I’m not going to lie, every Sunday night, head in hands, plagued with guilt after indulging in alcohol and whatever junk the hangover required for recovery – all it needs is a breezy Holland and Barratt advert to fool me into the belief that I’ll supplement my way to atonement.
Whether it makes any difference or not is still up for question. Some health bods claim that a healthy, balanced diet should provide us with everything our bodies need in order to function healthily. But there is also the evidence of a depletion in nutritional content in a significant amount of today’s produce. Due to changing in farming methods and the use of pesticides. So even the healthiest plate might not be providing us with our recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals.
If you’re worried about what you’re eating, it’s important to know which foods provide the best nutritional content. There may be some that surprise you, for example, a potato contains more vitamin C than an orange, shitake mushrooms can contain as much Vitamin D as mackerel and a handful of sunflower seeds could give you your RDA of Vitamin E. Understanding the nutritional content of food is just the beginning in terms of getting a balanced, healthy diet.
Despite the fact that many believe we don’t need to be taking additional supplements, there are certain symptoms that could be the result of a deficiency. This is when it might be worth considering supplementing or increasing foods with high amounts of particular nutrients to meet your daily needs. Women may find pre-menstrual tension relief with vitamin B6 supplements. Vitamin B1 is beneficial for nerve function and can help with restless leg syndrome. A lack of B9 could result in anaemia and fatigue could be alleviated with more vitamin C and vitamin D. These are just a few examples of many, and the information can be daunting.
If you feel you may have a deficiency, then go see your GP who can give you a blood test to determine whether or not you need to increase the amounts of certain vitamins and minerals in your diet. Self-diagnosis could lead to a mis-diagnosis and as much as the benefits of vitamins and mineral are advertised, you rarely hear about the dangers of overdosing.
The body is able to excrete many vitamins itself, through urination, should there be a surplus. However, too much vitamin A, D, E, and K, which cannot be excreted from the body naturally, can cause problems from headaches, nausea, impaired vision and intestinal diseases. Even some standard doses may interfere with certain prescription medicines.
5-HTP, a mood and sleep supplement, can interfere with Parkinson’s disease medication. St. John’s wort can have an impact on the effectiveness of certain contraceptive pills as well as some blood thinners. Ginkgo biloba, renowned for helping with memory and brain function, can also interfere with blood thinners. Not everyone is aware of the potential risks and this sort of information isn’t on the packaging. It’s important that you do your research before taking anything, particularly if you are on any other medication.
It’s not just vitamins that you can buy in supplement form, one amino acid that is becoming hugely popular is Omega-3. Getting plenty Omega-3 fatty acids are said to reduce inflammation, essential to the brain and cognitive function, and are especially necessary during foetal development. Due to increased publicity around the increased quantities of mercury found in oily fish, there is an increasing demand for Omega-3 supplements. If you are concerned about keeping fish in your diet but unsure of which has the highest mercury levels, it is recommended to avoid larger types such as swordfish and shark. Tuna is to be eaten in moderation, seeing more levels than other alternatives, which you may wish to substitute for salmon or halibut.
Increasing certain green vegetables in your diet such as kale and spinach, could also make up for the shortfall in Omega-3, as too much also comes with it’s risks; potential side effects include prolonged bleeding, low blood pressure and digestion problems.
My advice would be to ensure you eat a balanced diet. Where possible, buy produce from local suppliers and, if you can afford too, organic products will guarantee quality and less nutrient-killing pesticides. If you think you are suffering from a deficiency, don’t go mad at the health shop (even if Gethin is telling you it’s buy 1 get one free), ask your doctor for a test and take their advice.
You can find a comprehensive table of vitamins, their function in the body and which foods you can find them in here.