College life puts a lot of strain on young adults. It is vital that students get the fuel that their bodies and minds require to deal with the academic, social, and other pressures they face. A balanced diet, including vegetables and fruit, is critical. Exercise and sleep also are necessary to maintain physical and psychological health.
However, these good habits may not be enough. To ensure that you are consuming the necessary nutrients, you might want to consider taking vitamins and other dietary supplements. Numerous health-promoting substances are available, though it should be noted that the body absorbs food-based nutrients better than pills.
At a minimum, people are advised to take a daily multivitamin. The ingredients should include Vitamin C, which make you more resilient to illness by improving the immune system; and folic acid, which may lessen your vulnerability to hypertension and heart disease. Multivitamins also typically contain other essential substances like Vitamin B12, zinc, selenium, iron, magnesium, folic acid, niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin.
Look for a multivitamin with a heavy dose of Vitamin D3, which maintains bone density, aids the immune system, and promotes heart health. Student-athletes need this vitamin for strength and agility, and to reduce muscle pain. Vitamin D also can relieve hypertension, as well as depression symptoms like anxiety and insomnia. It is even considered helpful in preventing cancer.
Other nutrients in multivitamins have been shown to protect brain cells and the central nervous system. Multivitamins vary a great deal, so it is important to read the labels. Keep in mind that many nutritionists believe the government’s “minimum daily requirements” for some vitamins, minerals, and enzymes are insufficient. Some of the top-selling multivitamins either lack some needed nutrients or contain inadequate amounts of them. Higher-priced products tend to have greater concentrations of the key ingredients.
In addition to Vitamin C, students may want to consider other antioxidants to help ward off diseases and illnesses. These substances are said to maintain the strength of cells, leaving them less susceptible to cancer and other afflictions.
One of the most widely recommended antioxidants is Co-Enzyme Q-10, which reportedly prevents the sort of inflammation that causes heart disease and arthritis. Those taking cholesterol-lowering drugs need to keep in mind that statins reduce the amount of co-enzyme Q-10 that naturally occurs in the body.
Other antioxidant supplements include reservratrol, which also is found in wine; bioflavonoids such as quercetin, which are natural ingredients of certain plants; and green tea extract. Vitamins A is considered an antioxidant because it protects the eyes and lowers cholesterol. Vitamin E strengthens blood vessels, while folic acid and beta-carotene also have disease-prevention qualities.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, marine phytoplanktin, and flax seeds are a form of polyunsaturated fat. This is the good kind of fat, which has been proven to be vital to good health. Because most people do not get enough omega-3 acids from food, supplements are widely recommended.
Authorities say this so-called brain food strengthens cell membranes, and reduces triglyceride levels in the liver that can lead to diabetes. Other benefits include regulating immunity, reducing blood clotting, stabilizing blood sugar, and controlling the kind of inflammation that can lead to cancer or cardiovascular disease.
You need calcium to maintain bone density and strong teeth. While this substance can be obtained from a number of food sources, including dairy products, most people are believed to have calcium deficits. Taking Vitamin D and magnesium with calcium is advised, because they help the body absorb the nutrients. Magnesium also improves the functioning of muscles and nerves, and helps to maintain a regular heart rhythm. It is thought to aid in preventing heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Young people may not think they need to worry about such ailments, which are more often suffered by older people. However, establishing good habits early in life might result in a healthier future. Taking dietary supplements can fill in the nutritional gaps in the diets of college students, who too often try to survive on burgers, pizzas, and fast food.
In addition to the supplements recommended for everyone, some kinds of pills are especially important for certain people. For instance, nutritionists advise women to take iron supplements, while men need greater amounts of selenium. Students whose families have histories of eye disease might want to take multivitamins that contain lutein.
Some companies that sell supplements make unrealistic claims, and no one should believe that taking vitamins will cure any disease. However, dietary aids have been shown to strengthen cells and decrease the likelihood of contracting an illness. The medical and pharmaceutical industries, which want people to buy prescription drugs, have an interest in suppressing the demand for vitamins. Scientific studies of supplements funded by these industries and their supporters should be interpreted with a wary eye.
You need to do your own research, relying on unbiased information from reliable sources. As one herbal dispenser noted, “each individual is responsible for his or her own health.” Be should be sure to not exceed prescribed doses of any substance, as it can be counterproductive or cause other health problems.
Getting started on a regimen of supplements at an early age could pay large dividends not only during the college years, but also throughout your life.
Eating Healthy on a College Budget
Between your studies, work and social life, you have little time for illness as a college student. But, you also have a limited budget to work with. Below you’ll find tips to keep you full and fueled without breaking the bank.
Buy in bulk
You can often find dried fruits, nuts and grains in bulk at the grocery store. Stock up on nuts and dried fruit to have for snacks between classes and use grains such as oats, rice and buckwheat for breakfast or as sides to lunch and dinner meals. Some fresh fruits and vegetables are regularly sold in one pound bags. Apples, onions, carrots and potatoes add more flavor for less calories and less money.
