Five foods to banish Christmas exhaustion

Woman in Christmas hat asleep at her laptop

We all know that Christmas can be exhausting! Add together festive parties, Christmas shopping, family politics, with a sprinkling of work pressures, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for feeling tired and run-down. However, what you eat during the Christmas period can have a really positive effect on energy levels.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top foods for sustaining energy throughout the Festive season.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

BANANAS

They are the ‘go-to’ snack used by athletes and anyone looking for a quick energy boost. Bananas contain a high level of sugar in the form of starch which is released fairly quickly into the bloodstream giving an energy boost. However, they’re also high in fibre which means that energy release is sustained for quite a while after eating them. Bananas are also high in energising vitamin B6.

Whole bananas and diced banana

However unripe bananas contain resistant starch which cannot be digested in the small intestine, and then ferments in the large intestine which can cause wind! So, the trick is to eat them when they’re nice and ripe and you’ll be energised throughout the day. Why not enjoy a banana with your breakfast? They’re great on any type of cereal and of course make a wonderful transportable snack.

PUMPKIN SEEDS

Another great portable snack that you can eat on their own or as part of a combination with other seeds, pumpkin seeds have an enviable nutritional profile. They contain good levels of energising iron and magnesium, plus protein which will also keep you going throughout the day.

Roasted pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are brilliant to have in your bag when you’re on the run or to keep in your desk drawer. For a really delicious twist, roast them with a little salt.

BEETROOT

Simply the colour of beetroot brings thoughts of Christmas! Their deep red colour is also one of the reasons for beetroot’s amazing health benefits; they’re packed with antioxidant-rich anthocyanins. Most importantly, beetroots are great for boosting energy. They encourage the production of nitric oxide which helps blood vessels to dilate, producing greater oxygen flow around the body. This effect is really noticeable in people who exercise a lot but is equally beneficial for those needing to rush around the shops!

Beetroot and chocolate brownies

Beetroot works well in sweet or savoury dishes and can be really simply served in a salad with goat’s cheese and walnuts. Equally, it makes a wonderful partner to any dish containing chocolate! Why not try creating some chocolate and beetroot brownies? Perfect for the Christmas table to stop people falling asleep after lunch!

WHOLEMEAL BAGELS

Any food that contains whole grains will also contain plenty of energising B-Vitamins and wholemeal bagels are no exception. With any white bread products the refining process in their production destroys B-vitamins and also the fibre, both of which are needed to keep energy ramped up! So try to stick to wholemeal options this Christmas.

A wholemeal bagel with ham and salad

Wholemeal bagels make a great snack with nut butter (or with some jam for really quick energy).  Alternatively, try them toasted with scrambled eggs for breakfast, with cream cheese and smoked salmon for lunch or toasted with smashed avocado and pine nuts. Delicious!

SWEET POTATOES

Packed with slow-releasing carbohydrates, sweet potatoes provide sustained energy to keep you going throughout Christmas. Despite their sweetness, sweet potatoes are a starchy vegetable and supply about the same number of calories as new potatoes (around 84 calories per 100 grams).

A sweet potato cut in hasselback style on wooden board

Sweet potatoes make a delicious and quick lunch or dinner-time meal in a jacket with a topping of prawns, baked beans or tuna. The best news is that they have a really positive effect on blood sugar levels (unlike white potatoes in their jackets), which means energy levels will be constant and hopefully you won’t feel that all-too common afternoon energy slump.

So eat for energy this festive season and you’ll still be smiling (and awake) to enjoy the Christmas holidays.

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Nutritious seasonal eats this December

Woman preparing christmas dinner

With the festive season now upon us, supermarkets are packed with chocolates, cakes, puddings and treats! However, let’s not forget that we can still enjoy healthy treats and get a boost of vitamins and minerals at the same time. There are plenty of delicious fruits and vegetables in season in December, and with a little thought they can really excite the taste buds!

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top five fruits and vegetables this Christmas, together with her recipe suggestions.

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PEARS

These sometimes get forgotten and pushed aside for the more popular apple. However, pears are real winners both for their taste and nutrient content.

They’re high in immune-boosting vitamin C and heart-loving vitamin K. If you eat them with the skin on, they’re also rich in fibre; more than many other fruits and vegetables, around 40% of a pear’s health benefits lie just under the skin.

Pear, goats cheese and walnut salad

Pears work really well simply sliced in a salad with goat’s cheese, varied leaves and walnuts, which retains maximum nutrient benefits. However, at this time of year, they’re wonderful poached with lemon zest, ginger, a cinnamon stick, allspice and some apple cider. They can be served with vanilla ice-cream for a real treat, eaten cold as a desert or sliced over your morning porridge for a warming start to the day.

