Leah Schneider, EEFC Community Engagement Coordinator

I recently sat down with Jackson, our Supplement Buyer, to discuss how we can best equip our bodies to be as strong and healthy as possible – especially as we continue to navigate this pandemic.

Part of what makes the Co-op experience unique is the conversation and collaboration between member-owners/customers and staff. Jackson appreciates these honest conversations that fill his day-to-day and always wants to hear where people are coming from first before offering any input. “I want people that come into the store to think holistically, meaning if they’re only coming in here to pick up cold medicine but never shop for produce or are unfamiliar with the bulk section, that’s a much more foundational piece of the puzzle.” He continued, “I don’t work for commission. So, if I lose money in my department, because someone goes and spends it in other departments, that’s not a bad thing at all. That’s what we try to do — get people into the concept of this store, and how that’s a step in a better direction for their physiological and mental health by way of that ripple effect.”

Jackson finds it essential to remove the mystery from what can help the body work better and make these practices clearer. “The body is an intense, complex biological machine. There’s a trinity [that includes] micronutrients, which would mean vitamins and minerals, macro-nutrients which would [include] amino acids and fats, and good drinking water.” He maintains, “that’s everything that needs to come into the body to fill deficits for whatever energy the body is expending. If you are supplying the body with things other than that trinity, it’s superfluous, and metabolically, it will still need to be taken care of.”

Along with making sure the majority of what you’re consuming is colorful, whole, and nutrient-dense, it is also worthwhile to think about the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. Jackson reminds me that “for every one cell of us, there are 10 of them (bacteria). They’re much more important to our process than we commonly think. And if you have a disproportionate amount of pathogenic (harmful) bacteria, because your good bacteria has dwindled, you’ll start changing chemically.” To ensure the good bacteria in your gut keeps an upper hand over the bad, it is essential to focus on consuming foods that will continue to introduce these good bacteria, also called probiotics, into your system. These could include foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, kefir, or Bulgarian yogurt. Once you start introducing more probiotics, it is vital that, at the same time, you are consuming foods that will allow these probiotics to thrive. These would include foods such as water-rich fruits and vegetables that are high in soluble fiber. Once you can maintain a healthy gut and thus a healthy digestive system, the rest of your systems will start to follow.

If you are looking for specific nutrients to add to your diet, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Zinc, and Selenium would be a good place to start. It’s good to get these from whole foods first, but herbal or other supplements are the next best option. When thinking about being healthy or living a healthy life, it is crucial to keep in mind that there is no one-size or one food that fits or fixes all. For example, Jackson asserts, “kombucha is a great alternative to conventional soda, but it’s not something that you want to look at as a panacea. It’s not a cure-all.”

In addition to consuming a well-rounded whole foods diet, the importance of movement and sleep are not far behind. “Cardiovascular activity is going to transport blood oxygen, meaning your respiratory system is going to work better; the things that need to get transported to the outer limbs will get there quicker.” Sleep, Jackson continues, “is your resting and regenerative, reparative time; it’s when so much hormonal process is happening — so many foundational things happen. So, if you were trying to work against it, it will always win.”

As we were wrapping up our conversation, Jackson concluded by saying, “if I’m of any worth in the aisle to talk to, that’s the main takeaway — that we have these commonalities, no matter how different we are, our body requires these things.” It all comes down to understanding that everything is connected and little steps do matter. By focusing on these foundational tenets of maintaining a healthy body -– varied, whole foods, movement, sleep, and staying hydrated — we will be doing ourselves a big favor as we inch closer to colder months.