Buy in season
When you’re purchasing produce, use an online resource such as eattheseasons.com to find out what’s in season near you. When items are in season, they are abundant, and this drives the price down. If you have a freezer, you can stock up on some of your favorite foods.
Use the freezer
You can store more than produce in the freezer. When you find meals you like, make more servings at once and freeze the extras. You can let them thaw out during the day and heat them up when you get home in the evening.
Drink more water
Juices and sodas are expensive and many of them are just sugar bombs. Drink more water and try flavoring it with fresh fruit like lemons and berries.
Pack in the protein
Protein can be more expensive than other items but it will often keep you fuller for longer. Eggs are an excellent source of protein and are more affordable than meat. Beans and dairy products like cheese and yogurt also provide protein at a lower cost.
Fill up on healthy fats
Did you know that healthy saturated fats actually benefit your brain? Foods like raw nuts, avocados, and coconut benefit your body by helping you absorb more nutrients and fueling your brain. They also help keep you full. Add them to meals or pack them as snacks.
Save with soup and stir fry
You can make a wide variety of soups and stir-frys without even following a recipe. All you need is broth, your favorite vegetables and some spices. Add beans, meats or quinoa to make it more filling and you have a simple and affordable meal. You can easily make several batches at once.
Make friends with grocery store employees
Speak with employees to learn when new shipments come in, when sales start and when items go on clearance. This is a great way to get meat for up to 50% off the original price. Many times, grocers will mark down meat on its freeze by date. You can go back to scoop it up that day and cook it that night or freeze for later.
Snacking between classes
If you are out on campus and only have vending machine options, look for roasted nuts, baked chips or crackers, instead of cookies and candy. A better option, however, is to plan ahead. If you have a meal plan, take an extra yogurt, a granola bar, or a piece of fruit before you leave for your first class. If you live off campus, pack snacks ahead of time. Trail mix, nuts, avocados, chopped veggies and fruits can all be eaten on the go.
Make it fun
Invite your friends over for a potluck rather than going out for dinner. Encourage each person to bring a homemade dish for everyone to share. Homemade doesn’t always mean healthy, but you’ll often find this to be a better and more affordable option than a big night out.
It’s easy to be tempted by late night cafes and cheap junk food, but a little extra work will go a long way in keeping you healthy. Be creative with your budget. Don’t be afraid to try new things and find the balance that works best for you.
Get your best rest by establishing a routine
Although it may not seem like it, you are still growing in college. Your body is changing while you’re undergoing new stressors like being away from home, studying more and participating in campus activities. For both your health and your grades, it’s important to create an evening routine and a regular sleep schedule.
Follow a schedule
One of the best ways to insure you get enough quality sleep is to try and maintain the same sleep schedule. If you regularly wake at 8 am for classes on Monday, try to maintain that same waking time throughout the school week. On the weekends, do your best to stick to a similar schedule. If you spend a late night out with friends, do your best to get back on schedule the following day.
Work it out
Establishing an exercise schedule has also been shown to improve sleep. You don’t need to be a die-hard athlete to reap the benefits either. Set aside 30 minutes to an hour most days of the week. You can walk, dance, do yoga or perform a mix of cardio and strength training. It is best to fit in exercise in the morning or afternoon, as evening workouts can actually disrupt sleep.
Make good choices at the table
Deep fried and heavy foods can be more difficult for some people to digest. Focus on incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet and avoid having a heavy dinner, as intense digestion can impair your ability to fall asleep. Sip on water throughout the day to remain hydrated.
Don’t be tempted to skip meals. When your schedule fills up, make sure you are still eating balanced meals consistently. Both overeating and undereating can lead to difficulty falling and staying asleep.
Let go of the electronics
Some studies indicate that the use of electronics before bed can cause sleep disorders. For this reason, it’s best to turn off all electronics at least one hour before bed. Replace this time with light reading, listening to calming music, enjoying a warm bath or meditating. Avoid loud noise and emotionally stimulating books or music. The idea is to begin to turn your brain off for the evening so it can prepare for sleep.
Create a sleep zone
It’s easy to eat, watch movies and surf the web in bed; but none of these habits will do anything to improve your sleep. Save your favorite activities for other areas of your living space and maintain that your bed is used only for sleep. This is a way of training your brain and body to associate your bed only with sleep.
While it may be tempting to fill up on coffee and other caffeinated beverages to make it through a long day of classes, those same habits are likely creating a vicious cycle of poor sleep followed by tiring days. If you choose to include caffeine in your day, make it first thing in the morning so you’re more alert for classes. You’ll likely find that you have less trouble falling and staying asleep, and that you wake more refreshed.
Don’t let deadlines wear you down and keep you up at night. The second you receive an assignment or notification about an upcoming exam, set time aside during the day or early evening to take care of business. If you give yourself plenty of time to prepare, you will decrease the number of late night study sessions and fall asleep with greater ease knowing that you’ve managed to take care of your work.