A balanced diet is key to feeling great, but which supplements can give us an extra boost?
In the sizzling summer stakes, 2017 will go down as a scorcher. And don’t we feel good? Sunny days lift our mood, encourage us to embrace the great outdoors and re-engage our desire to eat healthily as we expose our tan-seeking limbs to all and sundry. But none of us should neglect removing our rose-tinted sunglasses to take a good peek at whether we’re giving our bodies what they need, come rain or shine. As the days heat up, we sweat and potentially lose some essential vitamins and minerals,” says nutritionist Lee Holmes, adding that staying hydrated and eating foods that cool the body down is imperative. Scorching sunshine also puts eyes and skin under attack during what is a prime allergy season. So, along with UV-guarding sunnies and lotions, is a healthy diet enough to meet our needs or should we top up with a supplement? Well, it is possible to meet all our requirements with the right food and drink; the problem is that many of us just don’t.
“We are most likely to receive recommended levels of nutrients if we follow the government’s Eatwell Guide,” says dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton, of the Health and Food Supplements Information Service. “However, there is a significant gap between current recommendations and the present UK diet.” The National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) data reveals that just 27 per cent of adults aged 19 to 64 years meet the 5-A-Day recommendation for fruit and vegetables. We’re advised to eat at least one portion of oily fish per week (140g), a key source of omega-3 fatty acids, but average adult consumption is only 54 to 87 grams per week. Red meat is high in nutrients including iron, yet one quarter of women fail to achieve the minimum recommended intake, eating an average of 47g per day, one third less than the 70g advised. And they’re not always getting alternatives elsewhere.
6 SUPPLEMENTS YOU SHOULD BE TAKING
“Taking a daily multivitamin and mineral plus a fish oil supplement is an easy way to top up on key nutrients you may be missing,” advises Dr Ruxton, cautioning to check first with a GP or pharmacist if you are taking any prescription medication. But don’t think that a supplement is the magic wand for a lax attitude towards healthy food and drink choices. Nutritional consultant Charlotte Stirling- Reed stresses, “Eating a well-balanced diet every day and getting active and out in the sunshine for around 20 minutes a day should provide all the nutrients you need to be healthy. However, some people find that it’s not easy to eat well every day and may benefit from a multivitamin. It’s important to remember that this won’t replace a bad diet every day.” So, which nutrients do we need to lather on in the summer and which can take a siesta?
Vitamin A plays a vital role in healthy vision, cell growth and the immune system function. It is known to help repair skin damage from the sun. The Department of Health recommends that women need 0.6mg daily which is easily obtained from food sources including cheese, eggs, oily fish, milk, yoghurt, liver, kale, bell peppers, strawberries and kiwi.
But be careful not to over-do it with supplements. Research suggests having more than 1.5mg a day over the years may weaken bones. Liver lovers need not top up.
Vitamin B in its many numeric guises plays a key role in cell metabolism and helps unlock energy from foods. Mostly, we can consume high enough amounts from a healthy diet. However, vitamin B12 in particular can fail to hit the 1.5mcg mark required daily. Lee, who describes a multivitamin as the ‘little black dress of the health world’, says, “Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin that can be found in small doses in eggs, meat, fish and B12-fortified foods. Most people don’t get enough of this amazing nutrient and require a supplement.
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient as it keeps our blood cells healthy.” It’s also essential we get enough B2 (1.1mg daily) for healthy skin and eyes.
Research has shown that vitamin C can help the body to deal with heat stress and rash, while also possibly alleviating hay fever symptoms. Involved in the production of collagen, the body’s healing process and the immune system, this vitamin is an antioxidant and increases the amount of iron we absorb from our food. Adults need 40mg daily to remain healthy, which can be easily achieved by eating a varied and balanced diet comprising sources including citrus fruits, berries, pineapple, papaya, mango, kiwis, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, tomatoes and potatoes.
The winter’s a challenge for this one, but come summer we can throw caution to the wind. Vitamin D, a calcium and phosphate regulator, is essential to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. It is found in a small number of food sources include oily fish, red meat, liver, egg yolks and fortified foods such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals, but is not widely sourced from food.. “We are likely to be less deficient in vitamin D as we get this vitamin from sunshine and, therefore, if you’re taking this throughout the winter months, as recommended, you don’t really need to continue taking it throughout the summer months,” explains Charlotte. “Official guidelines only recommend that the adult population need to take 10mcg of vitamin D each day and only in the winter months. However, there is no harm taking vitamin D throughout the summer months.”
Vitamin E helps maintain healthy skin and eyes while fortifying the body’s natural defence against illness and infection. Lee explains, “Vitamin E can help protect the skin from sun damage and can even increase our physical endurance for outside exercise sessions! Some great foods full of vitamin E are cooked spinach, oily fish, beef and nuts.” Women need 3mg per day and you should be able to get this from a healthy diet.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
These good guys are necessary for healthy function but our bodies can’t make them, so we’re reliant on our diet and may need to top up with a supplement as many of us are getting barely half the recommended 140g weekly amount of oily fish. “The richest natural sources are fish liver oils,” says Dr Ruxton, who recommends a daily omega-3 supplement. “It is also very concentrated in animal liver. Other sources include oily fish, egg yolk, fortified margarine, butter and full fat milk.”