Many celebrities have personal shoppers who assist them in making the right choices at the store. Of course, most of us don’t have that luxury, but that doesn’t mean that you have to go it alone. Just consider this guide your own personal shopper.
As you peruse the aisles of your local health food store, you may find yourself surrounded by an astounding array of choices. You see labels such as raw, vegan, gluten free, sprouted, and organic. How do you choose what’s right for you? Even something as basic as a multivitamin can be enough to make your head swim: Is a liquid, capsule, powder, or tablet best? What about food-cultured, added probiotics, extra vitamin D?
With so many decisions to make, you might feel overwhelmed. But this guide can make navigating the aisles a little easier by helping you decipher the labels, find what you need, and avoid anything you don’t want-no matter your age or special requirements. Let’s go shopping!
Today’s food, grown in depleted soils, contains significantly lower levels of nutrients than in earlier generations, while our air is more polluted and stress levels are higher. All these factors challenge our bodies, so taking supplements to augment a healthy diet sets the stage for better health.
Multivitamin and Mineral: Look for a broad-spectrum product that includes the “5 Vitamins Your Skin Must Have” (see sidebar at right) as well as a variety of minerals and antioxidants.
Take: One serving daily plus extra vitamin D to get 1,000-4,000 IU daily, and extra magnesium to maintain a 1:1 ratio with calcium.
Fish Oil: Necessary to maintain the integrity of cell membranes and a healthy heart, the omega-3 fats found in fish oil also help keep skin hydrated and glowing. A shortage contributes to fine lines and wrinkles, as well as both dry and oily skin-because oil can be overproduced to compensate for lack of moisture.
Take: 1,000 mg daily of a molecularly distilled, pharmaceutical grade fish oil, or 2,000-3,000 mg to combat heart disease or wrinkles and other signs of aging.
Flax Seed Oil: A plant-based alternative to fish oil, flax oil can be added to food or taken as a supplement.
Take: 1-2 Tbs. daily.
Green Food Supplements: Sun exposure and numerous environmental pollutants can generate free radicals, harmful molecules that damage our cells both inside and out, thereby accelerating the aging process and increasing our risk for disease. Green drinks fight free radicals and help to quell inflammation through a combination of concentrated, food-based antioxidants and other nutrients from algae-such as spirulina and chlorella-grasses, and fruit and vegetable extracts.
Take: One serving first thing in the morning.
5 Vitamins Your Skin Must Have
The skin is our largest organ, but nutritionally speaking, the human body doesn’t consider it the most important one. “You will survive a pimple or a wrinkle, but addressing problems with organs like your heart and brain is more important if you wish to see another day,” says Lisa Petty, a holistic nutritionist, natural beauty coach, and author of Living Beauty: Feel Great, Look Fabulous & Live Well. Consequently, other organs get fed first, and if nutrients are in short supply, the skin will go hungry and weaken.
To keep your skin adequately fed, Petty recommends five key vitamins-found in many multivitamins-that support healthy skin, hair, and nails, plus our other Supplement Essentials.
Vitamin A: Helps keep skin smooth and moist. Common signs of deficiency may include rough, sandpaper skin on the backs of your arms, acne, dry skin, dry hair, or dandruff. Sweet potato, carrots, spinach, kale, and calf liver are good food sources. Take: 2,500 IU daily.
B Complex: Necessary for overall metabolism and healthy skin, hair, and nails, the B vitamins work together to improve skin texture, heal injury, and help control inflammation. Fish, poultry, meats, fortified cereals/whole grains, eggs, and dark leafy greens are good sources of various B vitamins. Take: 50-100 mg of the main B vitamins daily.
Vitamin C:Used in the formation of collagen, which supports the structure of skin, vitamin C is an antioxidant that also protects against the effects of sun, pollution, and stress. A shortage can contribute to skin aging, ridges in nails, and hair loss. Oranges, strawberries, red and green peppers, broccoli, and kiwi are high in C. Take: 500-1,000 mg daily.
Vitamin D:Necessary for the healthy development of new skin cells and to control inflammation, low levels are a factor in flare-ups of acne, rosacea, psoriasis, and dermatitis, and can even contribute to hair loss. Fatty fish, fish liver oil, and fortified milk are good sources of vitamin D. Take: 2,000-4,000 IU daily, or 1,000 IU if you are regularly exposed to summer sun without protection.
