This post is inspired by the once or twice a year sales that Whole Foods and Sprouts Market hold for 25% off everything in their "HABA" - Health & Beauty section. I love these sales because they give me an excuse to hang out in the aisles and browse what's new & neat in the supplement world.
In college my first job was at this funky little co-op right near the ASU campus called Gentle Strength. (Truth.) It was a haven for everyone who loved avocados and vegan cookies and burning sage (like me) amongst the fast & crazy chaos of the rest of the campus, and working there totally helped shape me further into the tree-hugging hippie I am today.
My friend Terry had worked there for 15 years in the Supplements & Herbs section and was basically a witch doctor; I'd pick his brain about everything I could, and learned enough to get a job in the HABA section at another co-op when I went home to Seattle that summer.
(Side note, on the drive from ASU to Seattle that year - maybe 1999? - there was no such thing as Yelp, and being the die-hard organic vegan that I was at the time, I used this book called The Tofu Tollbooth to find and stop at every single co-op and health food store along the way. You can't make this shit up.)
Fast forward to all these years later and I can still kill HOURS browsing the supplements section, checking out herbs & tinctures. The irony is that now as a Holistic Nutritionist, I don't usually recommend a lot of supplementation for my clients - I believe in getting most of the micronutrients you need from whole foods. But there are exceptions, and plenty of other cool things in this section that I pick up during one of these big sales, and I wanted to share some with you!
Note: please see the disclaimer at the bottom of this page and make sure to talk to your physician and do your own research before starting any new supplementation.
What I Shop for in the Health & Supplements Section
Magnesium is required for a ton of biochemical reactions in the body, and plays a role in supporting a healthy immune system, keeping bones strong, helping regulate blood sugar levels, and promoting normal blood pressure. It's normally found in whole grains and green vegetables, but because of widespread soil depletion, fruits and vegetables are being found to contain a whole lot less of micronutrients like magnesium than they used to.
Why I like it: I take magnesium most nights before bed, not only to combat the potential lack of it in the vegetables we eat, but also because it can promote a sense of calm and better sleep. It's also known to assist in efficient elimination, if you're feeling sluggish... read: better poops in the morning! YES!
2. Epsom Salts or Magnesium Salts
One cool thing about magnesium is that it's super absorbable through the skin. So just as effective as taking a magnesium supplement, and more relaxing, is taking a bath with Epsom Salts (magnesium sulfate). It's a great self-care method to unwind, de-stress, and sooth sore muscles. The 25% off sales make this a great item to stock up on!
3. Probiotics (for travel)
I always recommend primarily getting your probiotics (healthy gut bugs) through live, fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, kim-chi, and quality yogurts. BUT when I travel, I can't always find fermented foods readily available. So to keep my immune system strong, I take along a shelf-stable probiotic pill to take once or twice daily. My favorite is Jarro Formulas, which doesn't require refrigeration. Find it at Whole Foods & Sprouts, or order on Amazon.
4. Essential Oils
I have a hodge-podge collection of essential oils for all types of uses, but mostly to mix and match into soothing scents for our diffuser at home. So the sale is a great time to pick up a few new sniffs! (Latest favorites: Cedarwood, and Clove, and Rosemary)
5. Liver/Organ Meat Supplements
While I haven't yet found liver or organ meat capsules in the stores yet, I couldn't make a list of supplements without including these: something I consider to be a powerful and important superfood for anyone working on healing, immunity, muscle building, and fertility. Since most of us don't eat enough organ meat or liver from properly raised animals, and since Sprouts/Whole Foods don't carry the capsules yet, I order mine on Amazon, either Vital Proteins Pasture-Raised Beef Liver, or PaleoValley Grass-fed Organ Complex.
6. Protein Powder
An item I don't rely on or use daily, but I like to have around for a quick boost of protein in a pinch, or to use in occasional recipes. Both Sprouts and Whole Foods have a few of my favorite, clean brands: Terra's Whey (grass-fed), Reservage (grass-fed whey), Paleo Pro (grass-fed beef & egg protein), and Vital Proteins (collagen & whey). My current favorite that I add into my coffee a few times a week is Vital Proteins Collagen/Whey Blend.
7. Fish oil
This is another one that I had to mention on my list of supplements, because I do take this Fermented Cod Liver Oil from Green Pastures fairly regularly for an essential fatty acid boost, but it's not available in stores. This is the only brand that ferments the oil in a traditional, ancestral method that preserves the delicate nature of the unstable bonds in essential fatty acids, without harsh processing.
8. Oil of Oregano
Oil of oregano is a must-have in my holistic tool-kit. It's antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral properties are becoming well documented and I've used it many times to crush a potential oncoming cold/flu in its tracks. I also take it when I travel, especially immediately following any potentially suspicious meals. Find it at either store, in capsules, or in a dropper bottle (if you're brave!) or here on Amazon.
9. Maca, Cacao, Chia seeds...
I always have pouches of these goodies in the cupboard for a little boost to my coffee (Maca and Cacao) or smoothies (Chia), and these all count under the 25% off sales at Whole Foods and Sprouts! Look for some other interesting superfood & adaptogenic powders in this section like Camu, Maqui, Hemp, and Acai, Wheatgrass, and Moringa powders.
10. Soap, Shampoo, Toothpaste
If you're working on upgrading the rest of your routine along with your nutrition, you'll want to start taking a look at your hand soaps, lotions, shampoos, toothpaste - because what goes ON your skin is just as important as what goes IN your body! (Check out this list of what ingredients to avoid in soap.) You can do quite a bit of research on this by using the Environmental Working Group's Consumer Guides or search button for ratings on products.
In our house, we swear by Dr. Bronner's Peppermint bar soap, liquid soap, and toothpaste; super clean ingredients & awesomely kooky label-reading for your enjoyment. We also use Mrs. Meyers dish soap, and Seventh Generation Laundry Soap.
Shampoo and Lotion are more complicated, and could be their whole own blog post; but for now, if you upgrade from drug store brands full of chemicals, to almost any of the brands carried at Whole Foods and Sprouts, you're taking a big step in the right direction.
11. Lavilin Deodorant
I have tried SO many "natural" deodorants over the years, and NONE of them have worked as well as Lavilin! And yes - deodorant is another HUGELY important one to upgrade, because of the toxic ingredients in so many drug-store brand deodorants and anti-perspirants. Lavilin is free of those and WORKS! Rejoice, smellers of my pits!
If you workout frequently and/or sweat a lot, you can become deficient in electrolytes over time, an may need a little boost to maintain fluid balance & hydration. My acupuncturist recommended I add electrolytes into my water, since I drink reverse osmosis H20, and have been feeling super dry in these winter months (plus I have admittedly been hanging out in the sauna a LOT). I have tried Concentrace Mineral Drops, and Eidon Ionic Minerals, both at Sprouts & Whole Foods or through the links above.
You're probably going to start hearing a lot more about mushrooms if you haven't already... they're experiencing a popularity surge thanks to well-branded and sourced companies like Four Sigmatic and Onnit. I bought a few single serving packets of Four Sigmatic mushrooms at Sprouts to try: Chaga (for immunity and wellness), Lion's Mane (focus and concentration), Reishi (stress relief) and Cordyceps (energy and endurance). And I'm liking how they're feeling, so I just ordered the Four Sigmatic Superfood 10 Mushroom Blend, alongside the Laird Superfood Performance Mushroom Blend - so that I can compare and contrast... I'll keep you posted!
Have fun shopping!
Disclaimer: The following are not recommendation or prescriptions in any way. Please check with your physician before beginning any new supplements or vitamins. The products and claims made about specific products in this post have not been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration and are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.