Did you grow up eating corn flake cereal for breakfast and mac-n-cheese for dinner? Even if your parents made you eat your broccoli, there is a good chance your adult eating habits are far from healthy. With our busy lives, we tend to skip breakfast, curb hunger with high-calorie snacks and drown our bad moods in wine, crispy fried chicken or cheesecake, whatever your poison is. Over the years of doing this, it’s not a surprise that we develop nutritional deficiencies. Many clients who come to us for nutrition counseling in Towson show tell-tale signs of nutritional deficiencies. Thousands of cells make up our organs and glands, and when we eat foods with low nutritional value, our cellular health suffers.
Why Nutritional Deficiencies Happen?
- We don’t consume enough of the foods that contain vital nutrients.
- Delicate vitamins and nutrients get destroyed during high-heat cooking, especially microwaving.
- Our age, digestive issues and other factors may prevent us from absorbing the nutrients from food.
Also, keep in mind that our liver can typically hold a long-lasting supply of certain vitamins and nutrients. This is why you may not notice a deficiency right away, because your body will be running on backups. Only when these backups are depleted, will you start recognizing the symptoms of a deficiency. Left untreated for a long time, nutritional deficiencies may eventually contribute to the decline of brain function, heart disease, bone disease and even cancer.
Iron is used by our bodies to make hemoglobin (a part of red blood cells) in our blood. Hemoglobin distributes oxygen to the cells and helps dispose of carbon dioxide. When there is not enough iron coming in with the food we eat, the body eventually depletes all of its iron backups, which results in anemia. Anemia is a condition characterized by a dangerously low red blood cell count. This, in turn, leads to such symptoms as fatigue, dizziness, paleness, headaches and overall weakness. Certain people may be more subject to iron deficiency than others. These high-risk groups include women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, young children and adolescent girls.
To prevent anemia and maintain healthy iron levels, you should regularly consume foods containing iron. Our bodies tend to absorb the most iron from animal sources, such as beef, pork, chicken, turkey and fish and oysters. Certain plant sources also contain iron and are actually easier to digest than animal sources. To increase absorption rates, try adding whole food vitamin C when you eat the following foods: beans, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas spinach and whole-grain breads.
Vitamin B Deficiency
Vitamin B consists of a complex of vitamins, including B6, B9 and B12. Each of them has its own unique role, but generally speaking they help your body and its cells produce energy. The symptoms associated with B vitamin deficiency may include tiredness, depression, loss of appetite, sore mouth/tongue, poor balance, anemia etc. Vitamin B12 is one of the most likely nutrients in the B-vitamin spectrum to be lacking in our diets.
Interestingly, Vitamin B is not that difficult to get from food. It’s in abundance in many meat and dairy products, such as beef liver, crab and clams, cheese, eggs and low-fat dairy. However, if you are vegan or vegetarian, you may not be getting enough of vitamin B due to your restrictive diet. In addition to that, adults 50 and older often experience vitamin B deficiency due to various stomach and intestinal issues that prevent the vitamin from being absorbed into the bloodstream. If you belong to either of these high-risk groups, you might want to consider supplementing your vitamin B consumption.
Iodine is actually a mineral in the thyroid hormone. If you don’t consume enough iodine, thyroid won’t be able to manufacture enough of the hormone, which causes such unpleasant symptoms as weight gain, fatigue, loss of libido, difficulty losing weight, etc. Since iodine is absorbed through soil into most living plants, you are likely receiving enough of it. However, if you mostly consume processed foods, don’t use iodized salt or are allergic to seafood, you may experience iodine deficiency.
Seafood contains the most iodine. If you can eat seafood, try including more of it in your diet. It doesn’t always have to be fish, crabs or shrimp. Oysters, clams, squid, seaweed and other underwater dwellers are all good sources of iodine. If seafood is not an option, then whole food supplements might help get your iodine levels in the normal range.
Vitamin C Deficiency
Despite vitamin C being extremely common in various foods, Vitamin C deficiency is still a problem for some people. The symptoms often include fatigue, dry skin and hair, easy bruising, dental issues, weight loss and mood swings. Vitamin C promotes cellular growth and stronger immunity, which is why it’s important that you receive enough of it.
Vitamin C is found in abundance in citrus and non-citrus fruits and berries. Oranges, lemons, pineapples, kiwis, cranberries and raspberries are all good sources of vitamin C. If you don’t like eating raw fruits, try extracting the juice or making fruit smoothies. Keep in mind that vitamin C is soluble and can also be destroyed by high temperatures. Therefore, canned fruits won’t have as much vitamin C as their fresh or frozen counterparts.
What to Do About Nutritional Deficiencies
These are just some of the more common nutritional deficiencies you may encounter. There are hundreds of other vitamins, nutrients and micronutrients many people haven’t even heard about. Many of them, including Vitamin K2, are only found in select foods that may not be a part of our diets for a variety of reasons. If you suspect you might be suffering from nutritional deficiencies, get in touch with Cara-Michele, experienced Towson, MD nutrition counselor. She’ll help you narrow down which vital nutrients are missing from your diet and how to replenish them via proper nutrition or nutritional supplements.