updated 10/10/2012 AT 11:00 AM ET
•originally published 10/10/2012 AT 12:10 PM ET
I love food! So it’s not much of a surprise that I prefer to get my nutrients from meals rather than pills, powders and potions.
But even without me as a customer, the supplement industry is BOOMING. Americans spend billions of dollars on products touted to help them lose weight, boost energy, restore hair loss or improve sleep. Just yesterday I saw not one, but two different cast members of MTV’s Jersey Shore hawking weight loss pills on Internet ads.
When I was in graduate school, I worked as a nutrition scientist for the Department of National Defence in Canada.
My first assignment was to review all the research that had ever been published on supplements that claimed to increase strength, endurance, energy and muscle gain.
I was shocked to learn that many of the “magic pills” marketed to the general public are nothing more than hype. From smilax to velvet deer antler, and boron to vanadyl, there was no evidence to show these things actually did much of anything helpful.
It made me wonder why no one was asking for proof. Where was the hard evidence these companies claimed to have that proved their products were as effective as the advertising promised?
These are supplements that provide us with a nutrient, or nutrients, in a convenient application for times when we are unable (or unwilling) to eat actual food.
These supplements don’t make outrageous claims. They are not dangerous or controversial. And, they exist just to make it a little easier to get all the nutrients you need when you are busy, in a rush or have specific food allergies or aversions that make it difficult to get enough of certain nutrients.
Here are the three categories of “convenience nutritionals” I always keep in the house.
The body cannot store protein as easily as it can carbohydrates and fats. So, it is essential that we frequently ingest small amounts of protein throughout the day.
However, grilling a chicken breast or sautéeing lentils isn t always an option. That’s why I always keep a good quality protein powder in the house to boost my smoothies. I personally like whey protein. It s a complete protein (has all of the essential amino acids), is easy for the body to absorb, and is lactose free.
Whether you choose whey or prefer other proteins like egg white (albumin), casein (the other dairy protein), soy, brown rice or another option, make sure there are no added carbohydrates or unhealthy fats!
Fiber makes you feel fuller faster, reduces transit time (time that food takes to get through your digestive tract and out of your body), can reduce bad cholesterol and various cancers.
When you can’t seem to find enough fibrous fruit, veggies or whole grains, a good fiber supplement can make your day much healthier. But remember, fiber from actual food is always a better choice.
Try to aim for 30 to 40 grams of fiber a day.
Psyllium, Inulin (chicory root) and oat fiber are just some of the options most common in pharmacies and grocery stores.
Make sure to drink tons of water with any fiber supplement you take.
Believe it or not, close to 90 percent of adult Americans do not get their recommended servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Needless to say, nothing is better than the real thing, and we need to make more of an effort to eat that apple a day. In the meantime, a daily multivitamin is a great insurance policy. It ensures you ll get all the micronutrients you need to be healthy, if you happen to miss one or more vitamins and minerals on any given day.
While recent research concluded that taking a daily multivitamin does not necessarily reduce your chances of getting cancer or heart disease, several studies purport health benefits like improving memory.
As I mentioned before, nothing is as good for you as eating real food. Whenever possible, try to buy local, in-season, and hormone-free produce and dairy!
What kind of supplements do you take and why? Tweet me @harleypasternak and share your thoughts.
Check back every Wednesday for more insider tips on Hollywood’s hottest bodies – and learn how to get one yourself! Plus: follow Harley on Twitter at @harleypasternak