vitamins

The Top 5 Vitamins and Minerals to Stock up on This Winter

We all know that we need our vitamins and minerals, many of us having been raised on Flintstones or gummy vitamins, but the fact is there are quite a few and it can be hard to keep track of what you are getting and what you may need more of.  Firstly, you need them all!  However there may be some that you might want to boost to help with a particular aspect of your health.  Especially at the start of winter we start getting less sun, less activity, and then cap it off with less availability and consumption of the brightly colored fruits and veggies that are responsible for the majority of our vitamins and minerals.  Below are five types of health that you may find lagging, and some ways to help boost them!

Immune System: This is the big one come the colder months where our immune system is more likely to be inhibited and illness abounds, especially if you have children!  The two most effective things to take are zinc and vitamin C, which are both necessary for strong immune function.  You can supplement with these for sure, though as for all nutrients, it’s best to get them from food sources.  For vitamin C, you can up your intake from almost any fruit (especially citrus), potatoes, bell peppers, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, and Brussels sprouts.  For zinc you can turn to red meat, poultry, oysters and some other seafood, beans, nuts, fortified cereals, and some dark leafy green vegetables.

Mood: This is another one that often takes a dump when getting into winter.  Partially this is due to getting less sunlight, and probably vitamin D, but it is in part not yet well understood.  We do know, however, that vitamin B6 is an important chemical for production and maintenance of happy chemicals, and vitamin D may shore up any need that isn’t been met through sun exposure.  Trying to get more sun is the first step, but you can also get vitamin D through fortified dairy or non-dairy milks, cereals, and fatty fish. Vitamin B6 can be found in meat, fish, poultry, legumes, tofu and other soy products, non-citrus fruits (bananas and watermelon for example), and potatoes.

Energy: This forms the last of the winter trifecta, which often dips once winter really sets in.  Many of us suffer from inadequate amounts or quality of sleep and general exhaustion anyway, so don’t let the changing of the seasons take you down further!  The entire B vitamin complex for the most part is essential in turning the food we eat into energy, including B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), and biotin.  The sources for each of these vary, but dairy products, enriched grains and cereals, some meat poultry and fish, broccoli, mushrooms, avocados and tomatoes will help supply your vitamin B needs.

Memory: Regardless of the time of year, so many people ask me what they can do to help their memory.  With a food culture based on pre-made foods that are severely deficient in nutrition in general, this is no surprise.  Vitamin B12 deficiency in particular can cause a lot of serious havoc, with memory loss and even dementia a possible result! B12 can be found in fortified cereals and soymilk, as well as some in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and some dairy.

General Health: While we do need all of these vitamins and minerals, and many more than are listed here today, there are a few that aren’t above that I always suggest for overall health and vibrancy.  Vitamin E and selenium are oft overlooked nutrients that are some of our most powerful antioxidants (chemicals that stop oxidation in our cells, which is basically like overall wear and tear damage that builds up over our lives and can cause cancers, among other problems), and also have some of the best clinical evidence for their efficacy as supplements, not to mention from food sources.  Vitamin E can be found in vegetable oils (shoot for olive oil instead of canola), wheat germ, whole grains, nuts, and leafy green vegetables.  You can get your selenium from organ meats, seafood, walnuts and grains.

If you are simply not thriving or are lacking in one of these five categories, now you know your next nutritional step!  Supplements can be very effective for some nutrients as long as the quality is good, but always check out the actual quality of a brand, and when able, eat real food instead!  A well balanced diet filled with brightly colored fruits and vegetables will do the most for keeping your body stocked with all of its essential vitamins and minerals, regardless of season, and regardless of whether it’s for your immune system, your mood, or your energy levels.

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