I hear about new diets all the time and it can be hard to keep up with the sensational things that people are introducing to their digestive systems. You can find a lot of interesting items at your local health foods store or online, though I mostly find out about trendy nutrition through Instagram posts - it can be hard to know if certain fads are actually beneficial for your health or just touted as the latest and greatest without much information about the pros and cons of consuming these products.
I’ve looked into my top 4 intriguing edible products and did some research about whether or not they make good additions to a nutritious diet!
Aloe vera juice is processed by grinding whole aloe plant leaves to a pulp and extracting the liquid, and since this plant is water-dense, the resulting product is great for hydration. Staying hydrated helps the body detox by flushing impurities out of your system, and aloe juice also provides nutrients (like vitamins B, C, and E) that optimize your body’s organ function - since the kidneys and liver are largely responsible for detoxifying your blood, it's important to keep these organs healthy! These features can also benefit your skin, as the aloe plant is a great source of antioxidants and chemical compounds which have been shown to neutralize the effects of UV radiation and help prevent wrinkles.
Aloe contains several enzymes known to help in the breakdown of sugars and fats and to keep your digestion running smoothly. If your digestive system isn’t operating optimally, you won’t absorb all of the nutrients from the food you’re eating. To get the most out of a healthy diet, our digestive systems need to be in good working order!*
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An article published in the US News and World Report reached the conclusion that adding charcoal to your diet is not only unnecessary, but also not a good idea. This item has been used for medical purposes throughout history because of its ability to treat poisoning and other kinds of overdose - when you take activated charcoal, drugs and toxins can bind to it, which helps rid the body of unwanted or harmful substances. Because charcoal can't decipher between toxins and good nutrients, ingesting this product too regularly (and with food) means that the charcoal will also absorb the beneficial nutrients in your system.
Activated charcoal plays an important role in professional medicine, though its detoxifying properties are misleading in the realm of trendy health fads: it's effects are limited to the gastrointestinal tract and it is not capable of extracting toxins from the rest of your body. Charcoal can also cause gastrointestinal side effects, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance, so be cautious when consuming this increasingly popular item!*
Matcha is a type of green tea made by taking young tea leaves and grinding them into a bright green powder - this is different from regular green tea, where the leaves are infused in water, then removed. Matcha is rich in catechins, a class of plant compounds in tea that act as natural antioxidants; antioxidants help stabilize harmful free radicals, which are compounds that can damage cells and cause chronic disease, and when you add matcha powder to hot water to make tea, the tea contains all the nutrients from the entire leaf, so it will tend to have more catechins and antioxidants than simply steeping green tea leaves in water. This powder also contains a compound (L-theanine) which alters the effects of caffeine, promoting alertness and helping avoid the crash in energy levels that can follow caffeine consumption. If that weren't enough to get you excited about this product, green tea (which matcha is produced from) is well known for its ability to enhance weight loss by speeding up metabolic rate, increasing energy expenditure, and boosting fat burning.
This product is widely considered to be healthy and safe, but people sensitive to caffeine should be aware that matcha contains varying degrees of this stimulant. Tea plants grown in soil that is contaminated with lead will absorb it into the leaves, and, because you are consuming the entire leaf, more lead may wind up in your cup. In one study from the research organization ConsumerLab, tea grown in China had high lead concentrations, so stick to matcha teas grown and produced in Japan and look for brands that report consistent testing for the presence of heavy metals.*
Spirulina is a natural “algae” (cyanbacteria) powder that is incredibly high in protein and a good source of antioxidants, B-vitamins and other nutrients. When harvested correctly from non-contaminated ponds and bodies of water, it is one of the most potent nutrient sources available. This product is considered a complete source of high-quality protein and is often compared to eggs for the amount of protein per gram. The dark green powder is also a favorite food addition for vegetarians and vegans because it is one of the best plant sources of iron - even for those who consume meat, it has a highly absorbable form of iron that is gentle on the digestive system. Spirulina is also incredibly high in calcium with over 26 times the calcium in milk.
It's good to note that, contrary to many claims, spirulina is not a good source of Vitamin B12 for humans. While it does contain a form of B12, it is pseudovitamin B12 which is not absorbable or effective in humans. There is not enough scientific evidence to determine if spirulina is effective in treating any health conditions; however, this algae is rich in nutrients that may not be found in your average daily vitamin.*
If you're thinking about introducing a new item to your diet that is highly popularized but you don't know very much about beyond the realm of media promotion, make sure to do some research about the possible benefits and risks before ingesting some otherwise foreign substance!
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