RED CABBAGE

Whilst white (also known as green) cabbage is the most commonly eaten, its nutrient benefits slightly fade into the background when compared to its red counterpart. As with all fruits and vegetables, the secret to its nutritional benefit lies in its colour; red cabbage is rich in immune-boosting antioxidants. This is especially helpful at this time of year. It also contains lots of anti-inflammatory compounds which is welcome news for those suffering from aching or painful joints during the winter months.

Red cabbage stewed with apples

One of the nicest ways to use red cabbage is braised with apples. It makes a wonderful accompaniment to any meat or is great on the Christmas dinner table. It’s so easy cooked in a pot, with onions, apples, balsamic vinegar, allspice and sliced apples. Cook slowly in the oven for an hour or so – the smell is wonderful.

CAULIFLOWER

Cauliflower has become one of the most popular vegetables in recent times. Even better it’s in season right now. As with many fruits and vegetables, the most prominent nutrient in cauliflower is vitamin C. However, it’s rich in most of the B-vitamins as well as the important trace minerals magnesium and manganese. These nutrients are better retained when cauliflower is steamed rather than boiled.

Cauliflower cheese

In terms of serving, a perennial favourite dish is cauliflower cheese which is often a Boxing Day lunch staple. However, it works really well as a one-pot curry with chickpeas, cumin, curry powder, onions, lentil and almonds. Cauliflower rice is also really popular with those watching their weight or following the Paleo Diet. Placed into a food processor it then gets broken down into rice-sized pieces. Simply heat through with a little olive oil and some salt and pepper.

CLEMENTINES

Always popular in Christmas stockings for their delicious, juicy and sweet taste, clementines are perfectly in season right now. Not only are they packed with vitamin C, they contain limonin which may help reduce blood cholesterol levels – another reason why they could be useful during the season of over-indulgence!

Clementines on wooden board

They’re also fabulous used in many recipes and work really well with our Christmas staple vegetable, the Brussels sprout. We tend to have a love/hate relationship with these little green vegetables, but when braised in the oven with sliced clementines, shallots, balsamic vinegar, rosemary and walnuts, they really come alive!

CRANBERRY

No Christmas table would ever be complete without cranberries. They deliver some wonderful health benefits, most notably for the urinary tract. Most urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria, and cranberries are able to prevent the E. coli bacteria from attaching to the wall of the urinary tract.

CRanberry sauce in small ceramic jug and cranberries on wooden board

Importantly, whilst, cranberry sauce makes a wonderful accompaniment to turkey, they work really well in a muesli recipe or in homemade energy bars. Simply mix dried cranberries with golden syrup, sunflower seeds, desiccated coconut, oats, butter and sultanas for a delicious tray-baked, portable energy snack – much needed during the tiring month of December.

So alongside the traditional sweet treats of Christmas, treat yourself to some delicious and nutritious fruit and veg this season and reap their amazing health benefits.

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Top nutrients for a tip-top smile

Cloe up of woman smiling brightly with a becah background

A lovely smile brightens up the face and healthy teeth are key to having a smile that engages the world! Good teeth are often built in the early years from having sufficient nutrients, particularly calcium and vitamin D in the diet. But what other nutrients are important?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares the five most important nutrients for a lovely smile.

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CALCIUM

It’s the most abundant mineral in both the bones and teeth, therefore it’s important to have sufficient in the diet. If you missed out during childhood, for whatever reason, it’s never too late to make sure your diet is calcium-rich. Whilst dairy foods are some of the richest sources of calcium many people are intolerant or have an allergy to dairy foods.

The good news is that there are many dairy alternative milks which are naturally rich in calcium or are fortified such as soya, coconut and almond. There are also a great variety of dairy-free yoghurts to enjoy. Green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, fish with bones such as sardines and tinned salmon, beans and lentils are all rich sources. Kale contains some of the most absorbable calcium around! The best advice is to include a variety of foods containing calcium in your diet.

VITAMIN D

Known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D actually goes hand in hand with calcium when it comes to healthy teeth and bones – in fact calcium needs vitamin D to do its job properly. Even though summer is on its way, with hopefully more sunshine, sunscreen and lack of time out in the sun means we’re often still vitamin D deficient. If you want healthy teeth, you should ideally be taking a vitamin D supplement all-year round containing at least 10 micrograms. And Public Health England supports this recommendation.

Interestingly, foods such as oily fish with bones that are high in calcium, also contain some vitamin D, so get that barbeque lit and cook up some sardines!

