POSTED ON JANUARY 13, 2010:
Getting the Right Stuff
Being healthy doesn't have to be hard beyond eating and picking nutrients correctly
Staying healthy today doesn't have to be complicated. It is simply eating right and replenishing the body with what it needs to be at peak performance.
Registered Dietician, Mary Ann O'Dell, MS, RD of Akin's Natural Foods Market, said overall general wellness involves a basic regimen of a few essentials.
For the most part, each day people should have a "high quality vitamin. Also, they should have lactobacillus acidophilus, which is found in probiotic foods such as yogurt. It contains good bacteria that aids the digestive system, helps supply the body with nutrients and supports the immune system.
Essential oils (fatty acids) are a third way," O'Dell said. "Essential oils include Omega 3, fish oil, flax oil. And finally, a little extra vitamin D is good."
O'Dell said a number of recent studies show that vitamin D in the body will aid in the absorption of calcium to strengthen the bones.
Opening in 1935 Akin's Natural Foods Market has offered one of the largest selections of high quality vitamins, organic foods and natural body care products. In addition, Akin's also features only 100 percent certified organic produce. O'Dell's family began the business in 1935, and she has been with the company for more than 20 years. She and her staff at the seven Akin's stores, located in the Midwest, are most knowledgeable on the various products in their stores.
These include nutritional supplements and vitamins, herbs, homeopathy, sports and fitness, natural cosmetics, health books, appliances and accessories, dairy and non-dairy, certified organic produce, frozen foods, grocery items, natural pet care and eco-friendly cleaners. Also, O'Dell said Akin's carries nut free, low sodium, vegan, vegetarian and wheat free products for dietary needs.
Coconut milk products are very popular these days for those who are lactose intolerant and, it possesses numerous antioxidant properties. Akin's carries Kefir Coconut Milk, yogurt with cultured coconut milk and Purely Decadent ice cream made with coconut milk to name a few.
What O'Dell has found throughout the years is that changes in products continue to occur--things will come and go. By way of example, she cites the various fads through the years. When fads pop in and out of popularity--such as the low carbohydrate diet--Akin's carries products to support these diets.
While that fad has slowly lost its popularity, Akin's still carries a number of products in this area. Today what she is finding is that in high numbers, people's diets have changed as well. She said many people today are on gluten-free diets, such as those with celiac disease; people with diabetes have special diets and those with food allergies (wheat, eggs, nuts, etc). She said Akin's keeps on top of the changing dietary needs and maintains foods for these special diets, as well as supplements to maintain good health.
Today many are concerned on building the immune system to stave off colds and flu. Many products assist with this. "People should take things to support the immune system," O'Dell said, "because you're helping the immune system do its job," as opposed to what pharmaceutical products will do, which is to help with the symptoms once a virus has invaded the body.
O'Dell said some of the most current news in bolstering the immune system is products containing medicinal mushrooms or simply eating mushrooms.
According to an educational information sheet available at Akin's, Shiitake, Reishi and Maitake mushrooms have known therapeutic benefits in the body, primarily related to the immune system. They are rich in polysaccharides called "glucans," which have the ability to enhance natural killer (NK) cell activity.
NK cells are part of the immune system that might have an anticancer benefit. These mushrooms also produce antimicrobial activity--making them work like a mild natural antibiotic. They also carry a number of nutrients, such as protein, vitamins C and B, calcium, fiber and other nutrients.
"Mushroom blends products are purchases a lot through the winter months," O'Dell said, basically for their healing properties.
In addition, she mentions products with elderberry, especially elderberry extract. Elderberries contain organic pigments, carotenoids, tannin, flavonoids, sugar, rutin, viburnic acid, amino acids, vitamin A and B and a large amount of vitamin C. They are also a mild laxative and a diuretic. Various studies on elderberries have surfaced, especially since elderberry juice was used to treat the 1995 flu epidemic in Panama.
Elderberries are used for their antioxidant activity to lower cholesterol, to improve vision, to boost the immune system, to improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections.
Bioflavonoids and other proteins in the juice work to destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell. Sambucus (Nigra) is a black elderberry extract product, which has been "traditionally used to help support the immune system during winter season or when experiencing stress." And, as O'Dell said, stress is known to be a "huge suppresser of the immune system."
O'Dell also said vitamin C and zinc are important throughout the winter months to aid in the body's natural immune system. Akin's carries many natural healing products for colds and cold symptoms, such as Sinus Releev by Kal, Solaray's Under the Weather Plus, Plantiva Immune Dx (a dietary supplement for increasing production of antibodies and T-cells strengthening the immune system) and Nature's Way System Well, the "ultimate immunity" multisystem defense.
O'Dell said many people come to Akin's to look for natural healing methods for an existing condition, and try out this method for a period of time (six months or so) before they begin a pharmaceutical regimen. She adds that before the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, many products had little credibility in the medicinal world.
Now, since former President Clinton signed the legislation into law, the Commission on Dietary Supplement Labels said "all marketed dietary supplements should be safe." Products must have full disclosure of its contents and properties and include appropriate warnings where necessary.
O'Dell said her philosophy continues to be that "people's health is not an option. Staying well will save you in the future."
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