Writing about various herbs, nutrients and natural remedies becomes increasingly difficult as more and more ‘superfoods’ come to light.
Some supplements and ‘remedies (particularly the homeopathic kind) simply don’t work and are easy to completely right off. They don’t do anything, so don’t take them!
Others have some very impressive health benefits and could well be a useful addition to your supplement stack if you have a certain condition, if you’re an athlete, or if you’re trying to lose weight.
Both of those kinds of supplements are easy to write about. The difficult part is writing about supplements that are just ‘pretty good’.
Natural Remedies and Superfoods That Are Meh
Right now there are hundreds of different superfoods, herbs and supplements that offer all kinds of impressive-sounding benefits. Sometimes they’re rich in antioxidants, other times they have complete amino acid profiles, sometimes they have ‘more vitamin B6 than any other plant’. Some just offer a smorgasbord of different vitamins and minerals and others have interesting studies that suggest they might be able to suppress appetite, or perhaps they might be able to improve immune function.
This all sounds great on paper, but when it comes to the conclusion I often just can’t recommend them. Why? Because they’re usually some weird root or leaf from the other side of the world that costs $20 for a pot of 10. That’s… really expensive and inconvenient. And then there are questions about the quality or the purity of what you’re getting.
But more to the point… where does it end? There are so many substances that fit this kind of description that it would be almost impossible to take all of them and you’d be bankrupt by the end of month one.
And when people seek out these superfoods, they do so hoping that their lives are going to change. They think that the slight increase in their mitochondrial function, or the slight increase in magnesium, will result in noticeable changes that allow them to jump out of bed with renewed vigor and energy.
But this just isn’t how it tends to go. More often than not, you’ll notice no difference at all. That’s not to say it’s not doing anything, it’s just to say that the 0.03% improvement in whatever isn’t all that noticeable.
And many of the studies that natural health writers refer to are taken way out of context. More often than not, these studies are in vitro (meaning they’re conducted in a test tube), or they’re on rats, or both. The results are still interesting and they may still point to impressive potential uses but they can’t always be extrapolated and applied to humans. The amount of lutein that you give to a rat is going to be different from the amount you give to a human. Also, rats aren’t humans…
How to Proceed
What’s easy to forget when reading about these various superfoods and elixirs, is that all the food already in our diet is also doing us a lot of good. We’re already getting lots of different vitamins and minerals and we’re already eating all kinds of things that can strengthen our immune system and speed up our metabolism. If you have a healthy and balanced diet that includes lots of vegetables and fruits then this will be even truer.
And that’s really the answer. Instead of hunting down 20 different herbs and roots from every corner of the globe, just try to eat lots of different fruits and vegetables and to keep things varied and healthy. Your supermarket is packed with superfoods and by varying your diet you’ll get even more impressive benefits because you’ll be covering every angle.
If you do want to create a specific stack for improving your health or your physical performance, then try to take a ‘top down’ approach and trace it backward. Instead of looking at foods with long lists of benefits, instead think about the benefits you need: what’s missing from your health right now? Do you need to lose weight, or do you need more energy?
Then you can start looking for the best supplements and superfoods that provide those specific benefits. Read plenty of reviews and shop around and only invest in things that sound like they actually make a measurable difference. Look for studies on humans and research the side effects too.
Last but not least, look at the price and the availability. Is this something you’re happy to add to your routine for the foreseeable future? Because if it’s not sustainable, there’s no point wasting your money.
To conclude: just because something has health benefits, that doesn’t mean you should run out and buy it. Your apples have health benefits too!