Tips for the Healthiest New You in this New Year

It's the New Year, so what can you do, to make the healthiest new you? Below are some easy tips on healthy habits for 2021.

Make exercise a priority

  • Join a virtual exercise class
  • Take 5-minute stretch breaks throughout the day
  • Take time for a daily walk outside
  • Living in a four season country it’s worth it to invest in a good pair of winter boots that are both waterproof and allow for the average cold temperature in your area
  • Use a step counting app to keep track
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Ensure a proper night’s rest:

  • Avoid electronics at least 30 minutes before bed
  • Use a sleep mask or dark blinds to keep your bedroom dark
  • Use a white noise machine or app to block out noises
  • If you are still having difficulty sleeping, try melatonin. It helps reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and increases total sleep time
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Take time to focus on you:

  • Start a journal
  • Meditate.
  • Join a yoga class.

 

 You Time

Eat a well-balanced diet:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Try herbal teas or add frozen fruit to your water
  • Follow Canada’s new food guide and ensure half you plate is made of vegetables and fruit

    Eat a ‘rainbow’ of fruits and veggies by including one of each of the colour groups daily; red/purple/blue, yellow/orange and green

  • Give your body the nutrients it requires to support your immune system
 Balanced Diet


Nutrients That Support Your Immune System

Certain nutrients play a vital role in supporting your immune function including vitamin C, vitamin D and the mineral zinc[1], unfortunately many Canadian have low levels of these important nutrients.

  • Up to 35% of Canadians adults have of low levels of vitamin C and D and up to 41% have low levels of zinc.[2] [3]
  • Health Canada found many adolescents (ages 9-18) have inadequate nutrient intakes of vitamin D.[4]
  • Research has shown that children who are picky eaters can develop nutritional deficiencies of zinc.[5]
  • Research shows children who take supplements added vitamins to diets that would have otherwise been inadequate including in vitamins C.[6]

Vitamin C

Why do we need vitamin C?

When you think of the word ‘Scurvy’, it likely brings to mind the stereotype of a pirate with their teeth falling out. Scurvy is basically a severe form of Vitamin C deficiency. Without enough vitamin C, our body is unable to produce collagen properly and this leads to skin & gum changes such as spongy gums, bleeding from mucosal surfaces, skin spots and eventually open wounds and tooth loss.[7] Although this is unlikely to occur today, low levels of vitamin C are still quite common because of:

  • A lack of daily fruits and vegetables.
  • Using up more vitamin C due to pollution, smoking, fighting infections, and certain conditions such as type 2 diabetes.[8]

The early symptoms of low vitamin C levels include being fatigued and may also reduce your desire to be physically active.[9] Certainly these common symptoms can have other causes, however if just increasing your vitamin C intake could help, it’s worth trying!

Benefits of vitamin C according to Health Canada³

  • Helps maintain/support immune function
  • Source of an antioxidant for the maintenance of good health
  • Helps to maintain the body's ability to metabolize nutrients
  • Helps in collagen formation to maintain healthy bones, cartilage, teeth and/or gums
  • Helps in wound healing and connective tissue formation

Vitamin D

What is Vitamin D?

Commonly known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D is unique because it can be made by the body through exposure to sunlight. However, the body's ability to produce vitamin D is affected by factors such as:

  • Exposure to the sun: geography, season, time of day, cloud cover, smog, clothing coverage, and sunscreen use can all lessen the amount of sun you are exposure to and therefore the amount of vitamin D you can produce.
  • Skin pigmentation; Those with darker skin pigment (more melanin), have an increased difficulty producing vitamin D from the sun.
  • Age; a person aged 70 makes, on average, 25% of the vitamin D that a 20-year-old makes when exposed to the same amount of sunlight.[10]

Benefits of vitamin D according to Health Canada³

  • Helps maintain/support immune function
  • Helps in the absorption and use of calcium and phosphorus
  • Helps in the development and maintenance of bones and teeth
  • Calcium intake, when combined with sufficient Vitamin D, a healthy diet and regular exercise may reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis

Zinc

What is Zinc?

Zinc is an essential mineral that plays an important role in our growth and development, immune function, neurotransmission, vision, and reproduction.

  • Adequate zinc intake is essential in maintaining the integrity of the immune system, specifically for normal development and function of cells that mediate both innate (neutrophils, macrophages, and natural killer cells) and adaptive (B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes) immune responses.”[11]

Benefits of zinc according to Health Canada³

  • Helps to maintain and support immune function
  • Helps maintain healthy skin and connective tissue formation
  • Helps to maintain healthy bones, hair, nails and skin
  • Helps in energy metabolism

[1] Health Canada. Multi-Vitamin  / Mineral Supplement Monograph. Accessed Nov 23, 2020 at: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=multi_vitmin_suppl&lang=engT

[2] Health Canada. Do Canadian Adults Meet Their Nutrient Requirements through Food Intake Alone? Accessed Nov 24, 2020 at: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/food-nutrition-surveillance/health-nutrition-surveys/canadian-community-health-survey-cchs/canadian-adults-meet-their-nutrient-requirements-through-food-intake-alone-health-canada-2012.html#a33

[3] Statistics Canada. Vitamin D levels of Canadians, 2012 to 2013. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-625-x. Accessed Nov 23, 2020 at: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-625-x/2014001/article/14125-eng.htm

[4] Health Canada. Do Canadian Adolescents Meet Their Nutrient Requirements through Food Intake Alone? Accessed Nov 23, 2020 at: http://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/food-nutrition-surveillance/health-nutrition-surveys/canadian-community-health-survey-cchs/canadian-adolescents-meet-their-nutrient-requirements-through-food-intake-alone-health-canada-2012.html

[5] Taylor CM. et al. (2016). Macro- and micronutrient intakes in picky eaters: a cause for concern? Am J Clin Nutr. 104(6), 1647–1656.

[6] Bailey RL et al. (2012). Do dietary supplements improve micronutrient sufficiency in children and adolescents. J Pediatr. Nov;161(5):837-42.

[7] Mills J. Government of Canada Education Resources Nutrition Questions: Vitamin C. Accessed Nov 23, 2020 at: http://science.gc.ca/eic/site/063.nsf/eng/h_896B19B0.html

[8] Carr AC, Maggin S. (2017). Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. Nov 3;9(11). Pii:E1211.

[9] Johnston CS, Barkyoumb GM, Schumacher SS. (2014). Vitamin C supplementation slightly improves physical activity levels and reduces cold incidence in men with marginal vitamin C status: a randomized controlled trial. Nutrients. Jul 9;6(7):2572-83

[10] Janz T, Pearson C. Vitamin D blood levels of Canadians. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82624-x. Accessed Nov 24, 2020 at: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-624-x/2013001/article/11727-eng.htm

[11] Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center. Zinc. Accessed Nov 24, 2020 at: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/zinc