National Nutrition Week is being observed throughout India from 1st to 7th September. Common nutritional deficiencies can cause a range of chronic health problems. Normally, nutritional deficiencies can be a bit hard to spot and can cause a wide range of symptoms including lack of energy, headaches, insomnia and muscle pain, something that we blame on a hectic life. This is why vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be so hard to spot. According to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, many of us are eating less than the recommended amount of some key nutrients and are at risk of deficiency.
Here are the main nutrients which are most likely to lack in your diet:-
Needed for the production of healthy red blood cells. Symptoms of deficiency: excessive tiredness, lack of energy, susceptibility to infections, hair loss, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome. Include red meat and apples, the best sources of iron but if you don’t eat meat you can get iron from vegetables like spinach, egg and fortified breakfast cereals.
Needed for the development of strong bones and teeth. The risk of osteoporosis (brittle bones) is greatly increased if you don’t get enough calcium, particularly while your bones are still growing. Lack of calcium may also cause insomnia. Have up to 2-3 portions of dairy (yoghurt, milk, cheese,) a day, if you cannot digest cow’s milk, choose dairy-free milk which is fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Non-dairy sources of calcium include spinach, fish and lean meat.
Vitamin D assists in the absorption of calcium. It is crucial for blood clotting and a healthy immune system. Deficiency is seen with an increased risk of osteoporosis (brittle bones) gum disease, muscle pain, and constipation. Incorporate oily fish, egg yolks, and fortified foods. A change in the diet itself is unlikely to provide sufficient Vitamin D and the body can’t make enough in the winter months, which is why experts recommend that everyone over the age of 1 year takes a vitamin D supplement during autumn and winter.
Folic acid is used for the production of red blood cells and the release of energy from food. Folate is important during the early stages of pregnancy to help prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. A type of anaemia where red blood cells become larger but reduced in number causing extreme tiredness, muscle weakness, and lack of energy. It is a must to eat green leafy vegetables, asparagus, peas, chickpeas, whole grain cereals, oranges, and fortified breakfast cereals.
Apart from the manufacture of thyroid hormones which regulate the metabolic rate, iodine is also vital for an infant’s brain development during pregnancy and early life. Symptoms of deficiency are tiredness, muscle weakness, breast pain, and unexplained weight gain. Anyone who doesn’t consume dairy has a greater risk of deficiency. Fresh fish, dairy products, and green leafy vegetables.
Required for healthy bones, the release of energy from food and nerve and muscle function, a magnesium deficiency is signalled by the loss of appetite, fatigue, insomnia, and constipation. Green vegetables, wholegrain cereals, wholemeal bread, peanuts, and brown rice should be added to enrich the diet.
Omega 3 Fatty acids help to brain, heart, and eyes healthy. A low intake of omega-3 can speed up the risk of heart disease, anxiety, and depression. Feast on fat-rich fish such as sardines, fresh or canned salmon, fresh tuna, and mackerel at least once a week.
A fibre-rich diet helps to keep the digestive system healthy and also helps control blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Symptoms of deficiency: constipation, increased risk of problems like acidity, constipation, and piles. It is helpful to eat wholegrain breakfast cereals, beans & pulses, fruit, and vegetables
Nothing beats a healthy, and well-balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible, supplements can provide a boost. Consult a physician before trying supplements or herbal medicines.