COQ10

CoQ10 is a vitamin-like substance that is naturally produced in the body but diminishes with age and is frequently deficient. In fact, CoQ10 is a very powerful antioxidant working hard throughout the body holding back age-related diseases. However, it’s also been found to be very effective at reducing gum disease through supplementation1.

CoQ10 is found in many foods including organ meats, beef and pork, oily fish, leafy greens such as spinach and cauliflower as well as oranges, although not in great amounts. It’s been found that as little as 50 mg of CoQ10 in supplement form, daily, can help reduce the severity of periodontal disease. It’s actually the gums that can be problematic as the years roll by, leading to pain, bleeding from the gums and loss of teeth, all detrimental to a healthy smile!

VITAMIN C

Vitamin C is key in the production of collagen. Since collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, it make sense that teeth will also contain some. Plus vitamin C is our key antioxidant helping to fight damaging free radicals that attack all parts of the body, and unfortunately, the gums are no exception.

Eating plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables, particularly strawberries (in season right now and delicious with some calcium-rich cream), cherries, sweet red peppers, kiwi fruits and leafy greens are also teeth and gum-friendly. Certain fruits, particularly citrus fruits are acidic and may attack tooth enamel. If you do eat them (and they’re particularly rich in vitamin C), rinse your mouth out with water afterwards and don’t brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes after eating to allow the enamel to settle.

MAGNESIUM

Magnificent magnesium is one of the other key minerals for healthy teeth and gums2. It’s as essential as calcium; magnesium helps to develop hard enamel that covers the teeth. Foods which contain magnesium include nuts and seeds but the good news is that it’s rich also in foods that are abundant in vitamin C, particularly green leafy vegetables. For a real ‘green’ hit, why not whizz up a green juice containing cucumber, pear, parsley, spinach and some mint for a really summery twist!

Magnesium is frequently deficient in the daily diet, partly because of our over-reliance on convenience foods and it’s depleted by stress. However, with some careful planning and also including wholegrains and nuts and seeds in your diet, you’ll have plenty to smile about!

So make sure to build a healthy smile this summer with these top teeth nutrients!

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Boost your energy from within with these top nutrients

The mind may be willing but the body’s saying NO! A common feeling! You want to get off the sofa or jump out of bed but every bone and muscle in your body is disagreeing with your mind. Sounds familiar? Unfortunately, many of us suffer with low energy levels much of the time (whatever age) and some of us feel tired all the time, also known as TATT. So what changes can you make to your nutrient intake to give your energy a boost?

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares the top nutrients we need to get that ‘leap out of bed’ feeling!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

IRON

The trace mineral iron is critical to human life. It plays a pivotal role in the production of red blood cells, transporting oxygen from the lungs around the body, but is also key in energy production. Unfortunately, it’s often depleted, particularly in teenage girls and women of child-bearing age, partly due to monthly menstruation but also down to the typical Western diet. Deficiency symptoms can lead to anaemia and tiredness.

The most well absorbed form of iron, known as heme iron, is found in animal foods particularly red meat, which many people don’t eat. However, non heme iron is found in plant foods such as nuts, Jersusalem artichokes and green leafy vegetables. Interestingly, even a small iron deficiency can cause fatigue and reduced physical performance, and this will be really noticeable if you’re a keen exerciser. It’s therefore worth getting a blood test from your doctor if you think you could be low in iron.

The good news is that even though plant-based foods do not contain heme iron, absorption can be considerably improved if they’re eaten with other foods containing vitamin C. Green leafy vegetables naturally contain a lot of vitamin C but drinking a small glass of orange juice at the same time can really make a difference.

MAGNESIUM

One of our most abundant minerals in the body, magnesium is essential for energy production as well as muscle function. Indeed, it’s key in producing our main energy producing molecule, ATP – Adenosine triphosphate – an energy-carrying molecule found in the cells of all living things. However, as with many other nutrients, magnesium is often deficient due to low intake from the diet, plus magnesium and the B vitamins are also depleted by stress, our modern-day epidemic.

Magnesium is found in whole foods such as whole wheat cereals and bread, beans and pulses, as well as green leafy vegetables, avocados, bananas and sweet potato. It’s also good news for seafood lovers as a portion of halibut supplies around a third of the body’s daily needs.

Magnesium can be a confusing mineral. Whilst it’s essential for energy production because of its role in enzyme production, it can also help people to sleep: this is because it aids muscle relaxation and as such is known as ‘nature’s natural tranquiliser’. So the best advice is to ensure you’re eating plenty of magnesium-rich foods throughout the day but if you need help sleeping then it’s best to take a supplement of magnesium around an hour before bedtime. Plus, the more sleep you have, the more energised you’ll feel!