Vitamin E:Another potent antioxidant, vitamin E prevents essential fats and other vitamins in our bodies from being damaged by pollutants and toxins. It also helps us utilize vitamin A, repairs tissue, and reduces scars. Sunflower seeds, almonds, vegetable oils, and peanut butter are rich in vitamin E. Take: 400 IU daily of a natural form with mixed tocopherols (d-tocopherols).
Stages of Life
As we grow older, natural changes predispose us to common age-related conditions that can become noticeable in one’s 30s or later, depending on genes and lifestyle. Here are some important supplements that help to counteract different aspects of age-related changes:
Digestion becomes less efficient: To improve absorption of nutrients, take a supplement with a combination of digestive enzymes, and take probiotics, friendly bacteria that also help to keep the immune system balanced. Take: Follow label directions for probiotics and enzymes.
Energy production slows down: CoQ10 is an essential nutrient used in energy production in every cell, especially the heart, but its levels naturally start declining in our mid-30s. Take: 100 mg daily of a fat soluble CoQ10 product to maintain health, and up to 300 mg if you’re at risk for heart disease.
The heart works harder: Rising blood pressure and deposits in arteries put a heavier load on the heart. CoQ10 is vital for healthy heart function. In addition, Aged Garlic Extract, a special form of organically grown
garlic, helps lower blood pressure, reverse plaque build-up in arteries, improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and improve circulation. Take: 1,200 mg daily of Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract.
Imbalanced blood sugar leads to diabetes: The essential supplements work together to support healthy blood sugar. In addition, the trace mineral chromium and an ancient Ayurvedic herb, gymnema sylvestre, help counteract diabetes. Other antidiabetic herbs include bitter melon and salacia, found in some formulas designed to balance blood sugar. Take: 200 mcg daily of chromium (found in some multivitamins); follow label directions for gymnema sylvestre and blood-sugar balancing formulas.
Inflammation levels rise: The key beneficial ingredient found in red wine-resveratrol-helps reduce chronic inflammation. It also slows the aging process in additional ways, as a potent antioxidant and by improving the body’s ability to convert carbohydrates into energy, which helps balance blood sugar and prevent weight gain and diabetes.Take: 250-500 mg daily of resveratrol.
Joints start to creak: Injury or repetitive stress from sports, or accidents earlier in life, can accelerate joint problems. Fish oil and vitamin D contribute to joint health, and specific, targeted nutrients provide relief in different ways. Nutrients can take a few weeks to produce noticeable relief. Joint remedies include:
Resveratrol helps to balance blood sugar and prevent weight gain and diabetes.
- Glucosamine to repair cartilage: 1,500 mg daily.
- Natural Eggshell Membrane (NEM) to repair joint and connective tissue: 500 mg daily.
- BioCell Collagen to restore and lubricate joints: 1,000 mg twice daily.
- MSM, SAMe, and herbs (such as turmeric, ginger, and boswellia) in formulas to fight and prevent inflammation and relieve pain: follow product directions.
Sleep becomes less restful: Melatonin helps restore natural sleep rhythms. Tryptophan, an amino acid, is an effective remedy for mild to moderate insomnia. And magnesium is essential for a calm nervous system and relaxed muscles that enable restful sleep. Try either tryptophan or melatonin; magnesium can be combined with either one.
- Tryptophan: 1,000 mg or less, 1-3 hours before bedtime.
- Melatonin: 0.1-3 mg, an hour before bedtime.
- Magnesium: Start with 150-200 mg daily and then build up to 400 mg, 1-2 times daily.
There are many approaches to healthy eating, but controlling age-accelerating, chronic inflammation and avoiding toxins are common goals. Your local health food store is a resource that can help you achieve both objectives.
Fresh fruits and vegetables; legumes; whole grains; nuts and seeds; and healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil and other unrefined plant oils form the basis of a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet. And for the majority of Americans who eat animal foods, fish and lean sources of animal protein are other key components. In contrast, it’s well known that refined starches, added sugars, trans fats (“partially hydrogenated” oils), and excessive saturated fats all contribute to chronic inflammation.
Unfortunately, two other inflammatory factors are often overlooked: chemical food additives and common allergens such as corn, soy, gluten, dairy, and wheat. Health food stores make it easy to steer clear of toxins and offending food ingredients by offering a variety of organic, vegan, and even raw foods to fit different styles of healthy eating.
