The winter season can wreak havoc on your immune system, particularly when we spend much of our time huddled indoors, and our diet may become a little more carbohydrate based. Fortunately, science has allowed us to distill some of the essential vitamins for survival into handy supplements that can seriously boost your immune system. Multivitamins are one part of us living a healthy life, at FluCamp we are working towards a vaccine for the flu find out how you can help us achieve our goal and keep everyone living a healthy life.
It’s important to remember that supplements should be used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle and diet. It’s also easy to get lost in the maze of options in the vitamin aisle. Here are our top recommendations for your vitamin cabinet, to keep your system in top shape over winter – and give you a nutritional boost!
Do You Need to Take Supplements?
The first thing to note is that not everyone needs a supplement. For most of us, it’s possible to get all the nutrients you need from a healthy, balanced diet. Plus, supplements can’t always mimic the wide range of benefits you get from eating nutritious foods.
So, the first step is to understand if you need to take one. Your age, your diet, or if you have a certain medical might require you to supplement your diet.
A vitamin blood test can be a useful way to understand if you’re getting enough vitamins from your diet. Your results will tell you whether you’re deficient in anything and help you understand what supplement you should be taking.
What Ingredients Should Your Supplements Have?
So which supplements should you be looking out for? Below we have listed some of the more common vitamin supplements and explained their uses and some sources. Remember a lot of these will be found naturally in your diet but others may be difficult for some people to find due to dietary restrictions, (as mentioned above a blood test can help you understand what you should be taking).
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is naturally found in animal foods. It can also be added to foods or supplements. Vitamin B12 is needed to form red blood cells and DNA. It is also a key player in the function and development of brain and nerve cells.
Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, the nutrients needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors. Due to less sunlight, supplements should be taken in winter or you should try to eat more natural sources of vitamin D, such as, oily fish, red meat and eggs.
Vitamin C works to protect cells, maintain healthy tissues and help with wound healing. Vitamin C is found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. Such as, citrus fruits, peppers and broccoli. A lack of vitamin C can lead to scurvy, a gum disease.
Calcium is used to keep bones and teeth healthy, regulating muscle contractions including your heartbeat and ensuring your blood clots properly when you have a cut. Calcium is found in dairy products, such as cheese, milk and yoghurt, green leafy veg and anything made with fortified flour.
Iron is used to make red blood cells in the body and a lack of iron can lead to anaemia. Iron can be found in red meats, beans and nuts. Women who experience heavy periods may need to take iron supplements to lower their risk of anaemia.
Folate (or the manmade form folic acid) is a B vitamin and is found in many foods. Folate helps to form healthy red blood cells and reduce the risk of birth defects in pregnant women. Green veg, beans and beans are a good source of folate.
Magnesium is used in making energy within the body and hormone production. Magnesium is found is spinach, nuts and wholemeal bread.
Multivitamins are a type of supplement that contain a variety of minerals and vitamins. In most cases, multivitamins won’t be harmful. But sometimes, taking large doses of certain nutrients can have serious side effects. For most of us, a healthy, balanced diet will provide us with all the nutrients we need. However multivitamins work to cover all bases and some people like to take them to remove the guess work.
Supplements for Your Skin
Not all nutritional deficiencies are obvious, however your skin will swiftly alert you to incoming winter weather. Lack of sunlight, something the UK is sadly known for, will lower your vitamin B and D, impacting on the quality levels of your skin and hair.
Support your immunity with Vitamin A, B12, D and Zinc. Vitamin A is recommended for reinforcing the cells in your nose and throat, as well as in your stomach, and boosting your outer layer of skin; your first line of defence. Selenium also supports your level of antioxidants – perfect for combatting any nasty bugs.
Echinacea – Herbal Remedy
Too late? If you’re already feeling the effects then Echinacea is a well known herbal remedy for relief from cold and flu symptoms. Taking Echinacea will also boost your immune system beyond the effects of the cold, allowing you to recover and refresh swiftly!
Don’t Just Rely on Multivitamins
Of course, nothing can beat eating a healthy and nutritionally dense diet. Work to ensure that your plates are colourful and you are getting a good intake of vitamins through food alone, then add in your supplements if you feel you are still lacking. Keeping up your intake of water is also beneficial for flushing your system of any nasties.
As always, consult your GP before making any drastic changes to your lifestyle. Ensure that your vitamins do not interfere with any medicine you are currently taking.