Nutritional knowhow

We take a look at some of the must-have supplements that everyone should consider taking

Selenium

“I love selenium as it’s one of the strongest antioxidants in nature,” says nutritionist Rick Hay (www.rickhay.co.uk). “It is such a good immune booster and has both immune-boosting and cardiovascular benefits. Selenium also helps with liver detox and has anti inflammatory actions, making it a good choice to help reduce the severity of skin conditions. It is a component of glutathione peroxidase which is important in cellular antioxidant defence systems – it protects from oxidative damage and may be of use to fight viruses.”

Good sources:
Brazil nuts, eggs, sardines and spinach.

Magnesium

“Magnesium is one of the super minerals as it helps with natural energy production whilst also supporting nervous system function, helping to fight anxiety and depression,” says Rick Hay. “It also relieves muscle aches, spasms and pain, so is great if you are exercising.

But there’s more! It helps to reduce cramping – both muscular and digestive – and it helps with cardiovascular health too. It’s great to relieve tension headaches and migraines too. It is involved in GABA production which helps you feel good and can quiet a racing mind – it may even help to reduce cortisol. If you have twitching in the corner of your eyes or restless legs or cramping then this may just be the mineral for you.”

Good sources:
Beans, nuts, spinach, dark chocolate, seeds, avocado and figs.

B Vitamins

“The B vitamins are a family of nutrients ranging from B1 to B12,” explains Rosie Millen (Miss Nutritionist: www.missnutritionist.com). “They are water soluble and work best when taken in synergy. We need B vitamins for many reasons but mostly for our energy. B vitamins are co-factors for ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) which is our bodies’ energy molecule. If we are depleted in these B vitamins then the mitochondria in our cells may not produce ATP as efficiently. Most people who are tired all the time might have low levels of vitamin B12 and can be administered by a doctor. But a blood test to rule this out first is essential.”

Good sources:
Whole grains, bananas, lentils and beans.

Vitamin D

“Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient which is mainly responsible for the absorption of calcium and magnesium,” explains Rosie Millen. “We need vitamin D because it is essential for many other things than bone health. For example, vitamin D is required to manufacture the stress hormone cortisol. Research has also shown that vitamin D might play an important role in regulating our mood and warding off depression. Your skin produces vitamin D by sitting in sunlight. Just by sitting in the sun for 10 minutes gives you 10,000 iu of vitamin D. If you decide to supplement with it then make sure you take the active form, vitamin D3.”

Good sources:
It is found in small amounts in some foods such as sardines, salmon, shrimps, yogurt and egg yolk.

Omega-3 fish oils

“Omega-3-rich fish oil is, in my opinion, a must-have supplement,” says author and nutritionist Sarah Flower (www.sarahflower.co.uk). “Omega-3 fish oil contains both docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). It not only protects the heart and joints but is also anti-inflammatory and has been shown to help a number of conditions including depression, cognitive issues, cancer and cardiovascular health. We are seeing an abundance of omega-6 and 9 in our diet. Currently we have a ratio of around 20:1 in favour of omega-6, when we should have a balance of omega-3 and 6. This increase in omega-6 is contributing to our ill health, especially inflammatory conditions. Vegetable and seed oils and margarines are man-made and something I would strongly advise avoiding. Flax seeds and oil contain omega-3 in the form of Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) and not the EPA or DHA contained in fish. Your body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA, but this is often converted at very low levels, mainly due to our higher consumption of omega-6 fats and oils – another good reason to keep your consumption of omega-6 low.”

Good sources:
If you don’t want to eat fish or take a fish oil supplement, you can boost your omega-3 by eating nuts, seeds and adding flax oil to your diet.

Probiotics

“We are only just learning how important our gut microbiome is for our health,” says Sarah Flower. “Our bowel contains over 3lbs of bacteria, so you can imagine how much this will impact our health if it is of the unhealthy kind. From boosting our immune system, protecting us from developing tumours, right through to anti-ageing and playing a key role in cholesterol and vitamin D – our gut really needs to be full of healthy bacteria. Our western diets can encourage unhealthy bacteria, especially diets rich in refined carbohydrates and sugars. Stress, medications and changes in water can also deplete our healthy bowel flora. I always encourage my clients to take a very good probiotic supplement.”

Good sources:
Try adding prebiotic foods to your diet such as yogurt, tempeh, kefir, onions, garlic, artichokes, sauerkraut, aloe vera and seaweeds.

Iodine

“Iodine is a mineral that doesn’t get much attention nowadays,” says nutritionist Sandra Greenbank (www.sandragreenbank.co.uk). “However, our soil has become very deficient in iodine, which means that deficiency of this important mineral is now widespread in many parts of the world including parts of Europe. We need iodine in order to make thyroid hormones and for healthy hormone balance. Our thyroid controls the body’s metabolism and many other important functions including growth, reproduction, nerve and muscle function, the growth of hair and nails. Iodine deficiency can cause infertility, issues during pregnancy or with baby’s development, as well as hypothyroidism (a slow functioning thyroid). Signs of hypothyroidism include dry skin, fatigue, feeling cold all the time, weight gain, depression, constipation and a foggy head.”

Good sources:
Iodine is found mainly in the oceans, and therefore the best dietary sources are seafood and seaweed, but it’s also found in dairy produce.

Vitamin C

“Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means we can’t store it in the body and we need it from our diet every day,” says Sandra Greenbank. “It can help prevent or shorten the duration of a cold and helps protect our cells and keeps them healthy. It’s also involved in the production of collagen, which maintains healthy connective tissues as well as skin. Vitamin C also helps with wound healing, iron absorption, and protects us from damage caused by free radicals, toxic chemicals and pollutants. There are also many studies that suggest vitamin C is cancer protective. Cooking destroys vitamin C so eating the food raw or slightly steamed helps us absorb more from the food that we eat. Vitamin C deficiency leads to scurvy, but fortunately this is unusual nowadays.”

Good sources:
Red peppers, oranges, kiwi fruit, broccoli and strawberries.

Iron

Iron is an essential nutrient needed by the human body. It is a major component of haemoglobin in red blood cells which transport oxygen around the body and myoglobin found in the bodies’ muscles and tissues. Latest data from the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows that UK women appear to be under consuming iron. One-third of girls aged 11 to 18 years (32 per cent) and 27 per cent of women aged 19 to 64 years have iron intakes below the Lower Recommended Intake Limit, indicating that they may be at risk of deficiency or anaemia. Dr Emma Derbyshire, from the Health and Food Supplements Information Service adds: “Iron is an essential nutrient that is currently being under-consumed by UK women and eaten in the non-haem iron form. Boosting dietary intakes or topping up with a multivitamin containing iron could help girls and women alike to better align with recommendations.”

Good sources:
Haem iron is readily absorbed by the body and provided from foods such as red meat, poultry, eggs and fish. Non-haem is found in fortified breakfast cereals, dried fruits such as apricots, and dark green leafy veg such as kale and watercress.

Read previous Your Health articles here...

Read articles from our latest issue here...

A top buttonTop