Category Archives: Supplements

Does Zinc Cure the Common Cold?

‘Tis the season for coughing, sneezing and sniffling. Many of us have stocked our medicine cabinets with vitamins, minerals and herbal remedies to ward off or cure these nasty symptoms of the common cold. Zinc supplements are a particularly frequent treatment, because zinc is known to support immune function. But do zinc supplements actually work?

Zinc is thought to halt the replication of rhinoviruses, the most common cause of colds. A recent scientific analysis pooled data from previous studies that compared oral zinc treatments with placebo or no intervention. It was found that zinc had no significant effect on the severity of symptoms experienced, but zinc did shorten the duration of a cold by an average of 2.63 days in adults. Not all zinc formulations are equally effective, however. Only zinc acetate caused a statistically significant reduction in symptom duration. Zinc gluconate and zinc sulfate were not successful.

zinc-lozengesSo if zinc can help kick a cold faster, how much should we take once we feel the beginnings of a sore throat and runny nose? The evidence says to start using zinc within one to two days after the onset of a cold, but researchers have yet to offer an optimal dose. In the analysis mentioned above, subjects took zinc acetate lozenges every 2-3 hours while awake until symptoms resolved. By my own estimations, this provided about 54-104 mg zinc daily.

Remember that more is not always better. Zinc lozenges may cause a bad taste in your mouth or even nausea. Taking too many, or popping mega-dose zinc tablets can be harmful. The safe upper limit of zinc is set at 40 mg daily. Exceeding this amount for an extended period of time can actually decrease immunity and cause low copper levels.

The bottom line?  Zinc may help your body fight the common cold, but if you’re going to load up, do it for a maximum of 7-10 days and be wary of how much zinc you’re ingesting! Read labels and choose supplements or lozenges with zinc acetate (or zincum aceticum) as the main ingredient.

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Filed under Medical Conditions, Supplements, Vitamins & Minerals

Smart Snacking: Best Protein Bars

The number of energy and protein bars on the market is astounding. Only a handful, however, should be promoted as satisfying, healthy snacks. The rest? Glorified candy bars. For example, most Clif Bars contain as much sugar as a TWIX Caramel Cookie Bar! Shocked? Me too.

Don’t fall prey to marketing mumbo jumbo. Study nutrition labels and navigate the options with these simple tips:

  1. If you’re looking for an on-the-go snack, choose bars with less than 200 calories. Any more than that and the bar becomes a meal replacement.
  2. To keep hunger at bay the longest, opt for a bar with at least 5 grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein.
  3. Select bars with less than 4-5 grams of sugar to avoid a post-snack drop in blood sugar that could zap your energy.

KIND and LÄRABAR rank among the most natural snack bars, made with the fewest and most recognizable ingredients. But what these brands lost in processing, they unfortunately gained in sugar. On the flip side, many low-sugar products use sugar alcohols (e.g. maltitol, mannitol) to boost flavor without adding calories. Many CarbRite Diet bars contain a whopping 20 grams! Sugar alcohols are not completely absorbed, however, so they may cause bloating, gas and even diarrhea when consumed in large amounts.  You should experiment to know what your body can handle.

My top picks?

  • Quest Bar
  • HealthSmart Foods: Chocolite Protein Bar
  • Atkins Advantage (choose flavors with less saturated fat)
  • NuGo Slim
  • ThinkThin Crunch Bars

Next time you’re on the hunt for a pocket-friendly snack, remember the rules! More fiber. More protein. Less sugar.

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Filed under Meal Tips, Supplements, Weight loss

Coconut Water: Nature’s Gatorade?

Happy Summer! I’m hoping the warmer weather inspires more of us to dust off our sneakers and get active! But, considering we’re currently enduring an East coast heat wave, we need to take precaution and rehydrate properly when exercising under the mid-day sun.

A typical workout lasting less than 60 minutes usually only requires you to rehydrate with water. However, with more strenuous exercise (indoor or outdoor), it’s necessary to replace both water and electrolytes that are lost through profuse sweating.

Lately, coconut water has been touted as the ultimate post-workout hydration beverage! Coconut water is naturally packed with potassium, which plays a key role in fluid balance and muscle contraction. However, little potassium is actually lost in sweat. During intense physical activity, sodium becomes the more significant mineral to replenish. While pure coconut water straight from the fruit may contain adequate sodium, the amount of sodium in commercial brands of coconut water is not sufficient to replace what’s been excreted.

Electrolyte replacement beverages or “sports drinks” are specifically formulated for athletes. They contain the right proportions of sodium and carbohydrates for proper rehydration and easy digestion. For example, the carbohydrates (i.e. sugar) in Gatorade help the intestine better absorb sodium and fluids, which fights fatigue and prevents dehydration.

My take? Cool off with coconut water while lounging by the pool or after a light workout. When sweating for longer than 1 hour, choose a sports drink that has approximately 120 mg of sodium per 8 ounces. This will help replenish lost sodium and minimize the risk of cramping.  In addition, beverages containing about 6 grams of carbs per 8 ounces will be most effective in maximizing water absorption in the gut. That said, many sports drinks are made with about 14-16 grams of carbohydrates per cup. This quantity of carbs is unlikely to cause stomach upset and, with more calories, can offer an extra energy boost during a marathon workout.

Coconut Water:

Vita Coco

Coconut Water:

Zico

Gatorade:

Original G

Gatorade:

G2 – low cal

Carbs

14 g

7 g

14 g

5 g

Sodium

28 mg

91 mg

110 mg

110 mg

Potassium

485 mg

325 mg

30 mg

30 mg

 *Nutrient quantities were calculated per 8 oz of each beverage.

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Filed under Fruits and Vegetables, Medical Conditions, Supplements, Vitamins & Minerals