Vitamins are organic compounds that our bodies use in very small amounts, for a variety of metabolic processes.
It is best to get vitamins and minerals from eating a variety of healthy organic unprocessed foods which are part of your healthy eating plan.
It may be important in some circumstances to take a multi-vitamin** and mineral supplement daily if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, suffer from food intolerances, are on certain medications such as the pill, or if you are a picky eater.
The below are some of the most important nutrients, signs and symptoms of deficiencies and foods you can include in your diet to help prevent a deficiency.
Deficiency: Vitamin B12 deficiency is commonly found in the elderly, gluten intolerant, vegans and breastfed babies of vegan mothers and is called pernicious anaemia.
Symptoms: include tiredness and fatigue, lack of appetite and weight loss, apathy and depression, anaemia, and a smooth tongue.
Foods to eat include: animal products, liver, milk, cheese, eggs and nutritional yeast.
Deficiency: Vitamin C deficiency most commonly relates to Scurvy. Scurvy is a disease caused by severe and chronic vitamin C (ascorbic acid) deficiency.
Symptoms: include feeling generally unwell and bleeding gums. Babies and young children can suffer complications from scurvy including stunted bone growth.
Foods to eat include: kiwi, strawberries, grapefruit, lemon, lime, mandarin, green veggies.
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a preventable bone disease known as Rickets. It can also lead to soft and weakened bones, fractures, bone and muscle pain, and bony deformities.
Symptoms: include cramps and spasms, slowed growth and development, dental problems such as teeth failing to form or being slow to emerge, deformed teeth or soft tooth enamel, prominent forehead, a large front fontanelle in infants, scoliosis, outward jutting breastbone or abnormal skull shape. People with naturally dark skin or inadequate exposure to sunlight are most at risk. The main source of vitamin D for most people is sunshine.
Foods to eat include: mushrooms, eggs, oily fish
Vitamin K deficiency is very rare. It occurs when the body can’t properly absorb the vitamin from the intestinal tract. It can also occur after long-term treatment with antibiotics.
Symptoms: People with vitamin K deficiency are usually more likely to have bruising and bleeding.
Foods to eat include: green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, turnip greens, collards, Swiss chard, mustard greens, parsley, romaine and green leaf lettuce, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.
Symptoms: such as stress, headaches, numbness, tingling, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms, and coronary spasms.
Foods to eat include: wholegrain cereals, nuts and seeds including almonds, chia and pumpkin seeds, milk, yoghurt, cheese, broccoli, sea vegetables, dark green leafy vegetables and best of all dark chocolate! Healthy Mummy Dark Chocolate covered almonds would be a perfect ‘medicine’.
Deficiency: is common. High-risk groups include menstruating women, pregnant women, babies and toddlers, teenage girls and female athletes. Without intervention, a person whose dietary intake of iron is inadequate to meet their body’s needs will eventually deplete their iron stores and develop iron deficiency anaemia.
Symptoms: include pale skin and eyelids, fatigue, tiredness, dizziness and decreased immunity.
Foods to eat for iron deficiency prevention include: red meat, poultry, almonds, dried apricots, chia seeds, spinach and kale. If you are medically diagnosed as anaemic you will need to take prescribed iron supplementation for a period of 6 months or beyond to ensure your iron stores are returned to adequate levels.
Calcium is abundant in the Australian diet through dairy foods mainly. If your body notices that not enough calcium is circulating in the blood, it will use hormones to reduce the amount put out by the kidneys in the urine. If not enough calcium is absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, calcium will be taken from the bones.
Symptoms: If your dietary intake of calcium is constantly low, your body will eventually remove so much calcium from the skeleton that your bones will become weak and brittle and break easily. This is normally the first sign of a calcium deficiency.
Foods to eat include: Healthy Mummy Smoothies, sardines (with bones) broccoli, parsley, dairy foods, tahini (sesame paste), almonds and fortified cereals or soy milk.
Deficiency: is commonly widespread which is increasingly a cause for concern in the general population. It is one of the most crucial ‘trace elements’ that you need in your body and is used by your cells for processes such as immunity, protein synthesis, wound healing, cell reproduction, conception and hormone balance.
Symptoms: include white spots on your nails, post natal depression, low sex drive, acne, lack of smell or taste and hair loss.
Foods to eat include: oysters, raw nuts, red meat, eggs, pumpkin seeds, peas, and whole grains.
**Certain supplements can build up in the body and result in toxicity and even death. Please do not self-diagnose and never take any supplements unless advised by your doctor or qualified health practitioner.
Written by Elisha Danine ~ Nutritionist