By Melissa Fine, Nutritionist and GoodnessMe Box Health Editor.
We know vitamins and minerals are good for us, but their names tend to get thrown around a lot. Here’s what some of them can do for you.
1) Vitamin C
Not only can it shorten the length of the common cold*, vitamin C is involved in energy production, carbohydrate metabolism and enhanced absorption of ‘non-haem’ or plant sources of iron, like lentils, tofu and green leafy veg, which have an iron content that’s not as readily absorbed as it is from meat. Because I don’t eat meat, I include vitamin C-rich veg – like capsicum and broccoli - with my tofu stir-fry to increase my iron uptake.
Also now coined as the ‘vanity vitamin’, vitamin C contributes to the production of collagen, a protein required for skin integrity and wound or scar healing. The anti-aging effect of vitamin C also comes down to it being an antioxidant, whereby it counteracts cell damage by free radicals like pollution. Plus, vitamin C regenerates other antioxidants in the body, so it’s a particularly powerful antioxidant.
But don’t just stick to oranges; There’s plenty vitamin C-rich fresh produce: Think cauliflower, sweet potato, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, kiwi fruit, strawberries, mango and avocado, to name a few.
Unfortunately, unless you eat organic (which can be inconvenient and expensive), it’s difficult to know just how much C you’re getting, especially when considering nutrient losses that occur with things like cold storage.
There may also be times when we need more of the stuff. Stress (be it emotional/physical/physiological), smoking, alcohol, a fever or virus can increase the elimination of vitamin C through the urine. When I’m feeling run down, I supplement my diet with a natural, food-derived vitamin C powder, like Nature’s Way Wholefoods Vitamin C. Speak to your health care professional before taking a Vitamin C supplement.
Usually the first thing that comes to mind with magnesium is its role as a muscle relaxant, but there’s so much more to this mineral. Magnesium partakes in over 350 chemical reactions in the body, one being energy production. It’s also involved in the breakdown of ‘glycogen’, stored carbohydrate in our muscles and liver that’s used as an energy reserve.
Protein synthesis, vitamin D activation and the production and function of our parathyroid hormone (PTH) all require magnesium; Found in the parathyroid glands in the throat, PTH regulates the level of calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus in our bones and blood to maintain bone health. And while calcium might be the first thing you think you need for healthy teeth, it’s actually magnesium that helps form decay-resistant, hard tooth enamel.
So where can you get it from? Magnesium is actually abundant in our food supply, but green leafy veg (rich in chlorophyll, a green plant pigment which magnesium is a component of), nuts and whole grains like brown rice tend to have more magnesium than animal products.
Among its roles, zinc plays an important structural role in the body - We need it for growth and development, and our immune cells (such as white blood cells) rely on zinc to develop and behave as they should, so inadequate zinc may result in compromised immunity.
According to a recent gold-standard research review, when taken as a lozenge or syrup and within 24 hours of symptom-onset, zinc can shorten the length of the common cold in healthy individuals - Worth noting seeing that one of the main reasons we miss school or work is the common cold**. Seek advice from your health care practitioner before taking a zinc supplement.
Oysters probably come to mind when you think of zinc, with another good source being red meat. Legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds also provide zinc, but this isn’t as easy to absorb due to their phytic acid content, a compound which binds to zinc, reducing its availability. If you’re a vegetarian, yeasted wholegrain bread (like whole grain wheat/spelt/rye) is a good option because the yeast helps break down any phytic acids present…Food for thought!
Nature’s Way Whole Foods Vitamin C
Derived from 100% whole foods, including Amla Berry, Acerola Cherry and Camu Camu. Ideal for adults 15+, in particular those leading an active lifestyle. Try Nature’s Way Whole Foods Vitamin C to help support:
Nature’s Way Whole Foods Magnesium Powder
Derived from 100% whole foods, including natural marine magnesium, naturally supporting all men and women. Ideal for active people to support training and exercise, it can be helpful for:
*Hemilä H, Chalker E, Douglas B. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD000980. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub3.
Higdon J 2013, Vitamin C, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. Available from: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminC/ [viewed 27 January 2015].
Higdon J 2013, Zinc, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. Available from: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/zinc/[viewed 27 January 2015].
Higdon J 2014, Magnesium, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. Available from: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/magnesium/ [viewed 27 January 2015].
Kirk D 2012, ‘Chapter 5: Nutritional Medicine’ in Clinical Naturopathic Medicine, ed L Hechtman, Elsevier Australia, Sydney, pp. 62-64, 76-78, 84-86.
**Singh M, Das RR. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD001364. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001364.pub4.