Trends in Health

Trends in healthcare, particularly alternative healthcare, seem to come and go like wildfire. And like trends in general, some may be more valuable or appropriate than others and it’s up to you to research them before making a decision that may affect your health. I’ll talk about a few of the trends that I’ve noticed in recent months and discuss their validity, which will hopefully give you information that you can apply to other trends as they appear.

1) Coconut Water – I’ve started seeing coconut water on the shelves of every health food store and almost every conventional grocery store lately. What’s all the buzz about? Well, coconut water is electroyte-balanced, or isotonic, meaning that it has the same electrolyte balance as blood so it can effectively replenish electrolytes lost during exercise, heat, or illness resulting in vomiting or diarrhea. In fact, in WWII it was used as a substitute for intravenous plasma. Coconut water has been researched and it is as effective as carbohydrate-electrolyte beverages for rehydration after intense exercise, without the additives such as artificial flavor and color and sugar. Coconut water is also low calorie, although there are some that have some added sugar and natural fruit flavour, which will of course increase its calorie count. The question is, do most of us need an isotonic beverage on a day-to-day basis? No. Clean water will suffice, at a minimum of 2 litres/day, more if you’re drinking caffeinated beverages or exercising.

2) Beverage Containers – There are a lot of options for what to carry your water around in, from plastic single-use containers, to glass mason jars (what I use). Every time I turn around, there’s a new line of bottles, made out of a different material, and it’s challenging to know what to choose, depending on your needs. I use glass because it’s the purest, and I’m not carrying it up a mountain or down a river so I don’t have to worry about the weight (or the more likely risk of breakage). Plastic single-use containers are the worst option, especially in the heat as the plastic breaks down more quickly. There are now multi-use plastic bottles that don’t contain PVC or BPA (two of the “bad”additives in plastic) and they’re better, but my perspective is that plastic breaks down. Period. And I don’t want whatever is in it, even if it’s not BPA or PVC, to be in my water or my food. Additionally, many different types of non-friendly bacteria thrive on plastic so frequent (daily) washing is essential. Aluminum/stainless steel are other lightweight options but the jury is still out on aluminum and whether or not there are any long-term health effects of oral exposure to aluminum. Stainless steel does not leech and seems to be the second best option to glass. In any case, try to avoid bottles or containers with pvc-containing spouts, and fill your bottles with pure water when available.

3) Acai – The acai berry is a fruit that is getting a lot of exposure because of its antioxidant properties, and antioxidants in general are a good thing. Our cells produce unstable free radicals or reactive oxygen species in response to a number of things, including exposure to environmental toxins, and these molecules wreak havoc in our bodies, increasing risk of cardiovascular disease, and cancer, among other things. Antioxidants quench these molecules, stabilizing (and thus inactivating) them. There are many types of antioxidants available to us, including blueberries, cranberries, strawberries (see the theme?), pomegranate, and acai berry. Some have been studies for their antioxidant properties, some haven’t, and it’s still unclear which is more effective than others and in which form. Drinking acai tonics or taking concentrated forms of the fruit won’t hurt you, and will likely improve your health over time, but I generally recommend eating the whole fruits, with the skin, to get the full benefits of their properties. If you need extra antioxidants, taking an A,C,E,Se plus zinc supplement will give you exactly what you need.

These three are examples of trends that are relatively benign but there are certainly some trends out there that could be harmful to your health. Please be sure to do your research before believing claims on a website or in an infomercial because, like I always tell my nana, just because it’s on TV (even the news), doesn’t mean it’s the whole truth.

Happy Summer!