What Is the One Supplement You Need this Winter?
What supplement do you need to get you through the winter months? The truth is that it depends on your body. Creating a supplement strategy requires you to assess your individual needs and set specific goals to identify the supplement that can help. Consider these choices, which focus on common winter ailments.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that keeps bones, teeth, and muscles strong. The best source of vitamin D is the sun. Because people stay indoors more as temperatures drop, vitamin D levels tend to decrease in winter months. When the body becomes vitamin D-deficient, the risk of illness rises.
While sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, the nutrient can also be found in the following foods:
- Oily fish, such as mackerel
- Egg yolks
- Red meat
Most foods contain only a very small amount of vitamin D, however. Taking a supplement is a practical choice, especially for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding or for those with naturally dark skin. Public Health England recommends that adults and children get at least 10mcg of vitamin D a day, but don’t go over that amount. Vitamin D causes the body to absorb more calcium, which can weaken the bones.
For some people, the cold season means a shift in melatonin levels. Melatonin is the hormone that causes sleepiness. Light is directly responsible for the manufacturing of melatonin. Again, since many people spend more time indoors during the winter, production of melatonin tends to slow down. This low level of melatonin is a potential trigger for a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
If you suffer from SAD or simply have trouble sleeping during the winter, your GP might suggest supplemental melatonin to get you back on track.
Vitamin C is a good choice any time of year, but it’s particularly important during the winter cold and flu season as it can provide your immune system with the extra boost it needs to fight off a bug. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, too, so it helps reduce the damage done by ageing and the environment.
The human body does not store vitamin C, so it is important to get some every day. NHS Choices recommends that adults get up to 40mg daily. You can take more but, in large amounts, it may upset your stomach.
You can get vitamin C from citrus fruits, as well as red and green peppers, broccoli, and potatoes. It’s a good idea to take a dietary supplement of vitamin C to ensure you get some each day.
Zinc is another nutrient that gives your immune system a little extra fighting power. It is essential for creating new cells and manufacturing enzymes, and it aids in digesting carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
Technically, zinc is a trace element. You need a little bit every day, but you don’t want to overdo it. The current daily recommendation is 5.5-9.5mg for men and 4.0-7.0mg for women.
Foods rich in zinc include the following:
- Most meats
- Cereals that contain wheat germ
If you take a supplement containing zinc, monitor your dose carefully. Taking too much will deplete the copper in your body, leading to weak bones and possibly anemia.
Determine what you need most this winter and develop a supplement plan to help keep you at your best. From fighting off the common cold to getting enough sleep, everyone can use a little help from dietary supplements to get through the cold season.
NHS Choices, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
NHS Choices, Other Vitamins and Minerals: Zinc
NHS Choices, The New Guidelines on Vitamin D – What You Need to Know, July 2016
Writer bio: Darla F. is a full-time freelance writer and healthcare professional who specializes in helping agencies meet their goals by developing creative and engaging content.
- Darla Ferrara