Obviously, eating a balanced and nutritious diet still remains the best way to stock up on necessary vitamins and minerals. But for most people, that is easier said than done. Your diet can easily be lacking some essential elements, especially if you’re in the habit of grabbing some fast food, have little time to cook and even less time to go out and stock up on lovely fresh veggies and fruits. In fact, several studies have concluded that one out of ten people have at least one vitamin deficiency.
Nutrient deficiencies can affect the body’s processes at the most basic cellular level, altering bodily functions. The process affected by nutrient imbalances include water balance, enzyme function, nerve signalling, digestion and metabolism.
Deficiencies can also lead to diseases such as osteoporosis (from calcium and Vitamin D deficiencies) and anaemia (from iron deficiency).
The big question is: How do you know if and when you need to take a supplement? Well, the answer is tricky. Determining which nutrient you are lacking and which supplement you should or shouldn’t be taking can be quite confusing. The best bet is to consult a healthcare provider if you are concerned that you might have a deficiency.
That said, you can use the following guide on common tell-tale signs that you might be low on one or more important vitamins or minerals.
Weak Hair and Nails
Biotin, which is part of the Vitamin B complex, helps the body metabolise amino acids that you need to build healthy hair and nails. If you aren’t getting sufficient amounts of biotin from your diet, it can leave your hair and nails thin, lacklustre and brittle. Another symptom of biotin deficiency is skin inflammation, irritation or flaking.
Supplement: Biotin is also known as Vitamin B7, or Vitamin H. The recommended intake (through diet and/or supplement) is 30 mcg per day.
Food: Biotin-rich foods include whole grains, beans, eggs, dairy, nuts and proteins like salmon and chicken.
Deficiency: Vitamin B2
Are your eyes bloodshot? There are a number of possible explanations for that, including lack of sleep, dry eyes, infections or allergies. It could also be that you are deficient in Vitamin B2 (also called riboflavin). This nutrient helps in many body processes including the functioning of your nervous system and metabolism. It also promotes eye health and reduces eye redness. You are likely to be suffering from Vitamin B2 deficiency if you are underweight or suffer from digestive problems such as celiac disease.
Supplement: The recommended daily intake of Vitamin B2 (either through diet or supplement) is 1.2 mg.
Food: You can increase your dietary intake of Vitamin B2 with foods including milk, meat, eggs, nuts, fish and green, leafy vegetables.
Bruising Too Easily
Deficiency: Vitamin C
Is your skin bruising too easily or do you have unexplained red/purple marks? It might be a sign that you need to take some OJ! Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that protects cells from damage caused by free radicals. It also aids the immune system. Vitamin C deficiency can also lead to dry and splitting hair; gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and bleeding gums; rough, dry, scaly skin; decreased wound-healing rate, easy bruising, nosebleeds and a decreased ability to ward off infection.
Supplement: The recommended daily intake of Vitamin C (either through diet or supplements) is 60 mg.
Food: To stock up on Vitamin C from food, you need to eat citrus fruits, papaya, yellow bell peppers, guava, kale and strawberries.
Calcium deficiency is surprisingly common, bearing in mind that calcium is quite prevalent in food. For a lot of people complaining of fatigue, increasing calcium intake might be the solution. Calcium promotes good bone health and contributes to the health of nerves, muscles and the heart. It also plays a role in maintaining healthy blood pressure, reducing food cravings, preventing mood swings and preventing cancers of the digestive system. Calcium deficiency can lead to fatigue, as the health of bones, muscles and nerves are compromised.
Supplement: The daily recommended intake of calcium is 1000 mg for women aged 50 and younger and 1,200 mg for women over 50. Doctors recommend that you get as much calcium from your diet as possible and supplement in limited amounts.
Food: Calcium is abundant in dairy products including milk and yoghurt, dark greens, almonds and chickpeas.
Deficiency: Vitamin E
Vitamin E is popularly known as an anti-aging vitamin. Although its deficiency is rare, it’s common in people who have problems with fat absorption such as those suffering from Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, malnutrition or are on very low-fat diets. Studies have linked leg cramps and restless leg syndrome to Vitamin E deficiency.
Supplement: The recommended daily intake of Vitamin E (either through diet or supplement) is 15 mg.
Food: Vitamin E can be found in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, green leafy vegetables, eggs and fortified cereals.