Vitamin deficiencies are becoming a common trend nowadays. Recent studies have shown that 41 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin D and that up to 39 percent are low on B12. Are YOU a silent sufferer of vitamin deficiency, and how can you tell?
The Warning Signs
Doctors practicing traditional Chinese medicine are able to base a diagnosis on the smell and appearance of a person alone. Our inner well-being is often reflected by our outer appearance, and a diet lacking in essential nutrients will affect your mood, as well as your looks.
Although there are no sure signs of vitamin deficiency, the following can be an indicator that you need to improve your diet or — as an end resort — complement it with a vitamin pill:
- Pale skin can indicate anemia due to lack in iron, vitamin B9 or B12.
- Poor night vision can be a sign of vitamin A deficiency.
- Frequent leg cramps and a tingling sensation in the feet and toes could indicate a vitamin B1 deficiency.
- Cracked lips can be a sign that you need extra B2 or B12.
- Are your bones aching in the morning? This can be a sign of vitamin D deficiency, the most common vitamin deficiency in developed societies.
But, if you are wondering about those white spots on your nails you can stop worrying; they are not indicators of vitamin deficiency, instead, they are caused by minor trauma against the nail-root.
Could You Be at Risk?
Although vitamin deficiency can cause serious illness and impact health negatively, one needs to be aware of the fact that vitamin pills, like pharmaceuticals, are a multi-million dollar industry. People who are not part of the groups below should be able to cover their need by improving their diet.
The following groups should take extra care to get the nutrients they need through a diet rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; they might also consider adding a vitamin supplement:
- Pregnant women need extra folic acid (also called vitamin B9). They also have an increased need for the mineral iron which can be found in green leafy vegetables and meat.
- People with diseases affecting the gastro-intestinal system (for example celiac disease, or inflammatory bowel disease) have a high risk of deficiency for various vitamins.
- Vegans need extra B12, since this vitamin is mainly found in animal products.
- People with low calorie intake (under 2200 kcal for men and under 1700 kcal for women). A diet low on calories needs to be packed with vitamins; the lower the quantity, the greater the quality needs to be.
- Smokers need extra vitamin C.
- Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin with the help of sunlight. Elderly people and young children that spend a lot of time indoors need to get extra vitamin D. This is also the case for veiled women who don’t expose their skin to the sun.
A Jar or the Plate?
The best way to get your vitamins is through a diet dense in nutrients. Fruit and vegetables contain thousands of substances, such as phytochemicals and antioxidants, and can reduce your risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Vitamin pills should be viewed as a supplement, rather than a replacement; the health benefits you get from a well balanced diet can’t be gained from a pill.
Getting What You Need From Your Diet
Take a look at the vitamin-wheel. It’s a good tool for making sure you are not missing out on essential nutrients. If you are part of any of the groups mentioned above, look for foods that contain high amounts of the vitamin that you have an increased need of.
The following tips can help you improve your health and avoid vitamin deficiency:
- Aim to eat fish two times a week. Try to include oily fish like salmon that are high in vitamin D and omega-3 fats.
- The recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables a day is an absolute minimum. The higher your intake of fruits and greens, the lower your risk of being overweight, or developing cancer, heart disease and other health problems. Vary your intake with vegetables and fruits of different color. Peppers and kiwi are especially rich in vitamin C; blueberries and goji berries contain high amounts of antioxidants.
- A way to get those goodies in, if you’re not a fan of fruits and greens, is to consume them in the form of smoothies. Green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach (rich in vitamin A, B, C and K as well as calcium and iron) can be added to a smoothie for extra nutrition. Nuts and seeds — that lower the glycemic index and keep your blood sugar stable — can also be added to a smoothie.
- Sneak them in: Put vegetable sticks on the table to snack on before mealtime. Also, try making a healthy dip out of avocado or yogurt; this is a super way to encourage children to eat their greens.
- Choose the right combinations. For example foods rich in vitamin C help aid in the absorption of iron, while dairy products can make absorption harder. Tomatoes and avocados are another good combination.
- Vitamin D is a hot topic in research right now with studies indicating a protective effect against type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases and cardiovascular disease. Get some time outdoors in the sunshine every day to boost the production of vitamin D and improve your mood.
Investing in Your Health at the Dinner Table
Fruit and vegetables should make up the core of your diet. The multitude of natural antioxidants, phytochemicals and vitamins contained in fruits and greens can’t be replaced by the high levels of synthetic vitamins found in pills; these should be viewed as a supplement to a healthy diet.
The best investment in your health is the choices that you make at the dinner table. Following a greener diet will soon make a difference in the way you feel and look. In the mood for a mango?References