Not every nutrient the body needs to stay in optimum health is easily obtainable in the average diet. In order to get the proper amount of certain vitamins and minerals, supplements are key. Look for these three nutrients to keep you feeling and looking your best.
It may be very challenging to get sufficient zinc from our diets. The best sources of zinc are animal foods, especially beef and oysters. Vegetable sources of zinc are not reliable. As a water-soluble mineral, zinc is easily depleted from soils by rain and from food by cooking. Also, zinc is coupled with phytic acid in vegetable sources, which stops the body absorbing it. Therefore, a vegetarian diet is likely to be deficient.
Zinc deficiency is a serious threat to your health because it is involved in more body functions than any other mineral, including:
- immune resilience;
- muscle repair;
- maintaining healthy skin, hair and nails;
- regulating the skin’s oil glands;
- healthy growth and development;
- fertility, reproduction and sexual function;
- protection from free radical damage.
- athletic performance, strength, endurance and recovery.
Critically, common lifestyle factors greatly deplete our zinc levels too. Stress, sweat, alcohol consumption, ageing, weight loss, injury and surgery all wipe out our stores of this vital mineral.
A good way to get the zinc your body needs is through a supplement, but be aware that zinc competes for absorption with calcium, copper and iron, so if integrated in a supplement that also contains these minerals, its absorption will be inhibited. Meanwhile, the presence of amino acids, particularly sulphur-containing amino acids such as cysteine, increases its absorption.
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric, a spice used in India for thousands of years in cooking and as a medicinal herb.
Turmeric has been proven to counteract inflammation more effectively than many drugs and without the side effects.
Inflammation is not always bad - acute (short-term) inflammation is beneficial as it helps isolate an area of the body affected by infection or injury and prevents pathogens from taking over. However, chronic inflammation, long-term and often silent, involves the perpetuation of the inflammatory response. This persistent low-grade attack on body tissues impairs the functioning and repair of tissues and cells and accelerates ageing. It also precedes and characterises most degenerative diseases, from cancer and Alzheimer’s to heart disease. Therefore, anything that can help fight chronic inflammation is of potential importance in preventing and even treating these diseases.
Curcumin targets multiple steps in the inflammatory pathway. For example, curcumin blocks NF-kB, a molecule that travels into the nuclei of cells and turns on genes related to inflammation. It also boosts levels of the brain hormone BDNF, which increases the growth of new neurons and fights various degenerative processes in the brain.
So, unless you are adding turmeric to your meals or taking a supplement, you’re likely to be missing out on the benefits of curcumin to your overall health.
3. Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like nutrient naturally produced in the body. However, levels of coenzyme Q10 present in the body fall with age and, because of its importance in sustaining health, energy production and antioxidant protection, supplementation can provide significant tangible benefits.
Although foods such as broccoli, dark leafy greens, nuts, fish, shellfish, pork, chicken and beef are dietary sources of CoQ10, it has been estimated they deliver only about 2 to 5 mg of CoQ10, which is not enough to sustain healthy levels in the body.
Two factors result in a deficiency of CoQ10: reduced biosynthesis (which means the body is no longer producing enough by itself) and increased demand from the body.
Deficiencies in the B-vitamins and trace minerals needed for the production of CoQ10 are one cause of low levels, as are mutations in the genes required for its synthesis. Another cause is an increased demand for Coenzyme Q10 to neutralise high levels of free radicals and environmental toxins, such as pollution, cigarette smoke and excessive sun. Finally, levels of Coenzyme Q10 naturally fall as one ages and this has been linked to several chronic degenerative conditions including heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.
Coenzyme Q10 functions in every cell of the body to produce energy. It is an essential component of healthy mitochondrial function (mitochondria are the energy-producing centres of all cells). CoQ10 offers enhanced energy levels and greater endurance, as well as a greater ability to lose body fat, while preventing the energy decline seen in ageing cells and diseased organs.
Coenzyme Q10 also works together with other antioxidants to elevate cellular levels of vitamins C, E and glutathione and to help regulate blood sugar and enhance insulin sensitivity.
The antioxidant nature of Coenzyme Q10 derives from its energy carrier function. As an energy carrier, it continuously goes through an oxidation–reduction cycle, accepting and giving up electrons. In its reduced form, it can easily give up electrons both to stabilise and thus neutralise free radicals and regenerate other antioxidants. It is particularly effective at protecting the vulnerable mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA from oxidative stress.
Studies have confirmed that, being a large, fat-soluble molecule, CoQ10 needs to be mixed with a fat for effective absorption by the body. A softgel capsule format is perfect for this end as its ingredients are already suspended in oil, but if taking a tablet supplement, it is necessary to consume with fat-containing foods in order to improve absorption.
Supplements can be a valuable addition to your daily health routine, but they're most effective when targeted toward specific needs, rather than just a collection of vitamins and minerals, some of which can easily and preferably be found in your diet.