An abundance of prepackaged convenience foods, hours spent on devices such as computers and cellphones, more time sitting and less time spent outside. Our modern, on-the-go lifestyle often includes fast food, less sleep, more stress, and abundant amounts of coffee. Most of us need a little help. Tackle your new millennium health challenges with these targeted tips.
It’s basic, but crucial, especially in this day and age, when decades of farming have left soil (and the crops grown in them) depleted of vital minerals. Moreover, most of us don’t eat the recommended five servings daily of fruits and vegetables regularly, opting for quick, convenient (read: less nutrient-dense) meals and snacks. A well-formulated multivitamin and mineral supplement is critical to fill in nutritional gaps. Choose one that’s derived from whole fruits and vegetables, not created synthetically; if it’s organic, even better. And in this case, a longer ingredient list is preferable (synthetic vitamins and supplements tend to have short ingredient lists). Tip: Store your “once-a-day” near your coffee maker, so you’ll be sure to remember it every morning.
2. Vitamin D
We’re spending much less time outdoors than generations before us, and when we are outside, we’re slathered with sunscreen—great news for skin cancer prevention, not so great for our vitamin D status. Vitamin D is important for healthy bones and necessary for the formation of sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone. And the sunshine vitamin also reduces the risk of diabetes, cancer, depression and other health concerns. While many multis contain vitamin D, it’s usually in smaller amounts; to be sure you’re getting enough, add a supplements to your regimen. Choose a D3 (cholecalciferol), which is more available to the body, and take at least 1,000 IU daily.
3. Eye-health antioxidants
Consider this: the average American now stares at screens for a total of 10 hours per day. Computers and cellphones have brought us the world at our fingertips and allow us to communicate like never before. However, our electronic devices also emit blue light, which causes free radical damage and, over time, may cause serious damage to the eyes. Protect your peepers with antioxidant supplements designed for eye health. One of the best: Ocuguard Blutein Protection contains lutein, zeaxanthin, astaxanthin, and fucoxanthin, derived from kelp; these eye-specific antioxidants have been shown to fight free radicals, absorb blue-green light, and protect the eyes from damage.
If you’re like most people, you’re probably not eating enough fish, walnuts, or other sources of omega-3 fats. Why you need them: Omega-3s are a powerful ally for balancing mood and easing stress, anxiety, and depression, which are becoming more common in the modern world. Omega-3 fatty acids are powerful anti-inflammatories, which can set you up for a disease-free future. They’ve been shown to protect against heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and eye degeneration, and also help fight acne and future wrinkles. Look for sustainably sourced fish oils, or vegan, plant-based omega-3 supplements. There’s no set standard for how much you need, but 250–500 mg combined EPA and DHA are generally recommended.
The new millennium brought “multi-tasking” into our vernacular and our daily lives. But one of the problems with multitasking is added stress, and many people add eating to the list of tasks they tackle, juggling quite literally more than they can chew. If this describes you, you probably need probiotics. These beneficial bacteria, found in the intestines, help heal gut problems, enhance immune function, balance mood, and prevent long-term disease. But they’re easily damaged by stress, antibiotics, and poor diet (especially altered fats and sugar, high in most take-out, fast-food or prepared meals). So unless you eat homemade yogurt, miso, tempeh, or sauerkraut regularly, seek out a supplement. Look for one with at least 10 billion live bacteria that includes the three most important strains—L. lactobacillus, B. bifidum and B. longum—as well as L. fermentum, L. rhamnosus, L. plantarum, and other strains. Stomach acids can destroy probiotics, so take them on an empty stomach; some studies suggest probiotics survive best when taken 30 minutes before a meal that contains some fat (which buffer stomach acids).
Another microwave meal? It may be very “Jetsons” to whip up a meal in minutes, but we sacrifice the fresh ingredients (and array of antioxidants) we get from home-cooked meals. If this describes your routine most nights of the week, adding an antioxidant supplement is crucial. Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, beta carotene, selenium, flavonoids, and polyphenols support immune function, keep skin looking young, and can protect against disease and degeneration. But high doses of a synthetic antioxidant supplement may do more harm than good. Look for a whole-foods blend: a green foods powder with fruit and berries, or a supplement that contains an organic fruit and vegetable blend are your best bets.
More of us call ourselves “vegetarian” or “vegan” than ever before. But aside from vitamin B, a vegetarian or vegan diet is missing collagen. Even if you eat meat, you’re probably not getting the collagen that past generations consumed, as homemade soup stocks and broths (a rich natural source of collagen) are becoming a thing of the past. Be sure to nourish and support joints, ligaments, and tendons with collagen. The most abundant protein in your body, collagen helps joints move more easily to reduce pain and discomfort, may help tendons and ligaments heal more quickly, and can even protect against joint deterioration. It also improves liver health, strengthens nails and teeth, builds bones, and gives the skin firmness and elasticity to prevent wrinkles and sagging as skin ages. Collagen is found in bone broth, gelatin, and high-quality protein, like salmon; or add a scoop of collagen powder to your morning smoothie or green drink to be sure you’re getting enough. Look for hydrolyzed collagen, which is more readily digested and absorbed, from organic and/or pasture-raised beef or sustainable, wild-caught marine sources.
Anxiety and depression are more prevalent in our modern-day society. The American Psychological Association reports that 12 percent of millennials have an anxiety disorder, and 19 percent have been diagnosed with depression. And between work, money, and job stability, Gen-Xers have their fair share of stress too. L-theanine, an amino acid found in green and black tea, has a measurable calming effect on the brain, increasing the body’s production of GABA and dopamine, neurotransmitters that induce feelings of well-being. Other stress-busting supplements to consider: tulsi, also called holy basil, reduces stress and anxiety; magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant and can reduce stress and improve sleep; and passionflower has been shown to effectively treat nervousness and anxiety.
Nutrient-dense mushroom formulas are great to take daily for energy, immune health, and mental stamina. Two standouts for millennials: Lion’s mane, particularly amyloban, one of the mushroom’s active ingredients, has been shown to support memory, mental focus, concentration, and brain nerve cell health. Cordyceps, a medicinal mushroom rich in health-boosting polysaccharides, has been used as an effective energy booster in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Japanese researchers at the University of Fukui reported that cordyceps contains anti-fatigue properties.
Take a Pass on Plastic
Plastic is ubiquitous in the modern world. It encases nearly everything we consume, from water bottles to convenience foods. What’s alarming is that these plastics contain phthalates, chemicals that leach out into our water and food. These phthalates mimic estrogens, which can cause hormone imbalances in the body. They can affect reproductive organs and hormones, especially in prepubescent males. Some have been linked to breast and other cancers, allergies, obesity, thyroid, and other hormonal disruptions. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system, which is responsible for hormone production and metabolism, among other important functions. Aside from avoiding bottled water and making sure not to microwave or store foods in plastic containers, help to flush phthalates out of the body by taking glutathione. Glutathione is known to aid in the metabolism and detoxification of endocrine-disrupting compounds. Also be sure to assist your body in detoxifying these chemicals by eating a lot of organic cruciferous vegetables, and sweat out toxins with exercise and/or a session in a sauna.