These Are The Top 5 Vitamin And Mineral Deficiencies
We all know we need our daily two fruits and five veggies to nourish our bodies, but unfortunately we don’t always achieve our healthy eating goals. Our changed diets, and even the way our food is grown, has resulted in some Australians missing out on vital nutrients. Integrative GP Dr Joe Kosterich shares the five most common vitamin and mineral deficiencies he sees in his patients, symptoms to look out for, and food sources to boost our intake.
Iron is an important mineral that helps transport oxygen around the body in red blood cells. It’s important for producing energy, supporting immune function, and supplying oxygen to muscles. People most at risk of iron deficiency include women in their reproductive years, pregnant women, and those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Symptoms of iron deficiency can include headaches, dizziness, lack of concentration and fatigue. Foods with a good source of iron include red meat, spinach, lentils, red beans and cabbage.
Vitamin D helps your body better utilise calcium to keep bones and muscles healthy and strong. Vitamin D is absorbed by unprotected skin from the sun – but this isn’t always feasible with Australia’s extreme UV rays requiring us to cover up. Vitamin D can also be found in foods including fish, dairy, mushrooms and flaxseed. Long-term vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, so it is important to see your healthcare practitioner if you feel you may not be getting enough vitamin D.
Folic acid, or folate, is a vitamin that helps to make new cells in your body, including red blood cells. When someone is experiencing folate deficiency it can mean their body isn’t producing enough healthy red blood cells. Folate deficiency symptoms can include fatigue and mouth sores. Foods rich in folate include green vegetables and grains.
Calcium plays a vital role in strengthening bones and teeth, regulating muscle functioning (i.e. contraction and relaxation), enzyme function and regulating heart function. Your body monitors calcium intake and, when it feels like it’s not getting enough, it can take calcium from your bones leaving them weak and brittle. The majority of Australians get their calcium intake from dairy including milk, cheese and yoghurt; however, calcium can also be found in non-dairy foods such as meat, poultry, fish, and green vegetables.
Vitamin B12 is needed to help the body produce new blood cells and for the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system. Unfortunately for people following a vegan and vegetarian diet, B12 is only found in animal products, such as eggs, dairy, meat, fish and poultry. However, even if you eat these foods you may still be vitamin B12 deficient if your body isn’t able to properly absorb the vitamin from your diet. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include a rapid heart rate, easy bruising and bleeding, weight loss, fatigue, and bowel upset.
At risk groups, due to dietary restrictions or certain health conditions, may have increased requirements for certain mineral and/or vitamins. Supplementation may be required, if you are concerned please see your healthcare practitioner for advice.