I’m not one of those “supplement” trainers. The most I ever have for “pre-workout” is coffee or a nap, I try to get most of my nutrition (even protein) from food rather than shakes, and the “stacking” in my life is usually books. However, I do rely on certain nutritional tools (in addition to an overall anti-inflammatory diet) to keep myself in the best possible working condition. Please keep in mind that this is just a personal post on what I have determined is presently good for me – not everything on this list might be good for you, and nothing listed here can treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Disclaimers aside, here’s what has made the cut so far:
Are vitamins a bunch of lies? Maybe so! Nonetheless, I travel with these packets to ward off airport and subway germs around the world, and, placebo or not, I have been rewarded for my faith. They’re also a staple when colds and flus start racing through the elementary schools where I teach.
Pro tip: I don’t love the taste of this cranberry flavor as compared to tangerine or lemon lime, but it’s my go-to flavor for the additional cranberry boost for UTI prevention. TMI? Sorry, but traveling can lead to dehydration and all sorts of other situations, and I hope never again to visit a European ER for such a preventable situation.
Probiotics are a big issue for those with dairy or gluten problems, because lots of products that say they are gluten- and dairy-free are (as of 2016) NOT. Unlike vitamins, there’s conclusive scientific evidence that says we can influence our microbiomes by consuming probiotics, which can boost everything from our mood to our metabolism, from our immune system to our intelligence.
I rely on Inner-Eco supplements pretty much daily when I’m home (find them refrigerated at Central Market, or pay $5 more for them at Whole Foods), and when I’m traveling I try to pick up a Kevita drink (just like Inner Eco but $$$ in comparison) or some high-quality organic yogurt ASAP. I also find them helpful after taking antibiotics or suffering from any sort of tummy trouble.
3. Tart Cherry Juice
I owe you an entire blog post (or series) on tart cherries, but there is strong evidence that they are the most anti-inflammatory fruit. I drink 4 ounces of cherry juice a few times a week (in the evening after a tough workout), and I can anecdotally confirm that it cuts my recovery time down to about 25% of what it would otherwise be. Tart cherry juice can also help mood and improve sleep – I find that it makes me sleepy, so I drink it at night.
I choose the juice shown here (Smart Juice Tart Cherry) because it’s 100% organic tart cherry juice that isn’t from concentrate, and yet somehow it’s one of the cheapest options at HEB. Beware of juices that are not 100% tart cherry, and keep an eye on your serving size.
4. Chia Seeds
“Essential” fatty acids are essential because we have to eat them; our bodies can’t make them, but they sure do need them to help regulate things like mood, hormones, and metabolic processes! Thanks to my gluten allergy, my body has an especially hard time absorbing these good fats, so I add chia seeds to lots of my meals and snacks. I get mine from the bulk section of HEB, and there are plenty of chia recipes in the blog if you’re not sure how to incorporate them into your life!
5. Certain Whey Protein Shakes
Boy, am I picky about whey protein supplements! There are lots of quality and sourcing aspects to consider when choosing a protein supplement, and yet the majority of commercially available whey protein shakes come from just a handful of manufacturers. Rather than get into the details here and now, let me just offer my current personal favorite: the HEB (Central Market) store brand, vanilla flavor. If their packaging is honest, this protein is well-made, low in carbs (as a protein supplement should be), and contains no artificial sweeteners.
Whey protein is not necessary for everyone, and it may not be beneficial for you if you have blood sugar concerns, as it can cause insulin spikes despite its low carbohydrate content. Consult a health professional if you’re thinking of adding a protein supplement to your diet.
I love turmeric, and there is more science (sources at the end of that link) that says turmeric has a nearly unfathomable host of health benefits. You absolutely do not need to get your turmeric from this drink, but I’ve found it convenient.
What does turmeric bring to my life? Just like the tart cherry juice, I find improved recovery time from tough workouts (probably thanks to those anti-inflammatory powers).
Also, turmeric is a really effective dye! So, there’s another vote for the drink powder…I can prepare this and drink it without ruining my favorite clothes. It’s also very portable and travels with me wherever I go. However (another topic for another day), golden milk is another enjoyable – and more affordable – way to get more turmeric in your life!
7. Warm Beverages
Is this even a supplement? I left it for last because I’m not sure that warm lemon water or a cup of green tea count as a supplement, but I do rely on warm drinks to help manage my health. Warm lemon water in the morning can help decrease inflammation and remove mucus (sorry) from the body (not “toxins”, also sorry) and just the scent might make you happier. Tea is a complex topic to cover as far as its potential as a supplement but, hey, it tastes good and probably keeps you pretty darn healthy.
There’s my go-to arsenal of “supplements”! Nothing in a black jar with sparkly letters, but lots of goodies that are either whole foods or food-based sources of proven anti-inflammatory compounds. Like I said at the start of the post, these are my faves, but they might not be right for you, so always talk to your health professional before modifying your nutrition plan!