To help you find what’s best for you and your family, here are some key terms used on store signage and product labels:
Organic: The USDA regulates the use of this term. On fresh foods, “organic” means grown or raised following organic rules, in a way that promotes ecological balance, without synthetic fertilizers, toxic pesticides, sewage sludge, irradiation, or genetic engineering. Animals raised organically may not be given hormones or antibiotics to promote growth, and may eat only organic feed, without any animal by-products.
On packaged foods with multiple ingredients, “organic” can be used in several ways:
- “100% Organic” means everything in the food is organic except for water and salt.
- “Organic” on the front of a package means at least 95 percent of the ingredients are organic, excluding water and salt. These and “100% Organic” products may carry an organic seal.
- “Made with Organic Ingredients” means that at least 70 percent of the ingredients are organic. Such products do not carry an organic seal.
Conventional soda is the most popular source of overabundant, added sugars. Healthier, refreshing alternatives include sparkling drinks flavored with fruit or stevia, many varieties of cold or hot herbal teas, and coconut water, an exceptionally hydrating drink that is rich in heart-healthy potassium.
GMO-Free: Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are foods doctored with foreign genes, usually to make them more resistant to pests or herbicides. GMO-free foods do not contain foreign genes but are not automatically organic. For more on GMOs, see p. 36.
Excluded Ingredients: Look for these to avoid any specific ingredients you cannot easily digest: gluten-free, wheat-free, lactose-free, dairy-free, or foods that specifically state they contain no soy, corn, peanuts, or tree nuts.
Grass-Fed: Animals that are grass-fed eat mostly or exclusively grass throughout their lives but are not necessarily raised organically, unless they are also labeled “organic.”
Natural: The exact meaning of this term varies, depending on the food it describes. Look for more specific information on the label or ask store staff.
Vegan: Contains no animal products.
Raw: Prepared without use of high heat-usually no more than 117-118ºF-to preserve enzymes and nutrients.
“The biggest beauty secret is consistently following a regimen, every morning and evening,” says Stacy Cox, owner of Pampered People in Los Angeles and a go-to beauty expert for women of all ages, from Hollywood celebrities to soccer moms. Buy the highest quality skin care products you can afford and use them diligently, says Cox, and do this:
Choose products without toxins (see “Ingredients to Avoid,” below right) and follow a routine.
Daily (morning and before bed):
- Cleanse, using milky or creamy cleanser for dry skin or a gel-based one for oily skin.
- Moisturize, using a product with natural ingredients such as sea buckthorn oil, and antioxidants
such as vitamin C, green tea extract, and plant and fruit extracts. Serums, which can be used in place of or before a cream, are more concentrated. Look for specific ingredients under “Individual Needs,” below.
- For enhanced hydration, use an alcohol-free toner before applying moisturizer.
- Protect skin during daytime with a sunscreen.
- To remove dead skin cells, exfoliate with a scrub that has a natural base, such as sugar or nuts.
- Masks can detoxify, nourish, and hydrate skin.
- Dry skin or wrinkles: Peptides, hyaluronic acid, CoQ10, and other antioxidants.
- Oily skin or acne: Salicylic acid, vitamin A, and clay to draw out oil.
- Discoloration or age spots: Kojic acid, which comes from mushrooms, and plant and fruit extracts.
- Rosacea: Soothing, anti-inflammatory ingredients such as sea buckthorn oil, and vitamin K to reduce the appearance of broken capillaries.
Top 3 Therapeutic Ingredients
Peptides: You could think of peptides as a special form of protein designed to be absorbed by the skin. Technically, they are strings of two or more amino acids (which make up all protein). Like the protein we eat, peptides provide building blocks for tissue regeneration, and they help bind moisture in the skin. But they also play another critical role of signaling facial muscles to relax-much like Botox, but in a non-invasive, non-toxic way. Choose products with a variety of peptides, as each one works somewhat differently.
Hyaluronic Acid: Occurring naturally in our bodies, hyaluronic acid hydrates skin, irrigates wrinkles, and works with collagen and elastin to support skin structure. It’s a natural plumper-upper.
Antioxidants: These fight age-related and environmental damage. Top ones include CoQ10, green tea extract, alpha lipoic acid, and vitamins C and E. DMAE is an antioxidant that also tones, firms, and tightens skin, helping to prevent sagging.
Ingredients to Avoid
Beauty products contain hundreds of different ingredients, some of which are toxic. These are some key ones to banish from your bathroom:
- Sodium Lauryl (or Laureth) Sulfate: A foaming agent found in some cleansers, shampoos, and toothpastes. It penetrates the skin and acts as a gatekeeper, allowing other chemicals to get deeper into the skin.
