If we had R10 for every time we are asked about supplements – we’d be sitting on a beach in Italy right now! But it’s a good question – on our journey to optimal health, should we be investing in supplements? Or will our body just get rid of them?
The short answer is that there is no substitute for a good diet. If you are eating a large variety of plant-based foods, there will be very few gaps in your nutrition that will require supplementation.
That being said, there are a few staples worth looking at – one in particular that might surprise you.
- Vitamin D
Also called the “sunshine vitamin”, Vitamin D is critical in bone health, cell growth, immunity and inflammation. In fact, research suggests that this powerhouse vitamin can help prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and certain cancers.
Why you may be deficient: Your body produces Vitamin D from time spent in the sun. Many of us either slather ourselves with sunscreen to avoid skin cancer or spend most of our days indoors, thereby becoming Vitamin D deficient. Darker skinned individuals are also believed to absorb less Vitamin D and require 5 – 10 times MORE sun exposure to get the required amount.
Foods containing Vitamin D: salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, pilchards, liver, beef, cheese and egg yolk.
Signs of deficiency: bone pain, muscle weakness, impaired wound healing, tiredness, fatigue, depression, weight gain and low immunity.
Action points: Because we don’t get much Vitamin D in our diet and/or exposure to the sun, experts recommend adults take 600 international units (IU) daily. Alternatively, request a blood test from your GP to check your levels of this crucial vitamin. Also try to spend 15 minutes a day in the sun – with at least SOME of your body not covered in sunscreen.
- Vitamin C
Legend has it that we should all take a Vitamin C supplement during the colder months, and with good reason. Because our bodies cannot produce or STORE Vitamin C, we need to get enough by eating a Vitamin C-rich diet, or by taking a supplement.
Why you may be deficient: Many of us don’t quite manage to get enough fresh fruit and vegetables into our diets. Plus, our reliance on processed foods or lack of inspiration when it comes to eating a varied diet results in lower levels of Vitamin C in our bodies.
Foods containing Vitamin C: Fruits and vegetables – citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, green and red peppers, kiwi fruit, strawberries, cantaloupe, green leafy vegetables and some fortified cereals.
Signs of deficiency: dry, damaged skin, easy bruising, slow-healing wounds, anaemia, gum disease, frequent nosebleeds and low immunity.
Action points: Many health practitioners recommend 1,000 mg of Vitamin C daily. Your body will simply get rid of what it doesn’t need – so this is definitely worth looking into for the coming months.
Magnesium is vital to our bodies because it supports hundreds of functions throughout the body. Magnesium is especially important for women older than 40 as it builds strong bones and prevents bone loss that may lead to osteoporosis. Magnesium may also help regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Why you may be deficient: Studies suggest that 75% of women are not getting enough Magnesium per day. Once again, diet here is key!
Foods containing Magnesium: Legumes (chickpeas, black beans and kidney beans), nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables (including spinach, broccoli, green beans, artichokes, asparagus), figs, avocado, banana, raspberries, salmon, mackerel, tuna, dark chocolate, popcorn, cocoa,
Signs of deficiency: muscle twitches and cramps, fatigue and muscle weakness, irregular heartbeat, asthma and high blood pressure.
Action points: Ensure you get the recommended daily allowance of 320mg per day (eg. 100 grams of almonds contain 270 mg of Magnesium) or consider taking a supplement.
At that the end of the day, there is no substitute for a varied diet that is rich in nutrients and bursting with colour. That being said, we are all human and might need the help of a supplement to ensure our bodies operate at their peak – especially during the colder months when immunity is low and germs are rife!