or health claims we hear, in most cases it is too soon – sometimes too dangerous – to act until we know more. Even though scientific research is a very slow, methodical process involving repeated studies and can take years to sort out the facts, experience shows it’s usually better to be safe than sorry. Think carefully before you make any changes in your diet or health routine, particularly if the change is based on the findings of a single study, and always run these changes by your health care practitioner.
Source of Weight Loss, Herbal Supplements, Super Foods and Anti-Oxidants – Curing What Ails Us by Robyn Priebe – author of Weight Loss, Herbal Supplements, Super Foods and Anti-Oxidants – Curing What Ails Us article