- Phthalates: Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) is a texture enhancer most commonly found in fragrance (included in many products, not the same as essential oils) and nail polish,
and in some shampoos, conditioners, hair sprays, antiperspirants, sunscreens, and moisturizing lotions and creams. DBP artificially makes skin feel soft and moisturized
and increases penetration of products.
- Parabens: Used as preservatives in many products, may be listed as ethyl, methyl, propyl, or butyl parabens. Can cause allergic reactions and disrupt the immune system.
- Mineral Oil, Petroleum Jelly, or Petrolatum: Found in some moisturizers and cosmetics, these don’t let skin breathe and lead to blackheads.
- Synthetic Dyes and Colors: May be toxic.
For more detailed information compiled by the non-profit Environmental Working Group, and to check out specific products, visit www.ewg.org/skindeep.
We’ve collected some of our favorite products and put them into general categories for easy reference and shopping. We also included several hot new supplements with innovative ingredients. Use the boxes to check off products you want to try.
Throat & Chest Lozenges, in delicious flavors like Cherry and Honey and Lemon, have no artificial ingredients. Keep on hand for the whole family.
Olive Leaf Complex gets its medicinal power from olive leaf, which is extremely high
Take 1 Tbs. at the first sign of illness.
is a tasty way to support your immune system throughout the year. Mix one Natural Orange-flavored packet with water.
Organic Papaya Leaf Extract
is a new product that helps boost immunity and fight aging-all thanks to papaya leaf’s stellar nutrient profile.
Fiber Gummies supply 4 grams of fiber per serving in yummy Peach, Blackberry, and Strawberry flavors. Great for the entire family.
Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics are an award-winning probiotic based on cutting-edge research. It helps support all areas of digestive health.
Almased is a shake mix that combines soy, honey, and yogurt for a creamy drink that boosts metabolism and tames appetite. Can be safely used by diabetics, too.
PGX Satisfast Energy Drink Mix is a new whey protein energy drink mix combining the health benefits of PGX (a fiber blend) with all-natural whey.
can help with
multiple health goals, including weight loss, more energy, and heart health. Great before a workout for added energy.
Flor-Essence Rejuvenating Creamprotects skin against toxins with a unique concentrated extract of seven herbs (also found in Flor-Essence liquid).
Garden of Life
Vitamin Code Women’s Multicontains only raw ingredients for easier absorption. Skin, bone, and breast health nutrients
are added, too.
Arthur Andrew Medical
FibroVera AHS features an estrogen-balancing enzyme that helps ease cramping and bloating, enhance mood, and restore reproductive tissue.
Joint & Bone
JOINTHealth Plus Antioxidants combines Natural Eggshell Membrane with anti-inflammatory antioxidants for powerful joint pain relief.
No. 7 blends seven joint health nutrients, including UC-II undenatured collagen, boswellia, and Ester-C, for optimal joint comfort and flexibility.
OsteoCalm is a tasty liquid bone formula with an ideal 1:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium. Other key bone nutrients are added, including vitamins D3 and K2.
Stress & Anxiety
CalmAid is a new product that helps ease stress, tension, and anxiety with a clinically proven, non-drowsy form of lavender essential oil in softgels.
Quality of Life
Serenelle eases stress while also increasing energy and focus. Lemon balm, L-theanine, PharmaGABA, and ashwagandha go to work in 40 minutes.
Life Force Multipleis an energizing daily multi with high-quality, easy-to-digest
forms of vitamins, minerals, herbs,
and other nutrients.
Mineral Rich is an award-winning liquid mineral supplement that provides 70 trace minerals, essential minerals, vitamin
B12, and biotin.
EcoSmart Omega-3 offers a sustainable source of both
EPA and DHA from Norwegian calamari oil for optimal brain, heart, vision, and joint health.
Goat Milk is a great source of vitamins
A and B, and calcium and other minerals. Great for traveling and anyone sensitive to cow’s milk.
Heart & Energy
Cholesterol Pro boasts plant sterols and an extract of bergamot, which
is rich in citrus bioflavonoids, for natural cholesterol regulation.
Kyolic Formula 110 promotes
overall heart health, energy, immune health, and healthier aging with Aged Garlic Extract and CoQ10.
North American Herb & SpiceChag-O-Power is a Wild Chaga Mushroom Emulsion that is packed with heart-friendly plant sterols and the antioxidant SOD.