The dark, dull months at the beginning of the year can have an impact on our energy levels, immune system and cognitive function.
With the clocks changing on 29 March and British Summer Time officially starting, longer daylight hours and warmer weather is the perfect time to shake off the winter with a nutrient spring clean.
Dr Carrie Ruxton from the Health and Food Supplements Information Service shares her top tips:
- Take a multivitamin, or a supplement containing vitamin C and zinc to support normal immune function. If you take vitamin C and zinc together at the start of a cold, they can knock a couple of days off your symptoms. Vitamin C can also be found in kiwi and citrus fruits, while fish and meat are a rich source of zinc.
- Energy levels can feel low as Winter recedes. B vitamins have a vital role in helping the body to extract energy from our foods, particularly carbohydrates. A ‘B complex’ supplement, containing thiamin, riboflavin, B6, B12, folic acid and niacin is a good option, particularly if you are vegetarian or vegan. B vitamins are found naturally in meat, fish and eggs.
- Boost your energy with daily exercise, such as brisk walking, dancing or gym classes. This creates endorphin chemicals in the brain which make us feel more positive. Support your active lifestyle by choosing food and drinks rich in polyphenols which support blood vessel function, such as colourful fruits and vegetables, orange juice, tea and dark chocolate.
- Mental function depends on the ease of chemical messages jumping from one brain junction to another, called synapses. Studies show that the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in marine oils help to make this process more effective. Omega-3s can be found in oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel, or fish oil supplements.
- Stave off sluggishness by getting better quality sleep. Switch off all screen-based entertainment at least an hour before bed, do some relaxing meditation and then enjoy a warm milky drink. Dairy foods contain an amino acid, called tryptophan, which the body uses to make serotonin and help regulate sleep. You can also take a supplement containing 5-HTP.