Even if you think you eat a relatively balanced diet, you could be deficient in certain vital vitamins and minerals for any number of reasons – like living in a country that doesn’t get a lot of sun, having a health condition, or being pregnant. Here are some of the most common deficiencies – and how to tell if you might have one.
Zinc is a mineral found in foods like whole grains, dairy products, red meat, poultry, chickpeas and nuts. It plays an important role in many different functions in your body, from supporting your immune system to normal development during pregnancy, and is required for a proper sense of taste and smell. A lack of zinc can cause hair loss, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, and an increased risk of infections. A zinc deficiency can make your skin cracked and glazed – the rash can look like eczema at first. Another tell-tale sign is white spots along your nails. Protein helps the body to absorb zinc, so vegetarians and vegans, and people on long-term restricted diets, may be more at risk of deficiency. You can boost your levels of zinc by eating more zinc-rich foods or taking a supplement.
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Iron carries oxygen around your body, plays a role in cell division, and helps your memory, concentration, and energy production. A deficiency in iron may lead to a condition called anaemia, which results in pale skin, brittle nails, cold hands and feet, extreme tiredness, inflammation or soreness of your tongue, and headache or dizziness. You’re more at risk of iron deficiency if you’re vegetarian or vegan, have heavy periods, or are pregnant. Examples of iron-rich foods include meat, eggs, leafy green vegetables and iron-fortified cereals. You can also take a supplement – but too much iron can be dangerous, so check with your doctor first.
Vitamin D helps your body to maintain healthy bones, as well as fighting off infection and inflammation. Vitamin D deficiency can be harder to spot than other deficiencies, but symptoms include muscle weakness, bone loss and an increased risk of fractures. In children, it can cause growth problems and a condition called rickets.
Otherwise known as the sunshine vitamin, we make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun – but low levels of sunshine in Ireland, as well as the importance of sun safety, mean many Irish people are deficient in vitamin D. Experts recommend taking a supplement between the months of October and March, but you may want to take one all year round.
Magnesium is a vital mineral in your body that plays a role in everything from muscle and nerve function to blood glucose control to energy production. Research has shown that most people in Western countries have a magnesium deficiency – and signs you may have one include anxiety, insomnia, abnormal heart rhythm, muscle cramps, restless leg syndrome, fatigue, and migraines. You may also be low in magnesium if you have a craving for dark chocolate, as it’s an excellent source of the mineral (it might not just be your sweet tooth!).
More long-term signs of magnesium deficiency include high blood pressure and insulin resistance, and having low intake of the mineral is linked to type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and osteoporosis. A good way to boost your magnesium intake is by eating foods like whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
More more information on supplements visit ambermed.ie.
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