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Day 7: 5 Essential Everyday Supplements

January 7th 2015 / Anna Hunter

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Mojo flagging? Discover the supplements that could help you to #StartBetter this year

Boosting your energy, brainpower, body and wellbeing needn’t require a complete health overhaul. Nutritional therapist and founder of GP Nutrition Gabriela Peacock picks her five essential supplements for a brighter, more bushy tailed you.

1. Essential Fatty Acids

Sufficient dietary intake of essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6) is beneficial to health. Research shows that modern diets are far higher in the less desirable omega-6 fats associated with increased inflammation and cardiovascular health risks. To bring the ratio of the two fats back into balance, it is recommended that the content of omega-3 fats is increased.

Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be made in the body and so must be obtained in the diet. They occur naturally in oily fish (such as EPA and DHA) and some seeds (such as ALA). Good sources of oily fish include salmon, mackerel and sardines and seeds including linseed (flaxseed oil), soya bean oil, pumpkin seeds and walnuts. The recommendation is to eat oily fish at least twice a week, however, this is relatively uncommon. Taking an omega-3 supplement is a popular and highly recommended alternative. Omega-3 fats are good for healthy brain function, cardiovascular function, shiny hair, glowing skin, hormone production and reduced inflammation. There are hundreds of different types of omega-3 supplements on the market so check with Gabriela to find out which one suits you.

2. Probiotics

The word probiotic means ‘for life’ - but we are more used to hearing the term ‘friendly bacteria’. The bacteria that live in our gut play an important role in maintaining a healthy digestive system, absorbing nutrients and strengthening our immune system. Too much stress, alcohol and refined sugars in the diet or taking repeated courses of antibiotics can all upset the balance of bacteria in the gut. Taking a probiotic supplement can aid digestion by breaking down the tough fibres found in food. Probiotic bacteria are the resilient bacteria that can survive the stomach acid and reach the intestine where they benefit health producing nutrients such as vitamin K and ferment organic acids which are absorbed into the bloodstream. Including live probiotic yoghurt is one way of getting some probiotic bacteria in your diet, however an alternative is to take a supplement such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.

3. Vitamin D

Heralded as the wonder-vit, vitamin D has received plenty of media and scientific attention. According to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, 90% of the population have an ‘insufficient’ amount of serum circulating vitamin D. This vitally important vitamin (which is actually a steroid hormone) can help to support immune function, healthy bones and teeth, inflammation and balance hormone levels. Low levels are linked to a wide range of health problems, from osteopenia and cardiovascular disease to cognitive impairment and autoimmune conditions.

Supplementation is seen by some as the safest and most effective method of achieving optimal vitamin D status. Supplements should contain vitamin D in the form of D3 (cholecalciferol) since this is the form naturally produced by the skin. Taking supplements might be wise during the darker months and for those more at risk of vitamin D deficiency, which includes the elderly, pregnant women and those who cover their skin for cultural reasons.

4. Multivitamin

While a balanced diet, full of organic, local produce is the ideal, it’s very easy to fall short because of lifestyle and availability. We can no longer rely on our food intake to provide sufficient supplies of essential vitamins and key minerals that we need for optimal wellbeing. Processed food is notorious for being devoid of much nutrition and our hectic lifestyles mean we are often eating on the run. Our bodies cannot produce many of the nutrients we need, so they must be found in the food we eat and the supplements we take every day. Additionally, if the food we are eating is lacking nutrients, then supplementing can really be beneficial in staying healthy. The first place you should start is with a multivitamin. This lays the foundation and gives your body the basic nutrition it needs while you get your body back into balance.

5. Iron

Iron is an important nutrient for growth and development but is something that many women tend to lack. When iron levels (serum ferritin) fall below a certain point, you may experience anaemia and symptoms of fatigue, poor immunity and hair loss. Animal products such as red meat, chicken and fish provide iron with a high bioavailability, meaning the iron is readily available to the body. Vegetarians can raise their iron stores by including lentils, spinach and other leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, kale and salad greens. Alternatively, it is widely recommended that women of menstruating age take an iron supplement. It is recommended that you consult a health professional before taking an iron supplement as too much can lead to constipation and toxicity.

What are your daily health essentials? Snap a picture on Instagram or tell us on Twitter using the hashtag #StartBetter.

The feature was written in partnership with Clinique #StartBetter

If you are considering taking a supplement, it is recommended that you see a health professional to discuss your needs. Gabriela offers consultations at Grace Belgravia and Ten Pilates and is an expert at working out supplementation programmes suitable for individual needs.

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