Makeover your supplement regimen, medicine chest, beauty bag, kitchen cabinets, and more!
Instead of making those dreaded NewYear’s resolutions, take some simple but effective steps
to upgrade your health. These don’t require any teeth-gritting determination—just a little organization.
Upgrade Your Supplements
Take stock of your supplements and avoid “pill creep,” a phrase coined by Alan Christianson, NMD, a naturopathic physician in Scottsdale, Ariz., and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Thyroid Disease. “People add in the new thing of the week, each week, and suddenly they’re on 75 pills, and it gets to be counterproductive,” he says, “and they often miss the thing that’s most important for them.”
Although there are many supplements targeting specific issues, these, says Christianson, are basics that are often overlooked:
Multivitamin/Mineral—To absorb and utilize nutrients optimally, take a high-quality product. These are some ingredients to look for, with beneficial amounts per daily serving:
- Instead of “folic acid,” a more absorbable form called 5-MTHF (5-methyltetrahydrofolate), sometimes described as “active” or “optimized” folic acid (200–400 mcg daily).
- Forms of calcium that are soluble, meaning that your body can use them well and needs less: citrate malate (180 mg daily) or calcium citrate (400 mg daily). If a multi doesn’t contain enough, take an additional calcium supplement to make up the difference.
- Vitamin K2 (80–100 mcg daily).Vitamin C in a mineral ascorbate, calcium ascorbate, or Ester-C form, which is less acidic and gentler on your digestive system.
Vitamin D—Although vitamin D is recognized as essential for overall health, Americans typically fall short because of lack of sun exposure and a poor diet that reduces our internal production of the vitamin. Have your vitamin D levels tested by your doctor. It's also safe to take 2,000 IU daily on your own.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids—Essential but lacking in most diets, the key omega-3s are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and supplements should contain these forms derived from fish oil, algae, or krill. Look for the amounts of EPA and DHA on the “Supplement Facts” panel and get a total (EPA plus DHA) of 800–1,000 mg.
Magnesium Stearate Warning—Some supplements contain magnesium stearate (listed in “other ingredients”), which is not a type of magnesium, but an additive that prevents ingredients from caking during the manufacturing process. Christianson recommends avoiding it, if possible, because, he says, it interferes with absorption of nutrients and may be an irritant to the digestive system.
Iodine Warning—For anyone with thyroid disease, Christianson cautions against taking iodine, because it can aggravate certain thyroid conditions. Other people may benefit from iodine, found in some multivitamins.
Detoxify Your Home
“The average home has 500 chemicals,” says Lisa Beres, co-author of Just Green It!: Simple Swaps to Save Your Health and the Planet, a building biologist, and an expert in how buildings affect your health. However, she adds, “We have way more control than we think.” To get started, she offers these tips:
1 Open windows and ventilate. In the 1970s, the average air exchange in a home was about once every hour, but today—because newer homes are more tightly sealed—it’s about once every five hours. Try to open a window in every room for at least five minutes every day.
2 Enhance your home with rubber plants to purify air, ideally one plant per 100 square feet.
3 Swap conventional cleaning products, as well as garden pesticides and herbicides, for non-toxic ones.
4 Swap conventional air fresheners, which typically contain toxic fragrances, for non-toxic versions that use essential oils. And get an HEPA air filter.
5 Get non-toxic bedding. Swap wrinkle-free sheets, which contain formaldehyde, for organic cotton. Mattresses, by federal law, are treated with fire retardants that are toxic and disrupt hormones, unless they’re organic or made of natural latex. A new mattress is an investment, but some come with a 20-year warranty.
6 To reduce electromagnetic radiation, don’t sleep near your cell phone.
For more tips, visit RonandLisa.com.
Naturalize Your Medicine Chest
Want to ditch over-the-counter drugs for pain, heartburn, and other common maladies? Dave Forman, RPh, ND, known as the Herbal Pharmacist, started out as a traditional pharmacist and now educates both consumers and health professionals about natural healing. Here are his favorite remedies:
|Instead of drug store products for …||Swap this natural remedy …|
|Pain, such as ibuprofen||
|Heartburn or indigestion||
|Cuts and scrapes||
|Colds, flu, and fever||
For more tips, visit herbalpharmacist.com.
Supplement Cheat Sheet
To get what you need, start with these simple steps to declutter your supplement cupboard:
- Check expiration dates and dispose of any products that have expired.
- If you have probiotics, liquid fish oils, or other supplements in the fridge that have been opened but not used for some time, dispose of them if the expiration date has passed. Otherwise, if you want to continue taking them, check with the manufacturer to find out how long they keep once opened.
- Organize the remainder (see below).
- Organize Your Supplements—Get two or more baskets or containers and sort supplements into these categories:
- Supplements for daily use. If different people in your household take different daily supplements (or want to, but forget), designate a container for each person.
- Supplements for special situations, such as a cold or flu, or for flare-ups of any condition that
you or other family members may occasionally experience.
