Everyone has experienced the inevitable growing pains of living a healthy and happy lifestyle. Whether it’s been three days of consistency or 10 years of health-conscious choices, making positive changes toward living a healthier lifestyle is a celebration within itself.
The key to a healthy lifestyle is consistency, but this becomes a challenge for some people during the wintertime. Partly because of the external drop in temperature, and partly because comfort food is more unrestricted during the holidays and winter months. Either way, it is not difficult to stray away from fitness goals, healthy habits and workout routines during this time of the year.
The great news about staying on track with your fitness goals during the winter months is that this becomes an opportunity to get creative and resourceful with your daily regimens. Substituting or adding new ingredients into your lifestyle can help to ensure that fitness goals are still met.
Although everyone’s demands and limitations are unique, one commonality is the need for a fundamental, balanced nutrition. This is where dietary supplements come in. Dietary supplements are nutrients extracted from other sources and consumed to complete or enhance good health. Supplements come in five different categories: vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids (the building blocks of a protein) and extracts. These supplements can help boost your immune system to fight against common colds and flus.
Essentials to Cure the Winter Blues
Supplements are beneficial not only to support an already healthy lifestyle, but also to enhance performance, mood, metabolism, energy levels and seasonal health. These highlighted supplements can be used regularly to achieve your fitness goals during the winter months and to stay protected against common seasonal illnesses.
1. Lactobacillus Acidophilus
This “friendly bacteria” has been used as a probiotic to aid in digestion and exists naturally in our bodies. By helping to maintain an acidic environment in the body, lactobacillus prevents the growth of harmful bacteria1.
Lactobacillus acidophilus is one of the most common types of probiotics and can be found in yogurts, fermented foods and supplements.
2. Turmeric + Black Pepper (BioPerine)
Turmeric, also known as the “golden spice” is made up of key compounds called curcuminoids. Curcumin is the most active ingredient is turmeric and is also the most significant due to its anti-inflammatory effects and antioxidant properties.
IN-DEPTH: The Not-So-Secret Benefits of Turmeric
The content levels of curcumin are not high in turmeric (2 percent)2, therefore a supplement will be needed in order to experience the full benefits. Curcumin is poorly absorbed in the body and will need to be taken with an enhancer ingredient. Black pepper contains piperine which helps with the absorption of curcumin in the bloodstream.
This ingredient is known as an essential amino acid since the body does not produce it. When consumed, the body absorbs it and converts L-tryptophan to become a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is a natural mood stabilizer that aids in sleeping, eating and digestion. Tryptophan deficiencies can lead to mood disorders, anxiety and depression3.
4. Magnesium (citrate)
Magnesium citrate is a naturally occurring mineral that is important for many systems, especially the muscular and nervous systems. Studies support the use of magnesium in the prevention and treatment of many common health conditions including migraine headaches, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, asthma, premenstrual syndrome, preeclampsia and various cardiac arrhythmias4.
5. Zinc (gluconate)
An essential mineral that is not produced or stored by the body, zinc promotes healthy skin, immune function5, protein synthesis, wound healing6, DNA synthesis and cell division. Supplementation with zinc has also been shown to ease depression7 during the winter months.
Ashwagandha is one of the most essential herbs in Ayurveda, a form of alternative medicine based on Indian principles of natural healing.
In one study, people that were given ashwagandha showed significant improvements in measures of stress and anxiety. Research concludes that ashwagandha exhibits a variety of therapeutic effects8.
7. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 supports healthy energy levels and plays an important role in the makeup of your cells. Nutrients, consumed from the food you eat, release energy into the cells and provides the appropriate balance needed for thinking and moving. Aging, eliminating animal products from your diet (veganism) and diseases affecting the GI tract can all contribute to low levels of B12 and result in fatigue and weakness9
Boswellia is an herbal extract from the Boswellia serrata tree. Resin made from the extract is believed to treat chronic anti-inflammatory illnesses10 as well as osteoarthritis (OA)11, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), asthma and inflammatory bowel disease. Boswellia comes in the form of a resin, pill or cream.
This form of vitamin B helps the body breakdown fats and carbohydrates. Your body depends on this vitamin to convert nutrients to energy12. Biotin also plays an important role in the growth of your nails, hair13 and skin.
Made from the inner bark of cinnamomum trees, cinnamon is a spice that is loaded with antioxidants called polyphenols14. These antioxidants have anti-inflammatory properties and can also lower blood sugar levels and reduce heart disease factors.
Berberine is an alkaloid with antibiotic properties. Useful for stimulating digestion, berberine inhibits bacteria15 from attaching to the human cells which, in turn, helps prevent infections and counteracts high blood sugar.
12. Milk Thistle
Silybum marianum, or milk thistle, is the most commonly studied plant in the treatment of liver disease16. The active ingredient in this plant is silymarin, and it’s known to have antioxidant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory benefits.
13. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is the most popular type of vinegar in the health community. It is claimed to lead to weight loss, reduced cholesterol, lower blood sugars levels and improved symptoms of diabetes17. The main substance in vinegar, acetic acid, can kill harmful bacteria or prevent them from multiplying.
Throughout ancient history, the main use of garlic was for its health benefits rather than for cooking18. Today, scientist know that most of the health benefits come from the sulfur compounds formed when the garlic clove is crushed, chopped or chewed.
Garlic is rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6 and manganese. These vitamins boot the function of the immune system and are crucial to help prevent the flu and common cold.
Selenium is another essential mineral that can only be obtained through your diet. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that fights oxidative stress, helps regulate metabolism and thyroid function, and defends the body against heart disease and cancer19. It only takes a small amount of this influential mineral to do its job!
16. Grape Seed Extract
Grape seed extract is derived by separating, drying and pulverizing bitter tasting grape seeds. This important compound helps repair tissue damage, oxidative stress and inflammation. It also may help reduce blood pressure, particularly in young to middle-aged and overweight people20.
Iodine is also an essential mineral that you must get from your diet. Iodine deficiency21 can lead to the swelling of the thyroid gland known as goiter and hypothyroidism, which causes fatigue, depression, muscle weakness and weight gain. There is also a significantly higher probability of iodine deficiency in vegetarians and vegans22.
18. N-Acetyl and Glutathione
These antioxidants have the ability to minimize oxidative stress and the negative results associated with it. A study reveals that N-acetyl may also alleviate symptoms of multiple psychiatric disorders and reduce addictive behaviors23. As we age, the amount and effectiveness of these two nutrients dissipate.
Chlorella is a single celled, freshwater algae24, with very many impressive benefits. Often referred to as a “super food,” its nutritional profile includes 50-60 percent protein, omega-3s, vitamin B12, iron and vitamin C. Chlorella has the ability to help your body clear toxins and enhance your immune system.
Astaxanthin is a carotenoid pigment that occurs in trout, microalgae, yeast25 and shrimp. It is another option for antioxidants with several health benefits. Astaxanthin has been linked to healthier skin, endurance, heart health and joint pain. It scavenges free radicals (the opposite of antioxidants) 65 times more efficiently than vitamin C and has 800 times more power to eliminate free radicals than CoQ1026. Astaxanthin has also shown to be very effective in treating periodontal disease.
Implementing supplements into your daily routine has its advantages.
Depending on your region, supplements are a great way to maintain a balanced diet when your local produce is unavailable due to freezing temperatures.