For years people have turned to specific foods for healing instead of prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs. If you have a cold, you’re told to take vitamin C. Trouble sleeping? Try melatonin. Natural remedies or dietary supplements continue growing in popularity based on this demand.
And while these types of supplements are helpful when there is a deficiency or as an alternative to drugs with certain ailments such as heartburn or acne, Lindsey Joe, a registered dietitian nutritionist, warns to always consult a doctor beforehand.
“More isn't necessarily better when it comes to dietary supplements and they can also interact with other medications,” says Joe, a Nashville Media Spokesperson for the TN Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and blogger at HandmadeHealthy.com.
Not only that, but supplements should never be used to replace food or expected to be a one-stop cure, Joe continued.
With that said, which ones are actually helpful and how can you incorporate them into your diet? We turned to Joe, as well as bestselling author Julie Morris Superfood Soups, for answers.
Curb your sweet tooth
Cinnamon is thought to lower your blood pressure and essentially decrease the impact of a high-fat meal, according to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition. And while experts are still uncertain about if it can really benefit your heart, they do know it can help curb your sugar intake.
“Cinnamon is such a wonderful go-to ingredient for all kinds of sweet recipes, which can actually boost the perceived sweetness without adding additional sugar,” said Morris. “It's a wonderful complement to fruit, chocolate, and there's rarely a baked recipe that can't benefit from a little cinnamon.”
De-bloat your belly
“Fresh peppermint is exceptionally refreshing when used in conjunction with other fresh herbs for vibrant green sauces — try a mix of parsley, cilantro, and mint, blended with olive oil, lemon, and a touch of syrup on top of roasted vegetables,” Morris said. “Peppermint oil is a lovely way to enhance smoothies or desserts — usually in combination with vanilla or chocolate (just be sure to use only a few drops of the oil to avoid a toothpaste-like flavor)!”
Used in Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years, holy basil is known as an adaptogen. This type of herb supports adrenal function and counteracts the adverse effects of stress, according to Dr. Frank Lipman on PopSugar.
“Unlike its name, holy basil does not taste like the culinary basil we are used to,” Morris said. “Holy basil is much more bitter and medicinal tasting, and is a flavor that is best ‘hidden’ in conjunction with stronger flavors. Try using a bit of a holy basil tincture in heavily spiced soups, or in garlic-y sauces, and ‘secretly’ reap the benefits.”
Help relieve anxiety
Chamomile has long been a favorite when winding down. Add it to your caffeine-free tea and you have a soothing nightcap. Plus, for “individuals with mild to moderate Generalized Anxiety Disorder, chamomile was shown to have modest benefits,” Joe said.
Help prevent cancer
“Few research studies on people have been conducted to show the potential anticancer effects of garlic,” Joe said. “The National Cancer Institute does not recommend any dietary supplement for the prevention of cancer, but does recognize garlic has a veggie with potential anticancer properties.”
Joe suggests adding garlic, fresh or ground, to your favorite meal or snacks.
Magnesium is often effective when treating infrequent heartburn. Joe suggests going to the root of the problem: fatty foods.
“Instead of popping pills, try to choose lean protein sources and opt for baked dishes instead of fried,” Joe said. “Certain foods and ingredients may also worsen your reflux symptoms. So try to avoid mint, chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, acidic foods and spicy foods, which may trigger heartburn.”