B VITAMINS

These are a family of 8 nutrients that all work together in perfect harmony. Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, Folic acid and biotin all play key roles in energy production. They’re sometimes found in combination together in foods but they certainly all club together and work in unison in the body.

So where can you find them? If you’re having a varied and colourful diet, you’ll certainly be getting some B vitamins. However, vitamin B12 is only found in animal produce such as liver, fish, red meat and cheese. Therefore, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you’re more than likely to need a supportive supplement. A lack of vitamin B12 will definitely cause energy levels to be low.

Biotin is often referred to as the beauty vitamin as it supports your hair and skin, but its presence is also essential for energy production. Another reason to be stocking up on nuts, rice, whole wheat cereals, liver and soya beans. And if none of these foods float your boat, then taking a supplement is a really good idea.

So fuel up with these top nutrients and energise yourself for a life with more get-up-and-go!

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Five ways to keep your energy levels in tip-top shape!

Many people struggle with energy levels all year round.  Long work days, busy family lives and a hectic social life can all take their toll and leave you feeling drained.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five tips for meeting all that life demands and feel raring to go!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog picTHE ENERGY EQUATION

If you want to have abundant energy for life and to retain that energy rather than burning out, then there are a few simple nutritional tips you can follow:

Eat mainly slow-releasing carbohydrates, otherwise known as low glycaemic (or low GI), such as oats, wholegrains, quinoa and whole foods rather than anything ‘white’.  Foods such as white bread and pasta have been deprived of nutrients, particularly B vitamins which are needed for energy.  ‘White’ foods upset blood sugar balance also leading to low energy.

Ensure your diet is well-rounded giving you a good balance of essential nutrients. Look at the colour variety on your plate at every meal.  Think all the colours of the rainbow!  Obviously this won’t be achieved at every meal, but if you’ve got a colourful meal plate, you’ll certainly be getting the essential nutrients your body needs to create great energy.

Avoid stimulants.  This is key to feeling on top of the world.  Whilst caffeine provides a rapid energy surge, this will be quickly followed by a dip.  Swap to decaffeinated drinks and include ginseng tea to get your body buzzing.  Plus, we all know that tell-tale ‘morning after the night before’ feeling!  Too much alcohol, over an extended period, is just going to drain energy.  Try to have as many alcohol-free days as possible, particularly during the working week.

THE ANTI-STRESS DIET

It’s no secret that stress makes us feel tired. Plus, stress depletes essential nutrients the body needs to produce energy – it can be a vicious cycle.

Adopting a low glycaemic carbohydrate diet is key.  In order to keep the body’s natural stress response on an even keel, these need to be balanced with protein in the same meal or snack.  For example, fish with brown rice; a handful of nuts with an apple; porridge oats with some seeds.

The mineral magnesium is also known as an ‘anti-stress nutrient’.  It’s needed to support the adrenal glands but it’s also used up more quickly during stressful times. Try to eat five servings a day of dark green leafy and root vegetables such as broccoli, watercress, carrots, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, spinach, green beans or peppers.  They can be raw or lightly cooked and you can happily use frozen if you’re not always able to buy fresh.

CELERY FOR ENERGY!

It’s all about nitrates!  Nitrates are naturally found in a number of foods and provide many health benefits.  In particular, they help to relax blood vessels and therefore improve blood flow.  This, in turn, creates more oxygen in the bloodstream, which gives you more energy!

If endurance exercise such as running is your thing, then consuming a couple of sticks of celery pre-workout is going to send energy levels soaring. However, if celery is not for you, then beetroot is also high in nitrates and provides equal benefits.  Try drinking a glass of beetroot juice before your morning run and you’ll float through the miles!

ENERGY NUTRIENTS

There are a number of nutrients that are really key in energy production.  For example, vitamin B6 and zinc help insulin to work correctly, which in turn helps to keep blood sugar levels in balance. The mineral chromium is needed to turn glucose into energy.  In fact the whole family of B vitamins (and there are eight in total), are essential for turning fuel or food into energy.

As with most things in life, nothing works in isolation, and it’s true with nutrients; trying to increase one nutrient over another can lead to imbalances.  Thankfully nature has made life much easier for us because the foods we’ve talked about all contain a good balance of these nutrients.  Therefore, if your diet is balanced and colourful, you will be getting what the body needs.

However, taking a daily multivitamin and mineral will help to top up levels and plug any dietary gaps.

