We've heard of protein shakes; we’ve seen the energy drinks; But what if I was to tell you there’s so much more out there that can help support your fitness goals?
In a world consumed by processed foods and advertising sporting flash words like ‘vitamin’ and ‘healthy’, it can be difficult to know what’s good for us and what isn’t.
In this article we’ll be taking it back to our roots, looking at some herbal supplements that can help with improving our goals of living a healthy lifestyle.
Spirulina is an algae that takes on a rich blue/green colour. It is thought to be one of the oldest life forms on earth. Dating back to the time of the Aztecs, spirulina was used for treating various diseases and general health maintenance.
Because spirulina is so rich in nutrients, it is considered a superfood, however it’s mostly available for purchase in supplement form. You can add spirulina powder into various things like your smoothies, oats or salads.
Spirulina has great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Various studies through control groups have also shown the positive effects Spirulina has on combating symptoms of rhinitis, it’s anti-cancer effects and its other health possibilities (1).
This one may not be new for some of you as matcha has become a high street staple. However, it might come as a surprise to see how many benefits are attached to your favourite drink.
Matcha has been a constant within Japanese Culture for over 800 years, weaving its way into cultural practises like Temae, a traditional tea ceremony that celebrates the preparation and presentation of matcha.
It is made by grinding green tea leaves until they become a fine, green powder. The tea leaves hold lots of nutrients, and because it’s ground into a powder there’s a higher concentration of goodness in matcha as opposed to steeping the tea leaves in water.
Matcha tea is higher in catechins, which are the plants natural antioxidants. In fact, a study found that the catechins found in Matcha tea were 137 times more than in other types of green tea (2). Matcha has also been linked to supporting cognitive function and mental health conditions (3).
Whilst matcha is commonly used in tea, there are various ways you can incorporate matcha into your diet. If you’re interested in using it in different ways then click here to see 10 delicious recipes you can create using matcha powder. (internal link will be added here).
Sea moss is a type of seaweed found in Irish tidepools and inlets that grows year-round. Whilst it is mainly harvested for cosmetics and baked goods, there is increasing interest in its health properties.
Sea moss is a great natural thickener, making it ideal for soups and stews. Studies have also shown the seaweed is high in fibre and oligosaccharides, which help bind and repair cells together (4).
The moss is available to buy in dried form, which is then steamed, blended and used as a gel. This can be added into foods for thickening or be taken as a daily supplement. It is important to prepare the sea moss correctly and not overconsume the seaweed; this is because the moss contains iodine, and too much can cause iodine poisoning.
That being said, don’t let it dishearten you as sea moss is great for our bodies. Whilst you can buy it in its original form, it’s available in a supplement form which alleviates the pressure of preparing it.
The ashwagandha plant has been a staple in Ayurvedic medicine in India for thousands of years. In recent years, Western researchers have been interested in conducting studies to find out the scientific properties behind the plant.
The plant is an adaptogenic, and thus has been found to help those suffering from anxiety and stress. It’s also rich in Iron, helping those with anemia.
Studies also indicate that taking ashwagandha alongside strength training can help support muscle mass as well as increasing testosterone (5).
Whilst more studies need to be done on the scientific properties of ashwagandha, there is no doubt that it has healing properties. Ashwagandha is available to purchase in supplement form.
What is an adaptogenic?
An adaptogenic has been defined by registered osteopath and herbalist, Jennifer Pottruff, as “agents that support the body’s ability to accommodate varying physical and emotional stresses” (6).
Used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for centuries, they are used to manage to body’s stress response and can significantly impact energy levels. Whilst people are reliant on caffeine for the same effect, adaptogenic herbs can give you the same boost, without the crash.
Like ashwagandha, maca root is also an adaptogenic. Maca root is from the Andes Mountains in Peru, and has been used for centuries as a traditional medicine. Typically, the root is dried and boiled by Peruvians, who then drink the water. However, it is now available as a powder as well as in supplement form.
In order to get the full nutrients from maca root, do not bake or cook with it. Instead, use the powder on raw or cooked items such as smoothies or on top of oats.
It’s a great source of nutrients for our bodies, and can help balance hormones and maintain a healthy libido. As well as this, it reduces stress and increases energy and athletic performance.
If you’re interested in adaptogenics, some other foods that fall into this category are;
- Reishi Mushroom
- American Ginseng
- Licorice Root
In a world chock full of choice, it can be difficult to find natural supplements to help you on your fitness journey. Whilst I have just listed 5, there are many natural superfoods that are great for our overall health.
If you’re interested in taking any of these plant-based supplements, it is important to do more research to see if they’re right for you. As with anything, moderation is key; don’t overconsume in the hopes that you’ll get more benefits. Instead, find which superfoods work for you and incorporate them into your daily life.