We all know we need to eat healthily and lead an active life to give us the best chance of staying well into old age. Obviously, we don’t have a looking glass to see what’s going on inside our body but for starters why not prioritise those vitamins that could really help support your health as the years go by?
Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top three vitamins for future-proofing your health.
A popular remedy for the common cold, and possibly the most well-known of all the vitamins, the health benefits of Vitamin C are far-reaching. Vitamin C was first discovered many years ago by sailors in the British Navy trying to stave off the deficiency disease of scurvy by eating citrus fruits. In fact, it’s the very reason us Brits are often nicknamed ‘limeys’ because of the high vitamin C content in limes that were consumed.
Since then, it’s been found that vitamin C is used by the body in many different ways. Its primary function is in the manufacture of collagen, the main protein in the body. Vitamin C is needed to join together the amino acid proline to form a stable collagen structure. As collagen is so important for holding our body together, vitamin C is actually crucial for healthy skin. Therefore, whilst your body might be quietly ageing, outwardly you’ll be looking younger! Most importantly, you’ll be taking very good care of the inner structure of your body, which of course you can’t see.
Whilst vitamin C is readily found in many fruits and vegetables, it’s quickly used up by the body, so you need to be eating these foods every day. Think peppers, guavas, kale, broccoli, strawberries, oranges and lemons, mangoes and asparagus. With such an amazing variety to choose from you’ll never be short of ways to increase your vitamin C intake.
Affectionately known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because it’s made on the skin in the presence of sunlight, vitamin D is a key player in your healthy future.
The main role of vitamin D is to stimulate the absorption of calcium – our main bone and teeth-building mineral. Although it’s fat-soluble, not much is stored in the body, hence, during the winter months in the UK, around 40% of the population are deficient.
As with many nutrients, deficiency symptoms can often be unspecific and not noticed until there is potentially something more serious afoot. This is certainly true when it comes to our bones; peak bone density is reached at around 25 to 30 years of age, therefore it’s key to ensure the body has the right nutrients in early years to build strong bones for the future.
New benefits of vitamin D are being discovered all the time. Optimal vitamin D levels in the body are also associated with better mood throughout life. A recent large study showed that increased levels of vitamin D may help prevent depression in later life – yet another good reason to take a supplement through the winter months when sunlight is scarce.
As part of normal daily life, the body is under constant attack from free radicals; pollution, poor diet, smoking, excessive sunlight and stress can all take their toll. Whilst the body does have internal mechanisms for coping with free radicals in the form of antioxidant enzyme systems, it is difficult to know when the body is being overwhelmed. Thankfully nature has provided us with a wealth of antioxidant nutrients, in particular, vitamin E.
Vitamin E is actually the collective name for a group of biologically active compounds which help prevent any damage caused by free radicals. It would seem that many of our serious degenerative diseases are associated with free radical damage, so whilst we might not know whether the body is coping, it’s certainly worth future-proofing with this vitamin.
Vitamin E also future proofs us in other ways; it helps improve fertility in both men and women. The best food sources of vitamin E are polyunsaturated oils, seeds, nuts, whole grains, avocados, berries and green leafy vegetables.
As with anything, prevention is better than cure, so it’s certainly worth backing these three vitamins for the best chance of a healthier life, well into old age.
 De Oliveira et al. Asscociations between vitamin D levels and depressive symptoms in later life: Evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). J Gerontol A Biol Med Sci 2017 June 22
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