We get the essential vitamins and nutrients our bodies need from eating a healthy, balanced diet.
This means eating a variety of foods from the five main food groups; carbohydrates, protein, fruit and vegetables, fats, and sugars. For this reason, when we diet or cut out certain foods, we may need to look for alternate foods to supply the vitamins and/or minerals that we may be missing or alternatively look to supplement to avoid vitamin deficiency. Eating the right foods can therefore affect our brain, heart, energy levels, and even our skin. Antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E all play a role in helping us feel our best from the inside out.
Found only in oily fish, red meat, liver, egg yolks, some fortified breakfast cereals, orange juice and fat spreads, vitamin D can be hard to get from diet alone. Our bodies can, however, create vitamin D from direct sunlight, although this can be difficult in winter months when the UVB radiation from the sun isn’t strong enough to produce it. As vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body1 it is needed to keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. Public Health England recommends that everyone in the UK over the age of four considers taking a daily supplement in the winter months1. Read more about the benefits and sources of Vitamin D.
Omega-3 fatty acids
As our only source is food and/or supplements, most Westerners have low Omega-3 levels2.
Oily fish like mackerel, salmon, trout, whitebait, crab, and sardines, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but we need to be eating at least two portions of fish a week, one which should be oily fish (140 g) as per Department of Health recommendation, to get the health benefits. It is worth noting this can be canned but as a watch out, the omega-3 can sometimes be removed during the manufacturing process. Read more about the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids.
No matter your age, calcium is essential for maintaining bone health. If we do not have enough calcium in our diets our body will take it from our bones. Milk, yogurt, and cheese are all good sources of calcium and adults (19-64 years) need 800 mg of calcium a day3. If you are concerned your diet is not providing you with enough nutrients and minerals visit your GP for advice or talk to a registered dietitian.
Vitamin A, also known as retinol, helps keep skin and the lining of some parts of the body healthy4. Good sources include cheese, eggs, oily fish - which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids - fortified low-fat spread, milk, yoghurt, and liver products. In addition, you can get vitamin A from foods containing beta carotene - this turns into vitamin A in the body - from yellow fruits such as mango, papaya, and apricots and green (leafy) vegetables such as spinach, carrots, and red peppers. Adults (19-64 years) need 0.7 mg of vitamin A a day (for men) and 0.6 mg a day (for women)4.
The antioxidant properties of vitamin C and its role in collagen synthesis make it a key nutrient for skin health. Good sources of vitamin C include oranges, red and green peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and potatoes. Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body, so adults (19-64 years) need 40 mg of it every day5.
The skin is influenced by external factors due to it being the body's first line of defence against outside elements. Studies have shown that Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and can offer protection from ultraviolet light-induced skin damage6. While you should be able to get all the vitamin E you need from your diet, it can be found in plant oils such as soya, corn, and olive oil, as well as nuts, seeds and wheatgerm. Adults (19-64 years) need 4mg a day (for men) and 3mg a day (for women).7 Read more about the benefits of Vitamin E.
Vitamin-rich diets aside, getting enough sleep, regular exercise, using a daily sunscreen with a high SPF and drinking water can make a significant difference in the way our skin looks and feels.
Placzek M, Gaube S, Kerkmann U, Gilbertz KP, Herzinger T, Haen E, Przybilla B. Ultraviolet B-induced DNA damage in human epidermis is modified by the antioxidants ascorbic acid and D-alpha-tocopherol. J Invest Dermatol. 2005 Feb;124(2):304-7.
Disclaimer: Food Supplements should not replace a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.