Whole Food Supplements

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For optimal health, the body needs a daily intake of an array of vitamins and minerals. Many people are taking vitamin supplements as a way of boosting this intake, however the majority of vitamin supplements available are synthetic compounds. Synthetic vitamins do not confer the benefits that a diet rich in whole foods, or natural whole food supplements does. For example vitamin C found in whole foods contains rutin, bioflavonoids, ascorbic acid, factors K, J and P, tyrosinase and ascorbinogen.

Commonly, vitamin C supplements will contain only an artificially produced compound made of corn starch bound to sulphuric acid. While labelled as ascorbic acid, this synthetic product does not provide the full health benefits of natural vitamin C. Our bodies are not designed to thrive on chemical compounds, however a range of whole food supplements are available that are naturally occurring and can confer a range of health benefits.

Fish Oil

Fish oil capsules are a natural whole food supplement that contain omega-3 fatty acids. These long-chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids are found almost exclusively in seafood, especially oily fish. Two of these fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexainoic acid (DHA) are particularly beneficial to the body, especially in lowering the incidence of heart disease. Both EPA and DHA are incorporated into cellular membranes throughout the body, displacing the omega-6 fatty acid, arachidonic acid. It is theorised this contributes to a reduction in proinflammatory and prothrombotic processes. Additionally, during ischemic stress, membrane phospholipids release EPA and DHA, decreasing the resting membrane potential, which hinders the development of ventricular fibrillation. There are claims that regular intake of fish oil can also reduce inflammation associated with heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil is a saturated fat containing medium-chain fatty acids that are broken into individual fatty acids in the stomach, before being absorbed through the portal vein into the liver. As a whole food supplement it is useful for increasing the body's metabolism and reducing its energy requirements. Coconut oil enhances the absorption of important minerals such as magnesium and calcium, as well as some of the B, and fat-soluble vitamins. It also contains lauric acid that is converted into monolaurin during digestion. Monolaurin is an effective antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal agent, as well as reducing protozoa in the digestive tract. It has also been shown to aid those suffering from viruses such as HIV, measles and herpes simplex. When taking coconut oil as a whole food supplement, ensure that only virgin oil is purchased, as hydrogenated oil may not have all of the same health benefits.

Olive Oil

Olive Oil is a functional food containing a high level of monounsaturated fatty acids and is high in antioxidants. Approximately 72% of olive oil is comprised of oleic acid, which is believed to be responsible for providing chemoprotection in breast cancer patients, as well as down-regulating the over expression of an oncogene in these patients. It is also believed that olive oil protects against colon cancer, as it contains high levels of phenols that are capable of scavenging free radicals produced in the faecal matrix. These phenols are also attributed with preventing LDL cholesterol oxidation and protecting against DNA damage. Olive oil is also useful for helping hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis and has antimicrobial effects. Olive oil can be consumed daily as a whole food supplement.

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is a succulent that is well known for its healing properties. It produces both a gel, and a liquid or juice, which may be taken as a whole food supplement. Aloe vera juice contains enzymes, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. It also contains anthraquinones that may have a laxative effect on the body, however the juice does support the digestive system and has been shown to reduce symptoms of ulcerative colitis. It is also well known for its anti-inflammatory properties and may enhance wound healing, although its mechanism of action is still unclear.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is a beneficial whole food supplement as it contains all of the essential amino acids at much higher levels than vegetable protein sources. It contains high levels of leucine, isoleucine and valine that are important for tissue growth and repair. Whey protein contains significant amounts of immunoglobulins that can boost the immunity of those who consume it. One component of whey protein, bovine betalactoglobulin works to block the convesion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II, thus working as an anti-hypertensive. It has also shown to be beneficial for reducing obesity and cardiovascular disease and for promoting insulin release in diabetics. It is a particularly good whole food supplement for athletes as the high level of amino acids support protein synthesis and muscle growth.

Medicinal Mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms contain polysaccharides that stimulate the immune system. It is believed that some of these polysaccharides are too dense to be absorbed in the gut, but interact with peyer's patches, the lymphatic tissue in the gut, causing an alarm reaction and exciting the immune response. One of the more viable and valuable whole food supplements, medicinal mushrooms may confer non-specific immunity, with an increase in the number of natural killer cells in the body. The number of T cells in the body will also increase, especially in the Th1 subset, which mediates the response for patients with allergies. Medicinal mushrooms therefore can be beneficial for eczema and hay fever sufferers.

For optimal health, individuals need to consume a range of vitamins and minerals each day. While vitamin supplements are available, the majority of these are made of synthetic, chemical compounds that provide little benefit for the body. Eating a diet rich in natural vitamins, or taking whole food supplements may enhance the body's natural health and help prevent a range of diseases.

References

Anonymous (2008). Whey Protein. Alternative Medicine Review. 13 (4).

Fife, B. (2005). Coconut Cures. Colorado Springs: Piccadilly Books

Harris, W. (2004). Fish Oil Supplementation: Evidence for Health Benefits. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 71 (3)

Hughes, A. (2009). Cooking with Coconut Oil. Environmental Magazine, Jan/Feb

Pinnock, D. (2007). Medicinal Mushrooms. Positive Health, July

Vogeler, B. (1999). Aloe Vera: A Systematic Review of its Clinical Effectiveness. British Journal of General Practice, October

Waterman, E. & Lockwood, B. (2007). Active Components and Clinical Applications of Olive Oil. Alternative Medicine Review, 12, (4)

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