Over the past year we’ve become more conscious of our health than ever but, as anyone who has ever stepped foot inside a health food store before will know, with the sheer number of supplements out there, it can be difficult to know where to start. Choice is great but it can also be overwhelming – our friends tell us they take a certain supplement, our parents another and mixed messages from our colleagues, and even healthcare professionals, just add to the confusion.
In fact, it seems like there’s a supplement for pretty much everything now — and after a year indoors, there are some key components our bodies are calling out for. However, as many parts of the UK begin to slowly open up again, surely you can get everything you need from a healthy diet and sunshine. Right? It’s not quite that simple according to Dr Jenny Goodman, author of Staying Alive in Toxic Times.
‘Our food comes from so far away – it’s packaged and processed, making it harder to digest and absorb the nutrients we need,’ Dr Goodman explains. ‘Toxins from heavy metals, pesticides and pollution push the nutrients out of our bodies, and we’re more stressed than ever before, causing many of our essential nutrients to become depleted.’
So, how do we know which supplements to take, and why we’re actually taking them? Here’s Dr Goodman’s advice on what to take and how to take it, along with supplement recommendations from us.
Take vitamin C supplements for your immune system
‘This will help you ward off coughs and colds, by maintaining a healthy immune system. Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is a great antioxidant, meaning it can hoover up the toxic chemicals our cells naturally produce, called free radicals.
‘Avoid pure ascorbic acid, as this can be rough on the stomach: choose one combined with potassium or magnesium, as ascorbate.’
Take vitamin D supplements for your bones and brain
‘Most of us don’t get enough vitamin D from the sun (even in summer), so supplements are crucial. Great for fighting bugs and strengthening bones and teeth, it is also essential for healthy brain function as the brain is made largely of fat, and vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin.
‘If you take a vitamin D supplement in the morning, your body won’t bother making vitamin D from the sun’s rays (if you manage to find some) – so take it in the evening for maximum absorption.’
Take magnesium supplements for stress and muscle tension
‘We need magnesium to relax our muscles, which in turn helps us relax both body and mind. But when we’re stressed, we lose more magnesium in our urine. This causes a vicious cycle: our magnesium levels go down, we feel more tense, which makes us lose even more. Combine magnesium with meditation and massage to help break the cycle.
‘Also, remember muscles include our heart, blood vessels and uterus. If blood vessels can’t relax properly, you can end up with high blood pressure, and if your uterus is tense, this causes more discomfort during periods and potentially high blood pressure in pregnancy. Take magnesium in the evening to improve sleep too.’
Take zinc supplements for healing
‘Zinc helps white blood cells do their job fighting infection and healing cuts and bruises. Low zinc also means poor blood-sugar control; insulin synthesis needs zinc.
‘Also a powerful antioxidant, some people need more zinc than others – so if you notice you take a long time to heal, you may want to increase your dose.’
Take vitamin B complex supplements for energy
‘This group of vitamins – including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12 – work as an energising team, and are crucial for blood-sugar stability, metabolism and detoxification.
‘Take one at breakfast to fight fatigue, and take another at lunch if you’re still tired. If you’re working hard, your body will use it up, so you may need more. And remember, if you’re vegan, you should take an extra dose of B12.’
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How to pick your supplements
Study labels for products with the maximum amount of that vitamin, and minimal additives. Some multivitamins and gummies have smaller amounts of each vitamin, and are also filled with extra chemicals.
Always check with your GP before starting a course of supplements.
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