Support your immune system and fight fatigue with these winter wellness essentials, says Liz Connor.
Autumn is great for so many reasons. There’s the beauty of the leaves changing colour, the fact you can bundle up in loads of cosy layers and, as if that wasn’t great enough, Christmas is just around the corner.
What’s not so fun about the colder months? The fact that your immune system often takes a good beating. There are countless bugs making their way around the office at this time of year, and you somehow seem to be zapped of energy on a daily basis.
Even if you do manage to eat a healthy diet packed with your five-a-day, you still might be missing out some vital vitamins and minerals to keep you feeling on top form when the temperature drops.
So if you don’t fancy spending this winter coughing into your keyboard and sniffling into your shirt sleeves, it might be time to rethink your supplement strategy. Here are three recommended winter boosters to help support your body through the cold snap…
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D, aka ‘the sunshine vitamin’, is essential for for keeping teeth and bones healthy, regulating mood and improving resistance against winter bugs. According to the British Nutrition Foundation, approximately 1 in 5 of us have low levels, and government advice suggests we should all be taking a supplement in the darker months.
“Your susceptibility to colds and flu increases in autumn and winter, partly because viruses survive better in cold weather, and partly because immunity is reduced by breathing dry, centrally-heated air,” says Dr Sarah Brewer, medical director of Healthspan (healthspan.co.uk). “Another factor is having lower levels of vitamin D.”
The best source of the good stuff is getting out in the sunshine; when the sun’s UVB rays hit our skin, the body is able to synthesise vitamin D naturally. The problem is that sunlight is scarce during winter and it can be particularly hard to get your daily fix if you’re cooped up in an office.
Healthspan have a Vitamin D3 and Calcium supplement (£9.95 for 240 chewable tablets, healthspan.co.uk) which contains 134% of your recommended daily allowance, helping you to easily hit your target.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is probably the most well-known defence against the coughs and colds of the winter months. Studies show that it can help bolster the immune system, reduce inflammation in the body as well as fight fatigue.
“A healthy balanced diet rich in key immune-supporting vitamins and minerals should always be your first line of defence against colds and flu” says nutritionist Rob Hobson. “I recommend including plenty of vitamin C-rich vegetables and fruits like blueberries, kiwis, oranges, peppers and green leafy vegetables into your winter diet.”
Let’s face it though, we’re all busy people and it’s not always easy to plan out your meals ahead of time. If you feel your diet isn’t quite cutting it, try Holland & Barrett’s Vitamin C and Zinc tables (£4.79 for 60 lozenges, hollandandbarret.com)
Winter can easily affect your energy levels and mood, and if you find yourself feeling fatigued during the day, it might be a good time to check out your iron levels.
This important vitamin plays a part in the production of haemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to transport it throughout your body.
If you don’t get sufficient oxygen to the body, it can leave you feeling exhausted, affecting everything from your brain function to your immune system’s ability to fight off infections.
If you’re concerned about a lack of iron in your diet, you should ask your doctor to test your blood to see if your iron levels are low. Eating a diet that is high in iron-rich foods such as fortified cereals, red meat, dried fruit, and beans will help, but it might also be worth taking a supplement, such as Iron Plus and Folic Acid tablets (£4.39 for 30, myvitamins.com).