Saturday, December 31, 2011

Healthy Supplements for Dancers

I can't really say I believe in taking food supplements. I really think that the healthiest way to get all your essential nutrients is from real food, not from a pill. However, sometimes it's the easiest way to get nutrients, or maybe you need more of something in particular, or maybe you just don't like the way a particular food tastes. Here are some things that I take/have taken, or have heard good things about:

Fish Oil
Omega 3 fatty acids are extremely important to your metabolism. The worst thing? Your body doesn't produce omega 3's. A few ounces of fish per week is recommended at a minimum to get your omega 3's. Other alternatives include flax seeds, walnuts, and kale (recently described as a "super food" by Dance Magazine). Of course, if you don't like any of these foods, the pills are easy enough to take.

This may or may not be one you've heard of, although your parents might have. It's actually the most common non-vitamin, non-mineral dietary supplement. What is it? Glucosamine is a component of healthy cartilage and is used to treat osteoarthritis, especially for the knees. Your body does make glucosamine when you're young, but natural production will stop at some point. I take glucosamine currently because my ligaments are too stretchy - extra glucosamine stabilizes my joints and ligaments.

If you eat curry, you're good here. Turmeric is a powdery spice noted for it's sharp flavor and ochre color. It is an anti-inflammatory agent, anti-bacterial, likely to help prevent several different cancers and diseases, a natural liver detoxifier, speeds healing, and is a natural painkiller. I first started taking turmeric pills (you could eat the powder straight, but good luck with the taste) to fight acne, but even Dance Magazine has mentioned the many health benefits of turmeric. You really have no reason to not want to take it.

For disease prevention: Elderberry and Garlic
Students of any kind are around disease literally all the time. Professionals don't have time to be sick. You can fight the common cold and flu with garlic tablets, orange juice, and Emergen-C. I'm currently battling diseases around me - my best friend, both my parents, and the dance department I left behind have given me germs that my immune system has not yet submitted to (knock on wood), but I know my body is straining. I've been supplementing the past few days with Rainbow Light's Get Well Soon, which is good for both prevention and soothing symptoms. These tablets deliver both symptom relief and an immune system boost, strengthening your body's natural defenses so that it can fight better and faster.

My last warning is be careful of the supplements you take. Some of them may help, some may not. It is always better to eat the actual food than take a concentrated pill form. Why? There's a reason these compounds aren't found by themselves in nature - an orange contains a lot of vitamin C, but there are other elements and compounds in the orange that will simultaneously nourish the body and help it to process and use the vitamin C to its fullest potential. You get lots of fiber, some vitamin A, and a wee bit of iron - a combination that may give your body more than just a concentrated heap of vitamin C. This idea was introduced to me by someone I respect very much, and while I have no scientific evidence to back it, I think it makes sense. Sure, I can take a fish oil pill, but I'd rather eat the actual fish. It's the way nature intended food and nutrition to be.

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