There is an argument that if you always eat a well-balanced diet, you shouldn’t really become deficient in any particular nutrients that you body needs.
And, in my very un-scientific opinion, that is probably correct.
However, modern life does not always make it easy for everyone to eat a well-balanced diet and there are other factors, such as physical and mental exertion, illness, stress, the actual nutritional quality of our foods, etc, that can result in the deficiency of certain important nutritional elements in our bodies.
For that reason, nutritional supplements can offer support and an insurance, so we’ve picked out some of our favourites that can be easily added to your daily diet.
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You may have never heard of moringa before, but many food companies have already started adding it to their nutrition bars, protein powders, juices and shakes, so I can guarantee it is something you are going to start spotting everywhere soon, if you haven’t already.
So, what is moringa exactly?
Well, this ancient plant is not new to the health food market – it’s actually been in stores for the last decade or so, but it seems to be being advocated a lot more by the healthy-eating community recently as potentially one of the most beneficial superfoods on the planet.
Moringa olefeira, to use it’s full name, is also known as the drumstick tree, the benzoil tree and the horseradish tree.
It is native to Northern India and its leaves have potent antioxidant and powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
It has numerous reputed benefits and has been used for generations all over the world to help treat all kinds of ailments, from diabetes to kidney stones and arthritis. It can also help with thyroid disorders and allergies and has even been shown to increase the volume of breast-milk supply.
Only quite recently have scientists started to demonstrate some of these reputed benefits under trial conditions and below we’ve summarised some of them for you.
- Fantastic source of vitamins A, C and K. It also contains potassium, calcium and amino acids.
- Protects the liver
- Possesses antibacterial, anti fungal and antimicrobial properties
- May lower blood sugar
- Lowers cholesterol
- Boosts immunity
- Can improve digestion
- May help to reduce inflammation
Moringa has a slightly earthy flavour to it and has been compared to matcha green tea and spinach. The most popular way to take it is in powder form with your protein drink or morning smoothie, but it is also available in capsule form.
This is another one that seems to be massively under-rated and under-used. The strangely-named Pycnogenol (pronounced pick-nodge-en-oll) is a French maritime pine bark extract that is reported to provide a huge range of health benefits.
It is an extremely powerful anti-oxidant and a potent anti-inflammatory that can help to reduce a lot of the free radical damage that increases as we age. It is said that Pycnogenol is 20 times more effective than Vitamin C in the body and 50 times stronger than Vitamin E.
Some of the main benefits claimed include:
- Lowers blood pressure
- Lowers blood sugars
- Improves circulation
- Reduces inflammation
- Improves skin smoothness and elasticity
- Strengthen capillaries and blood vessels
- Improves erectile dysfunction
- Improves memory and focus
And those taking Pycnogenol have reported a great deal of relief from a number of chronic medical conditions, including:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Menstrual cramps
In addition, studies have shown that Pycnogenol to be a powerful and effective (and safer) alternative to aspirin as a blood thinner.
I discovered it over 10 years’ ago myself and both use and recommend Pharma Nord Bio-Pycnogenol and Healthy Origins, but you’re welcome to try another brand!
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that grows in both fresh and salt water lakes, rivers and ponds. It’s basically the green scum you see on the surface of pond water, but it’s really good for you!
It is packed full of nutrients and has numerous evidence-based health benefits. Gram for gram, it is one of the most nutritious food substances on the planet. It is super-rich in bio-available vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and K, as well as protein, iron and calcium.
Major health benefits:
- Powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
- May reduce blood pressure (a major risk factor for many diseases)
- Reduces symptoms of allergic rhinitis, e.g. sneezing, itching and nasal congestion
- May improve endurance and muscle strength
- May help to control blood sugar levels
- Can lower LDL, Triglyceride and total cholesterol levels, while raising HDL cholesterol
- Detoxification effect – high in chlorophyll, which can remove toxins from the blood
Fortunately, you don’t need to suck it out of your local pond with a straw and it comes in a convenient tablet, capsule and powder form.
We recommend the powder form, which you can easily stick in your morning smoothie.
I first encountered this slightly odd-looking fruit with an unusual flavour while in Asia, having never seen them before in Europe or North America. The fruits are quite expensive to buy, so not something you’re necessarily going to be consuming on a regular basis. I’ve eaten them from time to time over the last few years and I was quite surprised to find out that mangosteen is a real superfood with some amazing health benefits.
- Regulates blood pressure
- Boosts the immune system
- Prevents acne
- Helps weight loss
- Contains powerful antioxidants (xanthones) that have been shown to have anti-cancer properties
It is not so easy to find them in the supermarkets, so fortunately, you can buy it in powder form and use it in cooking and smoothies for convenience.
In Africa, the fruit of the Baobab tree has been used medicinally for many centuries for all kinds of ailments. The tree can also be found in Australia and the Middle East.
It contains more than 10 times the amount of vitamin C found in the equivalent serving of fresh oranges and also provides loads of beneficial minerals, including calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, potassium and zinc.
As with a lot of these superfoods, more research needs to be done to support the claims with scientific evidence, but the main reputed benefits are as follows:
- Boosts the immune system
- Build bone strength
- Reduces inflammation
- Lowers blood pressure
- Supports skin health
- Relieves gastrointestinal problems
Since you can’t really find fresh baobab fruit outside the region where the trees grow, it is fortunate that it is available in powder form.
Mix it in with your smoothies, with yoghurt, milk or cereals for an added antioxidant boost.
Turmeric is a bright golden-orange spice that is grown in India and other area sin Asia and, like many of the foods now dubbed a ‘superfood’, the health benefits of turmeric have been known for thousands of years.
You may have encountered it in its spice-form in Indian curries, stir fries or soups.
One of the main ingredients in turmeric is curcumin, which is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. You’ll notice that all of the superfood supplements in this post have beneficial effects against inflammation, which modern medicine sees as the root cause of many chronic conditions and diseases. So, if you can reduce inflammation within your body, you’re gonna be healthier for it.
Other benefits of turmeric include:
- May improve memory and lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- May have anti-cancer properties
- Can ease arthritic joint pain
- May be cardio-protective
- May help ease indigestion
The best way to take turmeric is in its raw powder form, but it is also available in capsule and liquid form.
As with any nutritional supplement, be sure to consult a medical professional and inform them of any other drugs you currently take prior to taking any of those mentioned in this post.
Let us know how you get on with these!