Preventative Nutrition: Vitamins and Supplements
Hi, friends! February for a flip-flop hiker is a strange place to be. Most of my online trail friends are posting they have 30 days or less to trail, asking about final gear choices, and planning flights and shuttles to Amicalola Falls. I, however, have been afflicted with this weird syndrome where I feel slightly panicked that there are gear conversations I still can’t participate in and scheduling things I still can’t resolve. Then, I remember that I have another three months. We good. The FOMO is almost nonexistent when I remember why I chose to flip-flop and the dreaded bubble I really hope to avoid.
One thing I have finalized and am excited to share is part of my nutritional plan. Back in the day, I worked at a health food store in the vitamins and body care department. I helped people shop for vitamins and supplements and tried to encourage them to buy body care that was better for them and the environment. (Isn’t it great that this bar soap isn’t wrapped in plastic? This company has a facility powered by wind!)
Needless to say, I learned a lot about natural body care brands, essential oils, and, of course, vitamins and supplements. I tested a lot of different vitamins and went to a lot of trainings to get to know what kinds of things certain supplements were meant to do for people. There were times when I was taking a handful, like a literal handful, of 15-20 supplements a day. Plus a greens powder. Plus other powdered probiotics. Plus protein powder. It was a crazy time.
Now I have a much more conservative routine and I only take things that I really feel make a difference in my life. Also, it is really important for me to stress that I am not a medical professional. Let me just repeat that: I am not a medical professional. Everyone got that? Nothing in this post regarding efficacy of these products is to be taken as medical advice. It is personal opinion and experience. If you want to know more about the supplements I talk about, there are lots of studies and articles you can explore on your own.
OK, so now that we all know I am not giving you medical advice and have no health training (outside of first aid/CPR certification), let’s talk supplements. You know that rectangle/square thing? All squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares? That’s the easiest way to think about vitamins vs. supplements. Supplements are just things you take to boost your current nutritional plan. Sometimes, they include vitamins (think a multivitamin that has vitamins and minerals) and sometimes they don’t (like fish oil).
So, given my background in sales, I was able to spend a lot of time trying samples from different brands and getting to know which ones I liked and disliked. I try to choose brands that choose more sustainable production practices and work to have a lower carbon footprint or benefit their community in some way. I do this with gear, too, and try to support companies that are part of a bigger picture whenever possible. It’s magic when you can find that company that lives in the sweet spot where the products are what you need and their practices as a company are good for everyone.
While I’m on the trail, I will be taking four supplements with me. It’s important for me to also relay to you that I have not been compensated by any of these companies, nor been given any free product. I just like the products and the brands. (Update: 4/1/19 I have since received free product from one of these companies to use on trail, but did not update or change any of the blog post and stand by my original statements.)
This is OG, my numero uno, most important supplement. I am obsessed with fish oil and consider it one of the supplements that every person should take. Fish oil supports a number of different systems in the body, including brain, eyes, skin, hair, heart, and joints. When you’re shopping for fish oil, you have to look at the balance between EPA and DHA. For adults, EPA is typically preferred because at the suppliers level, is has more anti-inflammatory properties. For children and pregnant women, formulas with higher DHA are preferred because it supports brain health. Anti-inflammatory is always good for thru-hiking. There are studies that look at the effect of fish oil on more than 13 different health issues, ranging from mental health and depression to bone health. Like I said before, we all need the omega-3s.
Why choose Wiley’s?
They are an American company that has really focused on making a great product sustainably. They used wild caught Alaskan pollock and are certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. Their process is actually really cool. Most of the pollock goes to the food industry (it’s commonly used to make those imitation crab sticks, which I also love). The leftovers (trimmings) are processed into fish oil. Wiley’s does this right at the source so the quality is super fresh and amazing. Then the oil goes through this molecular distillation process, which you can read all about on their website, that concentrates the oil and takes away the fishy taste. This means no fishy burps after you take these supplements. That’s a big deal because fish burps are gross. Also, there are other fats, besides the EPA and DHA omega-3s we want for supplements in the raw fish oil. Wiley’s found a way to use these other fats by converting them into biofuels.
Basically, Wiley’s Finest is truly the finest and their commitment to sustainability is the bomb. Super plus bonus? The product is amazing.
Mushrooms are a superfood and Paul Stamets is a god. It is common knowledge in my office that when the latest cold goes around, I probably won’t get it. Now, whether that’s because I wash my hands more than my coworkers (not likely), or because I eat a lot of garlic (possibly), I don’t know. All I know is that I take this Stamets 7 immune support supplement on the daily and rarely catch the latest thing that’s going around.
