Getting more vitamin D could slash your risk of dying from cancer according to research, but it’s not the only nutrient vital for good health.
We look at eight of the key ways to fight illness through better nutrition.
Vitamin D can reduce your cancer risk
Three studies presented at this week’s American Society of Clinical Oncology conference have found that taking a Vitamin D supplement can reduce your risk of dying from cancer.
Scientists believe it produces an enzyme that ‘detoxifies’ natural acids in the body, preventing damage to internal organs, which in turn reduces cancer risk.
Vitamin D is contained in a few foods but most is made when our skin is exposed to sunshine.
The best way to ensure you get enough Vitamin D is by taking a daily supplement. This is because too much time in the sun can raise your skin cancer risk and it’s impossible to get enough Vitamin D from food alone.
Potassium lowers your blood pressure
This essential mineral relaxes the walls of your blood vessels, lowering your blood pressure in the process.
Studies show a low potassium intake can cause higher blood pressure and a higher risk of suffering a stroke.
On the flip side, people who already have high blood pressure can significantly lower it by increasing their intake of potassium-rich foods.
The best way boost potassium levels is by eating more salt. The fruit and vegetables highest in potassium are: potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, bananas and melon.
Vitamin C may prevent Alzheimer’s
In a recent review of 50 studies of vitamin C and brain function, Australian researchers found that people with higher levels of vitamin C had a lower risk of mental decline and dementia.
Experts believe this antioxidant nutrient plays an important role in preventing daily damage to brain cells, slowing down age-related memory loss.
You should get 75mg of Vitamin C daily. Fruit and veg are the best source, but fresh isn’t always better - often tinned or frozen types contain more vitamin C as there are preserved immediately after picking.
This mineral has proven calming effects on the nervous system and several studies have found that increasing your magnesium intake can help treat insomnia and improve sleep quality.
Magnesium is best absorbed through the skin. Research has found that magnesium isn’t well absorbed by the stomach, which is why many of us don’t get enough. A better way to increase your levels could be through the skin with magnesium-rich bath salts or a body oil.
Vitamin K2 prevents broken bones
Some experts estimate that a Vitamin K2 deficiency could affect over 90% of the population. This little known nutrient is vital for strengthening our bones, with a recent study linking low levels to an increased fracture risk in children and other research showing that boosting levels could help prevent the common bone-thinning disease, osteoporosis, in older people.
You will need to drink 5 litres of milk daily to get enough K2. It’s incredibly difficult get enough Vitamin K2 through diet alone, so taking a supplement is your best bet.
Increasing evidence shows that B vitamins are crucial when it comes to helping the body fight off stress.
There are eight essential B vitamins: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid vitamin B6, biotin, folic acid and vitamin B12. Research by Swinburne University in Australia, in 2014, found that consuming higher levels of all these nutrients could reduce work-related stress by 20%.
Eating meat, fish and dairy will ensure you get a good supply of all of the B vitamins.
Iron can keep you slim
Many people know that having low iron levels can make them feel tired, but did you know it can also slow down your metabolism so you find it harder to lose weight? This is because iron helps carry oxygen to all the body’s cells, including your muscles, which in turn, helps them burn fat.
So, a lack of this nutrient can prevent fat being burnt as energy, meaning it’s stored around the body instead. Women in particular are prone to becoming low in iron, because they lose blood each month during their period.
A woman needs 14.8mg of iron each day. To boost your levels, eat more iron-rich foods, such as leafy green vegetables, lean meat, nuts and seeds, and fortified breakfast cereals. Tea and coffee inhibit iron absorption, so avoid drinking them with meals.
Vitamin A boosts eyesight
The most important vitamin when it comes overall eye health is vitamin A, which plays a crucial role in vision by maintaining a clear cornea (the outside covering of your eye) and allowing you to see in low light conditions.
Studies show getting enough can help fight cataracts and the most common cause of blindness - age-related macular degeneration.
Foods high in vitamin A include liver, milk, yoghurt, carrots, peppers and spinach. However, orange, red and green vegetables contain the ‘pre-curser’ beta-carotene which the body then converts into Vitamin A. You should be able to get enough by eating these food most days.