Happy New Year!
We hope that you have all had the most entertaining and peaceful of holidays! In step with the new year, everyone tends to set goals or resolutions for self-improvement, and this is the perfect time for a resolve to adopt healthier habits, a more nourishing diet, or to stop eating so much chocolate and get into fitness! It is tricky to maintain these promises to ourselves, but there is one thing that should not be so hard as the others; a healthier diet. We all have to eat, so shouldn’t it be easier to change what we eat than to start up an entirely new gym habit? Of course it should be! It is easier now than ever because of the vast array of foods and supplements that are available to everyone, so that we can all tune-up our nutrition intakes. Provided that we make an effort to eat a healthy diet in the first place, supplements can also go a long way in adding that extra balance. To make it easier to digest the huge amount of information to consider about all the different nutrients there are, we have assembled a list of some of the most useful, from Iron, Omega 3, Vitamin D, B12, Vitamin C, to Turmeric and Black Pepper, Acidophilus, and Biotin!
This essential chemical is the backbone of oxygen transportation to cells within the body. It attaches to the hemoglobin and myoglobin molecules (these are the cells in blood that pick up and drop off oxygen). It is very important to make sure we have the right amount of iron intake because having a deficiency can cause a condition called anemia, where the body is not getting enough oxygen to the cells and feels heavy, tired and unable to concentrate. Women are at a higher risk of developing this condition, as blood (and iron with it) leave the body during menstruation. The RDI (recommended daily intake) of iron for women aged 19-50 is 14.8 mg/day, while for men it is 8.7mg/day. Luckily, iron is easy to come by in many foods, red meat being the most obvious, but also in liver, iron-fortified breakfast cereals, eggs, different beans, nuts, dried fruits and most of the deep green, leafy vegetables.
2. Omega 3
Omega-3 fatty acids are molecules that are used in the brain and in many other areas of the body. They appear to be beneficial to faster cognitive processes and increasing memory abilities. They are also connected to the reduction of inflammation and may help to prevent the onset of chronic diseases. In the case of a deficiency, one can experience any one of the following symptoms, or many together: fatigue, poor circulation, mood swings and dry skin. To get enough omega-3, you can eat more fish, as the oils in these marine animals have a high amount of the right kind of fatty acids. Some vegetables, seeds and nuts have this as well, including walnuts (these can be converted by the body once they are ingested), flaxseed, soybeans, and spinach. It is important to note that there are three different types of omega-3, ALA, EPA and DHA, and that fish products contain EPA and DHA, and non-fish products contain the less potent, weaker ALA omega-3.
Vitamin D in the body is responsible for aiding the absorption of other valuable nutrients and minerals like phosphates, magnesium and calcium, and is in itself essential to the development of healthy bones. If a deficiency is present in the body, then the individual runs a risk of developing rickets or osteomalacia, which are both illnesses that negatively affect the skeletal structure. The most effective and convenient way to get enough of this important vitamin is to soak up the sun every now and again, as the skin is very efficient at turning the sunshine into vitamin D. It is also found in some foods, but it is not recommended that all intake come from food as it would be very difficult to ingest as much as the body needs. Nevertheless, vitamin D can be found in eggs, fortified cereals and some types of oily fish. The RNI for this vitamin recommended by the UK government is around 10 micrograms a day, and because of the lack of consistent sunshine, many people are not achieving this amount, and it may be recommended for them to take a supplement.
The family of B vitamins is formed of 8 different chemicals. The B12 vitamin is one of these, and plays a key role in the creation of new blood cells, and in maintaining brain health through the synthesis of myelin, which covers part of the brain cell in a myelin-sheath to protect it and to insulate the electrical impulses. As it plays such an important role in the wellbeing of the brain, its symptoms of deficiency are noticeable in a decrease of cognitive function, lethargy, headaches, poor memory and depression, and if the deficiency is more severe, it can cause permanent damage to the nervous system. The people who are the most prone to this deficiency are vegetarians, 40%-80% of whom are not eating enough of this vitamin, and for them it is highly recommended to take a supplement. Foods high in B12 are meat and other animal products like meat, eggs, poultry, fish and milk, but there are also breakfast cereals that are fortified with it.
5. Vitamin C
Vitamin C (AKA ascorbic acid) is a very common dietary component, and has a range of different parts to play in the body that are widely varying but equally important. It helps the skin and blood vessels to grow healthy, aids the body in healing wounds faster and more efficiently, and protects cells. A classic example of a historic demographic who didn’t get enough vitamin c are sailors, who spent months at sea, never eating anything with much vitamin C. A large portion of these men developed scurvy, which is characterised by weakness, skin hemorrhages and gum disease, as the vitamin is responsible for the creation of collagen, which is the tissue that connects all the other tissues around it, making skin elastic and durable and bones and cartilage stronger. In a healthy diet, vitamin C can be found in many foods, from strawberries, citrus fruits, bell peppers, kiwis and guavas to brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower. Deficiency in this vitamin is very rare in modern times, with easy access to fruits and vegetables, almost everyone can get enough of it to meet their needs.
Turmeric is a widely researched herb in today’s world, with many different labs trying to get to the bottom of what it is responsible for and what it is not. Curcumin intake on its own has very poor absorption, so in order to get maximum results with it, it is recommended that it is taken together with black pepper. Black pepper has a chemical called piperine in it that increases the percentage of curcumin absorption into the body.
Lactobacillus acidophilus is the official name of this supplement, which is actually a bacterium commonly found in the gut of healthy humans and is considered a probiotic (good bacteria). A regular intake of these bacteria helps to maintain a healthy digestive tract, and to balance out the microbiome of the intestines. It can also be found in the vaginal microbiome, where it contributes to maintaining a normal flora. If there is an imbalance of these biomes, for example in the digestive tract, you may experience some discomfort, excessive gas, bloating or in worse cases, diarrhoea. Taking an oral supplement is an easy way to fend off these uncomfortable problems. Naturally occuring sources are yoghurts, raw pickled vegetables such as kimchi and sauerkraut, but it is also added to many foods commercially.
Biotin is also called B7, vitamin H and coenzyme R, and it belongs to the vitamin B family because of its chemical structure. Its importance in the bioprocesses of humans is apparent, as it is needed for cell growth, the metabolism of fats and amino acids, and the creation of fatty acids (remember omega-3?). The good thing is that it is not difficult to come by in many everyday foods such as butter, almonds, green tea, eggs, green peas, and peanuts. There are also more unusual sources, baker’s yeast is very high in biotin and so are soybeans.
As you would imagine, lacking such an important vitamin can have some very unpleasant effects. Hair loss, Conjunctivitis, brittle nails and rashes are all symptoms, with depression joining the queue in adults. The AI (adequate intake) of biotin is 40 micrograms a day as set by the european food safety authority. Many people take these supplements to maintain healthy looking skin, hair and nails, and it is often referred to as the skin and hair vitamin.
To round up what we have seen, and to simplify, we can say that iron, omega-3 and B12 may be useful if an individual is experiencing a low mood, or even mood swings, as they are all beneficial to alleviating these symptoms. Vitamin D is for healthier bones and cartilage, which goes well with turmeric and pepper, as they inhibit inflammation in the joints. Vitamin C can be used as a pick-me-up if taken consistently, acidophilus will help with digestion problems, and biotin can help out with problem skin and hair loss. These are some very important nutrients, vitamins and minerals, and it is so important to make sure that we are getting adequate amounts and meeting our bodies’ requirements this year (and of course all the ones after)!
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