Once you have a container for each category, pay attention to what is—and isn’t—being used, and what may be missing. Dispose of unused products and make a shopping list for missing items. Make a note of any supplements you would like to take but don’t because it seems inconvenient or unpleasant. For example, if you find big fish oil pills hard to swallow, note it on your shopping list and look for an alternative form, such as flavored liquids and smoothie-style forms, and mini capsules. Shop for the missing products and “file” them in the appropriate container. Each morning, pull out your supplement container to get your daily nutrients.
Get Beautiful Safely
“I’m constantly being asked ‘what ingredients should I avoid?’” says Los Angeles–based cosmetologist and Pampered People spa owner Stacy Cox. At the same time, everyone wants results: more even skin tone, fewer wrinkles or fine lines, smoother skin, and no blemishes. “Natural products are generally gentler,” says Cox, and many brands pride themselves on formulating effective products without irritants or toxins.
To avoid toxic chemicals, Cox recommends these swaps:
|Conventional products with …||Swap for …|
|Hair dyes||Resorcinol, an irritant and potential allergen||Plant-based permanent hair colors (Try:
Naturtint or Herbatint.)
|Shampoo||Sodium laurel sulfate||Non-toxic shampoos (Try: Conceived by Nature, Earth Science, and Giovanni.)|
|Nail polish and remover||Formaldehyde (see below)||Natural, non-toxic versions (Try: No Miss, PeaceKeeper, Suncoat, and Scotch Naturals.)|
|Skin creams and serums||Alpha hydroxyl acids, found in some animal studies to be skin irritants
|Gentler natural fruit or milk acids; vitamin C
for even skin tone and a natural glow;
hyaluronic acid to plump up sags and wrinkles; carnosine (an amino acid) for firmer skin; vitamin E as an antioxidant (Try: Reviva Labs, Derma e, Hyalogic Episilk, and Home Health.)
Ingredients to Avoid—Found in many conventional skin, nail, and hair products, the following chemicals can disrupt hormones and the immune system and cause irritation, allergic reactions, or sensitivity.
Formaldehyde: Hidden in preservatives and slowly released, formaldehyde is a skin sensitizer and irritant, and its fumes are carcinogenic. It’s found most often in these ingredients:
Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol )
Other toxins: Key offenders include preservative parabens (including ethyl, methyl, propyl, or butyl parabens), and phthalates (such as dibutyl phthalate or DBP), found in most conventional fragrances, but not in essential oils or natural scents.
Check the Skin Deep cosmetics database at ewg.org/skindeep to find out whether the products you use contain toxins.
Upgrade Your Kitchen
“Getting healthy can be delicious and easy,” says Shelley Alexander, holistic chef and author of Deliciously Holistic: Healing Foods Recipes and Lifestyle Tips to Help Increase Your Energy and Immunity! To upgrade your diet, replace unhealthy ingredients with healthy ones, and make sure you have the right kitchen tools for healthy cooking. For starters, Alexander offers these tips:
What to Swap—Swap your staples for healthier versions. For example:
- Swap refined salt for sea salt or Himalayan salt with trace minerals.
- Swap conventional ketchup and mayo for organic versions to avoid GMOs and pesticides.
- Swap conventional greens and other produce for organic versions.Swap conventional meat and dairy for products from animals that are grass-fed or raised on organic feed.
- For cooking, use coconut oil instead of pro-inflammatory vegetable oils, and keep extra virgin olive oil on hand for dressing salads and drizzling on cooked vegetables.
- Swap refined sugar for more nutritious coconut sugar, and conventional zero- calorie sweeteners for stevia.
Basic Tools—These are Alexander’s top picks:
- Quality, sharp, steel or ceramic knives to slice and dice veggies with ease.
- A sturdy vegetable peeler.
- A salad spinner.
- Stainless steel, cast iron, or non-toxic versions of non-stick pots and pans.
- Glass or BPA-free reusable plastic food containers.
- Basic food-prep tools: mixing bowls, a measuring cup, spatulas, measuring spoons, and a sieve.
- An inexpensive steamer insert that fits all sizes of pots.
For more of Alexander’s kitchen tips and recipes, visit aharmonyhealing.com.
The smoothie secret
A good blender can turn superfood smoothies into gourmet fare—or a nutritious “ice cream.” Your personal habits and budget determine which one is best for you, but these are a few different types with BPA-free containers:
Vitamix: As powerful as they get, the Vitamix liquefies, blends, or chops any cold or hot ingredients, and allows ingredients to be added while blending in a variety of large containers. Comes with a 7-year warranty.
Ninja Ultima: With a motor of similar power to the Vitamix, the Ninja Ultima liquefies, blends, or chops cold ingredients in either a large container or a single-serve cup. Comes with a 2-year limited warranty.
Nutribullet: Designed to break down vegetables and fruits into liquid to extract nutrients into single-serve cups. Comes with a 1-year limited warranty.
Tribest Personal Blender: Blends smoothies and other foods in different sizes of single-serve cups. Some models also grind seeds or coffee beans. Comes with a 1-year limited warranty.
Better Nutrition contributing editor Vera Tweed has been writing about nutrition, fitness, and healthy living since 1997. She specializes in covering research and expert knowledge that empowers people to lead better lives. She is the author of numerous books, including Hormone Harmony and the User’s Guide to Carnitine and Acetyl-L-Carnitine.