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Depending on supplements is not enough for a healthier you

PhotobucketI know this is a blog that expounds the amazing benefits of dietary supplements and I’m a strong believer in augmenting my diet with extra vitamins and minerals, but you can’t escape the true goodness of a healthy, balanced diet.

This year, my immunity took a beating because of several food poisoning bouts from my Nepal trip last December. Not only was my stomach more sensitive, but also I caught a cold or cough almost every week if I overstrained myself by sleeping late or working out. Believe me, this was something hard to face as an active person and as someone who almost never got the flu.

What also got me was, I thought I was disciplined in taking all the supplements that could make me stronger — vitamin C, Echinacea, garlic, zinc, cod liver oil, and the odd multi-vitamin once or twice a week. But even they couldn’t save me.

I didn’t know what was wrong and didn’t like it one bit. While I was tempted to go for a more thorough medical check-up, I decided to re-examine my entire diet and lifestyle to see what I could change before putting up the white flag. After doing some research, I decided to add these foods to my diet:

Yogurt. Although I was taking a probiotic supplement a few times a week, I decided to consume low-fat yogurt daily as an extra buffer because the good bacteria helps to fight bad bacteria. In fact, I read that “70 per cent of the immune cells that produce antibodies live in the lining of your digestive tract” in Health.com, so it makes sense to keep them in top form to fight the bad bacteria that causes flu.

At least one fruit a day. I’m ashamed to say that I used to only eat a couple of apples a week but would load up on vegetables. Part of the reason was fruit is incredibly expensive in Tokyo, especially anti-oxidant rich ones like grapes, strawberries, blueberries and cherries, so I mistakenly thought that my daily 500mg vitamin C pill will make up for it.

The other reason was laziness, which is absolutely no excuse! I’m glad I tried this, because when I switched to eating one to two servings of fruit a day, I didn’t fall sick as often. I also made the effort to consume different kinds of fruit through the week, too, which leads me to my next point.

A wide range of vegetables. I’m quite a creature of habit so I stuck mostly to mushrooms, broccoli, peppers, and spinach, but I read that the different kinds of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in different vegetables help to protect your cells against harm. So I decided to come out of my comfort zone and added long beans, celery, cabbage, baby corn, Brussels sprouts, asparagus and many more to my shopping list. It actually made cooking a lot more fun, too!

Oat bran. I have always loved oats for breakfast but I tended to prefer more savory choices like toast and scrambled eggs. From once a week to three times a week, I increased my intake of oat bran and for good reason. Beta-glucan, the substance that helps lower bad cholesterol levels, also enhances immune response to infection.

After about five months of adjusting my diet, I probably only get mild sniffles in the morning occasionally and full-blown flu attacks are much less frequent. I made a conscious effort to sleep more regularly, drink less alcohol, and exercise every other day. It wasn’t easy at all and it took some mental effort to change deeply entrenched habits, but I’m glad I did. Just relying on pills will not erase your problems — you’ve got to look at your whole lifestyle. But I still stand by using dietary supplements as natural remedies to treat and heal certain health conditions.

For more reading, here’s a great article from Revolution Health: The 7 Best Foods We Never Eat

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