As the Patriots are gearing up to bring their “A” game to the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, I’ve compiled an “A” team of nutritional supplements to help cope with the health-compromising vicissitudes of winter’s second half. These star nutrients include two adaptogenic herbs and two very potent antioxidants. Some common threads running through all four of these supplements are that they stimulate the immune system and also exhibit anti-inflammatory properties- two extremely important factors in combatting the stressors of life and thwarting the invasion of microbial pathogens.
Astaxanthin- This red-pigmented member of the carotenoid family is found primarily in marine organisms, especially in microalgae with the tongue-twisting scientific name of Haematococcus pluvialis, the primary source for natural astaxanthin supplements. It is also the carotene that gives salmon and various crustaceans, including lobsters, their reddish coloration. Astaxanthin is considered to be the most potent antioxidant found in nature, exhibiting much greater antioxidant potential than vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and glutathione. Research has found astaxanthin to be effective in at least five inflammation pathways and is one of very few antioxidants capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier. It can improve mental function and slow the aging process with regards to mental and physical decline. It accumulates in the retina of the eye and can help mitigate age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. Astaxanthin also has the ability to protect DNA molecules from oxidative damage, reducing the incidence of certain cancers. Astaxanthin can help protect the skin from the sun’s UV radiation, improve cardiovascular health by supporting blood vessel integrity and prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)- Native to northern and eastern China, the root of this member of the legume family has been a key component in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Known in China as Huang-qi, astragalus is an herbal adaptogen, assisting the body in coping with mental, physical and emotional stress. It accomplishes this by reducing cortisol levels and balancing various biological systems. Astragalus stimulates the immune system by augmenting the activity of macrophages, T-helper cells, killer cells and immunoglobulins. The root’s anti-viral properties can help decrease the incidences of colds and flus. It has been used effectively with hepatitis patients and can be helpful to diabetics by decreasing insulin resistance. Animal research has shown that astragalus has the ability to lengthen chromosome telomeres (which naturally shorten with age) and may have the potential of increasing the life span of humans and other organisms.
Alpha Lipoic Acid- A fatty acid with powerful antioxidant properties, alpha lipoic acid, like astaxanthin, is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier. It can improve brain health and can increase the capacity for neurons to communicate with one another. Alpha lipoic acid is atypical in that it can function in both water soluble and fat soluble situations, making it one of the most versatile supplemental antioxidants. Alpha lipoic acid also has the ability of regenerating and amplifying the activity of other antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, CoQ10 and glutathione that have become depleted from neutralizing free radicals. Other attributes of alpha lipoic acid include the ability to regulate blood glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity and chelate heavy metals like arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury. It has also been effective in treating hepatitis C patients and improving liver function.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)- The root of this herb has been revered in the Ayurvedic system of India for at least 6,000 years. It possesses adaptogenic properties and is sometimes referred to as Indian ginseng although the two are not botanically related. Ayurveda considers ashwagandha the primary Rasayana of its healing system- a rejuvenating nerve tonic that can improve cognitive functions in children, adults and elders. It is used to increase stamina, vitality and longevity and can help balance the sexual and reproductive systems in both women and men. Ashwagandha enhances immune function, has anti-tumor properties, and can help alleviate the side effects of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Other benefits include its ability to reduce inflammation, regulate blood sugar levels, relieve anxiety and help with insomnia.
Super Bowl Sunday- The Super Bowl is second only to Thanksgiving in being the most food-centric festivity of the year. On February 5th celebrate the Patriot’s ninth appearance (7th for a certain # 12) by huddling around a healthier spread of Super Bowl snacks. We have tortilla chips made from organic, GMO-free corn and salubrious salsas featuring organic tomatoes and jalapeno peppers. Make a batch of nachos oozing with Neighborly Farms farmstead organic cheddar from Vermont. Give our organic vegan chili a try- I guarantee it will satisfy even the most calculating carnivore. And hoist a toast to the clan of the Flying Elvis with Flying Dreams Night Crawler, a dark IPA with a smooth malty finish- Joseph’s pick to help him forget that his beloved Cincinnati Bungals (I mean Bengals) haven’t been there since 1988. Joseph, we feel your pain!