From delicious healthy recipes to the best nutritional advice, we guide you through what should – and shouldn’t – be on your plate this month
Sure, your regular walks and workouts all play their part when it comes to a healthy exterior, but what about what’s going on inside? These suggestions from the best in the business are going straight in our basket.
01. (VItamin) C the difference
Vitamin C was hailed as the ultimate secret weapon for your skin in 2020. Cult Beauty even discovered it was the most Googled beauty ingredient, and for good reason too. It has undisputed brightening properties with glow-getting results – helping to carry us through all of those early morning Zoom meetings. “From supporting the function of the immune system to encouraging collagen formation, helping maintain healthy bones and teeth, and promoting iron absorption, vitamin C really does have it all,” claims qualified pharmacist and Formulate Health founder, Mina Khan (formulatehealth.com). However, she notes that this nutrient is watersoluble, which means our bodies aren’t able to store it, and therefore need a regular supply. So that 150ml glass of OJ in the morning simply won’t do. “Citrus fruits and leafy greens are great sources of vitamin C, as is an Indian berry called amla, which is the second richest source of this vitamin. It has fantastic antioxidant properties, such as protecting the skin from damage and inhibiting melanin production, which helps to even out skin tone.”
02. Iron it out
A woman’s monthly bleed causes a depletion in iron, so when you reach the menopausal stage, it’s no wonder levels of the nutrient have taken a hit. “Iron is important for blood cells carrying oxygen around the body and contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue,” comments consultant dietitian for California Walnuts, Sian Porter (walnuts.org). The vitality formula? Plenty of iron-rich foods, of course.“Beans, lentils, eggs, dark green vegetables, lean meat, nuts and wholegrains are great sources, but you also need to consider foods that contain vitamin C [think: peppers, tomatoes and berries] to help the body absorb the iron.”
03. Protein power
Granted, lifting heavy weights may not be in your exercise routine, but adding protein to your diet comes with benefits beyond a barbell. Why? Well, your muscle mass slowly starts to decrease as we get older, which is where foods, such as lean red meat and oily fish could help a great deal. “Ensure they make up around one quarter of your plate at each meal and choose protein-based snacks, such as a handful of nuts, to help look after your muscles,” recommends Sian.
04. Magnesium does it
Ah, a good night’s sleep. Remember those? There’s nothing like a global pandemic to remind you how important it is to get some quality shut-eye to reduce your chances of stress-related burnout. New statistics have revealed that nearly half of adults surveyed by Nuffield Health don’t understand that sleep can help to boost mental resilience, so give yours a leg up with a dose of magnesium. “This is an essential nutrient that our bodies need to balance stress hormones, oestrogen levels and serotonin, making it extremely important for mood and sleep,” Mina reinforces. Mix together wholegrain oats, nuts, seeds and dark chocolate (her personal favourite) to make granola and you’re on the right track for a restful night. And if you’re unable to get enough through your diet alone? “To promote a restful sleep, it’ll work just as well in supplement form before bedtime.”
05. Vitamin D-lightful
It’s a nutrient that’s been in the spotlight (excuse the pun) in recent months, with some research claiming that getting enough of the sunshine vitamin can play a vital role in the treatment and prevention of COVID-19, but the evidence is lacking, health bodies have stated. Despite this, Sian can confirm that it supports the immune system, as well as bone, teeth and muscle health. “The action of sunlight on skin produces vitamin D in the body in the UK from April to September, but we rely on body stores and the few foods containing vitamin D over the winter.” The best sources are oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, while plant-based foods include mushrooms, some spreads and cereals are also just as good.
Dr Carrie Ruxton, a dietitian at the Fruit Juice Science Centre (fruitjuicesciencecentre.eu), has an alternative for those dark months. “It’s challenging to get the recommended daily amount from the sun, especially during winter, so I’d advise a daily supplement.”
06. Super selenium
This is one that you may not be as familiar with, but it shouldn’t be looked over when it comes to topping up your plate. As a mighty nutrient, it’s an excellent line of defence, as Mina explains. “Selenium is found in a wide variety of foods, including seafood, wholegrains and nuts. It’s a powerful antioxidant, which helps cells in the body fight oxidative stress and defend themselves from chronic conditions, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and premature ageing.” Stapling this nutrient in your diet may not be as hard as it seems, either. “Brazil nuts, in particular, are an excellent source, so you could sprinkle a handful on to your morning porridge or lunch time salad or enjoy them as a snack,” suggests Dr Ruxton.
07. Milk it
Long gone are the days where your circle of friends can criticise you for not eating dairy (have they never heard of tofu?), as you can get adequate sources of calcium in plant-based form. Namely, broccoli, sesame seeds, spinach and dried figs. “The risk of osteoporosis goes up when a woman is perimenopausal (around their 40s), so I’d also recommend weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, running, climbing stairs, playing tennis, and dancing to increase bone density.” says Sian.
08. Free the omega 3
Often overlooked, this nutrient is the experts’ liquid gold. Not only does it reduce your risk of heart disease, Mina says it may also have the power to aid with weight loss. You can find it in oily fish, seeds and plant-based oils. Another ideal source is walnuts, claims Sian. “Walnuts contain significant amounts of the essential omega 3 ALA that the body needs and just a handful a day can have a positive effect on the elasticity of the blood vessels, helping to keep the cardiovascular system healthy.”