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Canadians’ Four Favourite Winter Blues-Busting Supplements

By on November 3, 2014
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It’s Natural Health Products Week and we are celebrating the happiness and wellbeing that natural health products bring to millions of Canadians. In a recent national survey, 80 per cent of Canadians reported concern about staying healthy and happy during the upcoming winter, and over half are planning on supplementing their regular routines with natural health products this winter.

The top four natural heath products Canadians will be incorporating into their lifestyle this winter are Vitamin D, Omega-3 fats, Calcium, and probiotics. These important nutrients, when paired with a healthy and balanced diet, will help maintain health and happiness all winter long.

What are the benefits of supplementing your diet with these four natural health products? How do they work to enhance and maintain your health and happiness throughout the season? The Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) has the answers to these and other questions below, and volumes of vital information available at chfa.ca.

Vitamin D

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a hormone that is produced in the skin as a response to exposure to direct sunlight; particularly, UVB rays.

Why is vitamin D important to our health and happiness?

Research over the past few decades has given vitamin D many reasons to shine. It has been linked to reductions in some types of cancer, helps to improve the immune system, and has even shown benefits for improving and maintaining good mental health.

Why we need vitamin D during winter

 It is especially important to use a vitamin D supplement during the winter months because the UVB rays needed by the skin to produce vitamin D do not reach Canada at this time of year. The combination of this factor and an indoor-lifestyle has resulted in chronically low levels of vitamin D within the Canadian population. Some estimates suggest that 70 to 97 per cent of Canadians have insufficient levels.

There are few natural, dietary sources of Vitamin D. Fish, like mackerel, or certain mushrooms that have been exposed to sunlight contain vitamin D, but the actual amount varies dramatically; making it difficult to reach your daily recommended dosage of this vital nutrient. Because of this, supplementing with vitamin D is almost universally recommended, particularly for those in greatest need including infants and the elderly.


What is calcium?

Calcium is a chemical element found throughout the natural world.

Why is calcium important to our health and happiness?

Calcium is not just about bones. True, 99 per cent of the calcium in our body is stored in our bones, but it’s the other one per cent that is so important. Many people don’t realize that calcium is essential for regulating blood pressure, nerve transmission, muscle contraction, blood clotting, ensuring a balanced body pH, and to thousands of enzyme and hormone reactions.

Despite its significant health benefits, calcium is the single-most inadequately consumed mineral among Canadians of all ages. More than 80 per cent of Canadians over 50, both male and female, reported inadequate intakes of calcium from food, according to a Health Canada report.

Why do we need calcium during winter?

In order to understand why calcium is so important in the winter time, we must look to its relationship with vitamin D. The sunshine vitamin helps our bodies to absorb calcium from the food we consume. With lower levels of vitamin D in the winter, we absorb less calcium from our diet, weakening our bones. Therefore, supplementation ensures we are getting the correct amounts of these important nutrients to maintain strong and healthy bones, and to support other essential body functions.


 What are omega-3s?

Omega-3s are a family of fatty acids that are essential to the structure and proper functioning of many of the body’s cells.  They are found in especially high amounts in the brain, nerves and retina. Because the body cannot make Omega-3s efficiently, we must obtain them from our diet or from supplements.

Why are omega-3s important to our health and happiness?

The spotlight has been shining on Omega-3 fatty acids for a few years, and it’s only getting brighter. This family of superstar fats has a laundry list of health benefits, from the relief of inflammation and dry skin to supporting heart health.

 Why do we need omega-3s during winter?

 While the “sunshine vitamin” (vitamin D) and light therapy are known to help relieve the negative effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), omega-3 fatty acids –particularly DHA –have also been shown to support the maintenance of a more balanced mood.

In adults, the anti-inflammatory properties of EPA and DHA have also been scientifically shown to reduce the risk and symptoms of a number of chronic ailments, including cardiovascular disease and rheumatoid arthritis, which is known to flare up during winter. These benefits are seen when we consume high levels of EPA and DHA, in the range of 500 to 3,000 mg per day.


What are probiotics?

The term “probiotic” refers to living microorganisms (e.g. bacteria) that provide a health benefit when taken at sufficient doses. Not only can regular intake of probiotics lead to significant improvements to our health, they are also especially effective at re-establishing the balance between good and bad bacteria when it is affected by illness.

Why are probiotics important for our health and happiness?

We have an estimated 100 trillion bacterial cells living in and on our bodies; outnumbering our human cells ten-to-one. We are now starting to appreciate and understand the vital role that they play in our overall health. Going far beyond the gut, probiotics are finding new applications in mental health, immune system support and skin health.

Why we need probiotics during winter?

Our immune system takes a beating during the winter months. New research shows that probiotics play a crucial role in keeping our immune system primed and ready to combat and help us overcome those winter bugs.

Below is a breakdown on Canadians’ response when asked: Which of the following Natural Health Products do you prefer to use during winter to keep you healthy and happy?

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