COQ10 FOR TOP ENERGY

One nutrient that’s often forgotten is Co-enzyme Q10 (COQ10).  It plays a central role in energy metabolism because it’s present in every cell in the body.

There is no daily recommended amount for CoQ10, hence it can be missed off the list of essential nutrients. However, it is great for increasing flagging energy levels.  CoQ10 is found in sardines, mackerel, pork, spinach and walnuts, but not in large amounts.  Therefore, supplementing with around 30 mg of CoQ10 daily is really going to help.

So with some small adjustments to your diet you can keep your energy levels in tip top shape. If you’re well fuelled, your body will do the rest!

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Smile! Five nutrients for healthy teeth and gums.

‘Smile and the whole world smiles with you’.  A smile goes a long way in life and it’s even better if you have beautiful, healthy teeth.  Whatever age you are, it’s never too late to look after your teeth and gums.  And, as with so many aspects of health, it’s all underpinned by good nutrition.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, provides her five top tips for keeping your teeth and gums in tip-top condition.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

GET ENOUGH CALCIUM

The mineral calcium, which is the most abundant in the body, is the most important one in terms of teeth health, right from birth and throughout life.  If you’ve had a good start, and you and your children received sufficient calcium in the womb, then that’s always going to be beneficial.  However it’s never too late, and having sufficient calcium in the diet throughout life is going to help maintain strong teeth.

Milk and dairy products are great in terms of calcium content, but if you can’t tolerate dairy or choose not to eat dairy products there are alternatives. Think green leafy vegetables, other calcium-enriched milks such as almond or coconut, sesame seeds and bony fish such as sardines.

It’s worth bearing in mind that too much stress can create acidity throughout the whole body which in turn can cause you to lose calcium.  So find ways of reducing your stress levels; yoga, meditation, a lunch time walk away from your desk – whatever helps you to unwind.

ADD SOME SUNSHINE

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because it’s produced on the skin in the presence of sunshine.  So, with the summer upon us, make sure you try to get 10-15 minutes each day in the sun without any sunscreen.

Vitamin D is essential for metabolising calcium; they’re inseparable nutrients and your teeth certainly needs sufficient of both nutrients throughout life.  As with calcium, bony fish is a great source of vitamin D, as is, to some extent, milk.

Even though the body can store vitamin D, it would seem that a very large percentage of the UK population are deficient and our requirements for this vitamin are much higher than originally thought.  Therefore, the Department of Health recommends supplementation for everyone throughout the winter months but it would also be prudent to continue supplementing all year round.

VITAMIN C IS KEY!

Vitamin C is probably the most well-known of all vitamins; it’s also one of the most hardworking!  There is often some confusion around vitamin C and how it impacts teeth and gum health, primarily because it’s acidic and too much acid can attack tooth enamel. However, vitamin C is also essential for healthy and strong gums.

If gums are weak, teeth can become wobbly and may eventually fall out.  Therefore, the advice is to eat plenty of vegetables, particularly peppers, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts which are high in vitamin C, but also some fruits such as the berry fruits which are high in vitamin C but lower in acid.  Try to avoid fruit juices such as orange juice for breakfast as this coats the teeth with acid. Additionally, don’t brush your teeth for at least an hour after eating fruit.

EAT MORE MAGNESIUM

Whilst calcium tends to get all the acclaim when it comes to teeth health, the mineral magnesium is also important.  This is primarily because magnesium is key in the formation of teeth as well as bones.  Indeed, magnesium and calcium need to be in balance to work at their optimum levels; over-calcification within the body can lead to other problems such as hardening of the artery walls.

The good news is that green leafy vegetables that are high in vitamin C are also high in magnesium; yoghurt and almonds are also high in calcium are magnesium!  It makes dietary choices a whole lot easier.

CoQ10 HELPS SUPPORT GUMS

Healthy gums are as much an essential part of a healthy mouth as healthy teeth.  Compromised gingival (gum) irritations and infections can eventually lead to loss of teeth so gums need to be properly cared for.

Having a balanced diet is key for having a well-nourished and good-working body, including the gums. One often over-looked nutrient is CoQ10.  It is naturally found in the body and functions as a key antioxidant.  However, its production diminishes with age: people taking statin medications are also often deficient.

It is found in many foods such as spinach, broccoli, sardines and mackerel.  However, because it’s so key in gum health, it might be worth considering a CoQ10 supplement of at least 30 milligrams daily.

So there are some easy ways to ensure you’re grinning with confidence (and strong, healthy teeth and gums) by getting the right nutrition. Keep on smiling!

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For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit Herbfacts