Are you also worried that you might have a deficiency or inadequacy in some vitamin or mineral? All vitamins and minerals are necessary for the proper function and development of the body, as they take part in many biological functions and chemical reactions. Vitamins, more specifically, are necessary as they use the calories that we take from food and break them down into proteins, carbs, and fats. Moreover, they play an important part in the cells’ function.
The truth is that the way our diet has been formed nowadays, it is pretty common for a lot of people to have a deficiency or an inadequacy in some certain vitamins or minerals. Unfortunately, most of the people have a hard time following a balanced way of eating, resulting in the consumption of prepared and quick snacks, which are not that healthy. The meals we consume should be rich in vegetables, and low in sugars and fats if we want to gain a variety of trace elements from them. Most people, unfortunately, consume their meals “on the go” and usually look for the easiest solution.
In which vitamins and minerals, though, do we find these deficiencies more often?
Let’s start with the iron which I guess it is something most of you know, and mainly the women. The iron plays an important part in carrying oxygen around the body. It is a part of myoglobin and it takes part in producing energy from glucose and fatty acids. The inadequacy or deficiency of iron is more common in women -pregnant, breastfeeding, during menstruation, young athletes (especially the ones that have to maintain a low body weight and body fat)-, newborns, elderly people, vegetarians, and infants that don’t breastfeed. The red meat, egg yolk, spinach, beans, chickpeas, lentils, liver, chicken, tuna, sardines, and shrimps are good sources of iron.
This vitamin contributes to the proper development of the body and function of the nervous system, as it takes part in forming the DNA, especially in infants, little children, and adolescents. It is mainly found in foods of animal origin and seafood, but nowadays, a lot of foods are enriched with the particular vitamin. Elderly people, vegetarians, and specifically vegans, tend to have a deficiency/inadequacy in this vitamin. Dairy products, liver, beef, seafood, and eggs are good sources of vitamin B12. In fact, there is a big concentration of this vitamin in offal, which it’s actually not that good to consume neither in very large quantities nor daily, especially if we do not know its origin.
It is the main mineral element that we find in bones and teeth, in a 99% rate. The other 1% contributes to several body functions like muscle contractions and blood clotting. Adolescents, especially, need even more calcium during the period of development. Cheeses, milk, yogurt, spinach, salmon, almonds, tofu, sardines, and smelt are good sources of calcium.
Potassium is also a mineral element, that along with chloride and sodium, contribute to the proper control and balance of water into the body. They also help in converting glucose to glycogen, which is stored as energy and is used by all of the body’s muscles. Moreover, it is essential for the proper function of muscles, nerve cells, heart, and kidneys. We find it in avocados, beans, asparagus, potatoes, whole-wheat products, tomatoes, red meat, and bananas.
This fat-soluble vitamin plays an important part in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. It, also, helps in shaping and boosting the health of bones, teeth, and joints’ cartilage. We find it in two forms, the D2 which is in some specific foods, and the D3 which is formed in the skin after we expose our body to the sun. Its deficiency is usually found in people who are not exposed to the sun a lot, and who do not consume foods like egg yolk and fatty fish -sardine, salmon, and tuna. Its deficiency can lead to several health problems (mainly in bones), such as rachitis, osteomalacia, osteoporosis, resulting in pain, distortion, and fractures.
And now that I told you about the vitamins and the mineral elements in which most of us have a deficiency or inadequacy, I will also tell you how you can increase their intake:
1. Increase the quantities of vegetables and green salads that you consume. Always accompany your lunch and dinner with a salad or some vegetable. Ideally, every meal should include a vegetable or fruit, including breakfast, midday, and afternoon snack.
2. Raw foods have more vitamins and mineral elements than cooked ones. When we cook food, a significant percentage of vitamins and minerals is lost, so whatever you can consume raw, you should prefer it!
3. Make sure that all of your meals include protein, “good” complex carbs, and “good” Omega-3 fatty acids.
4. Remove from your diet any foods that contain many saturated fats and are high in sugars.
Remember that the balance in our diet, and generally in our health, can contribute to the solution of any problem that might come up!
This article was written in collaboration with Kitchen Lab’s Sports Nutritionist Anna Maria Volanaki, MSc, BDA, SENr.