Stamets 7 is a blend of mushrooms including: royal sun blazei, cordyceps, reishi, maitake, lion’s mane, chaga, and mesima. This blend was developed by your mushroom guru and mine, Paul Stamets. Seriously, if you have any interest in mushrooms, you need to know about this man. Look him up. You won’t be sorry. It’s a blend that supports general immunity. But it also promotes a healthy responses to stress factors. Why wouldn’t I want to have that support on the trail? The key to this product is the equal blend of these seven mushrooms. They each help to support a different body system, which provides an overall network of immune support and response.
Why Host Defense Organic Mushrooms?
Firstly, the products are inspired by and developed with Paul Stamets’ research on mushroom mycelium. The power of our fungi friends is seriously underrated. Another great thing about Host Defense is that their products are grown at their farm and every product can be traced from growth to capsule. They aren’t going out over-harvesting things from the forests. Their products are also Certified Bee Friendly, which means they must meet 27 different criteria to prove pollinator friendly systems.
If you are a chronic user of NSAIDs, you need Turmeric Force in your life. Turmeric supplements have really gone mainstream in recent years for their support of healthy inflammatory responses in the body. That means headaches, pain, anything you might pop some naproxen for. Turmeric is an excellent alternative for the NSAIDs we rely on that aren’t so great for our stomach linings. There are a lot of turmeric products out there that are pretty great but I love New Chapter’s because of its potency, whole food aspect of the supplement, and the mission of the company.
Instead of pulling out just curcumin, which is a component of turmeric, New Chapter uses the whole root. This is important to me because while curcumin is an effective anti-inflammatory, it is very hard for the body to absorb on its own. Like most vitamins, they are infested and absorbed into our bodies in a combination of things from a food we eat. When you start to pull out specific vitamins and components, they become harder for our bodies to use. Turmeric Force is derived from food and that, in my opinion, makes it more effective.
Why New Chapter?
They specialize in whole food supplements, which is great. The real reason to support New Chapter is that they are a Certified B Corps. If you don’t know what that means, B Corps are companies that have committed to social and environmental responsibility and are certified by a third party and given a score based on how they treat employees, suppliers, and their environmental impact. Being a B Corps, New Chapter approaches business from a holistic viewpoint, which includes profit, people, and the environment. Their use suppliers that have committed to providing safe work environments, fair wages, and climate-friendly farming. They also strive to refuse their waste and are certified Zero Waste to Landfill.
Grasses are amazing. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking grass is limited to the stuff in your lawn. Grasses include wheat, alfalfa, and barley, and they are delicious. This green superfood is yummy, comes in a variety of flavors (chocolate is my fav) and formulas so there is something for everyone, and are great for you. The fact is, a lot people don’t eat enough greens in their everyday life and even less greens are being eaten on the trail. Greens are important because they aid in digestion (you need fiber, people!) and support your overall health and immunity. Another cool thing about this product is that it is gluten free. Yes, it contains wheat grass. The grass is harvested before gluten develops so people with gluten allergies and sensitivities don’t need to worry. Also, most of their products are vegan, including all of the green superfoods except Pineapple Lemongrass and Tangerine Immunity (because of the D3).
Why Amazing Grass?
This is another (mostly) American company producing an awesome product. I say mostly American because a few of their ingredients, like açaí berry, are sourced from other places, but are not part of every product. The grasses used in their products are harvested at peak nutrition. The grasses are grown outside instead of in a greenhouse, which allows their roots to grow deep and extract minerals from the ground. After harvesting, the grasses are harvested into pellets within 90-120 minutes, which preserves the fresh components of the product. The pellets are ground into a very fine powder, which makes the product really easy to enjoy and digest.
- I am not a medical professional.
- This is not a sponsored post. I have not been given product or compensation to support these companies.
- Fish oil is the bomb.
- Wiley’s Finest is a sustainable, American company that makes an amazing fish oil.
- Mushrooms can save the world (and your body).
- Paul Stamets is a god and you should watch his TEDtalk.
- Host Defense cares about bees and Stamets 7 will support your immune health.
- Turmeric can help you keep your stomach lining.
- New Chapter Turmeric Force is a wonderful whole food source of anti-inflammatory support.
- New Chapter is a B Corps that care about people and the earth.
- Amazing Grass is truly amazing.
- A greens powder could be the key to a better thru-hike.
If you want to more about any of these products or companies, feel free to ask in the comments. I also strongly suggest you do your own research and figure out what might be the best option for you.
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