By Laura Tolle, RDN, LDN, CDE, Wellness Nutritionist
Feeling blah? No energy? Do you have memory or concentration problems? How about mouth pain or muscle aches? What about digestive discomfort or weight changes? Is your hair brittle?
Believe it or not, all of these problems could be related! These could be signs of a poor diet. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), several vitamin deficiencies are found in specific populations in the United States and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2015-2020 put out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture indicate several nutrients of concern in American diets.
Vitamin D is essential for bone health. A vitamin D deficiency may be difficult to determine and if left undetected could lead to softening of the bones. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiencies are fatigue, muscle aches or weakness. There are only a few foods that have vitamin D naturally occurring such as fatty fish, egg yolks and mushrooms. To get enough vitamin D, have three servings of fortified low fat milk or yogurt a day and eat fatty fish twice a week. Vitamin D is also absorbed through sunlight so consider taking a brisk 15 minute walk outside.
Calcium is also important for bone health as well as controlling muscle and nerve function. Muscle cramps, fatigue, abnormal heart rhythms or a poor appetite may be symptoms of a calcium deficiency. Getting enough calcium may be a challenge for people with lactose intolerance or a milk allergy. Other sources are calcium fortified orange juice and dark green leafy greens.
Potassium affects the function of all your muscles, including your heart. It also helps the kidneys. You can become low in potassium quickly due to diarrhea or vomiting, excessive sweating or because of chronic conditions such as eating disorders and kidney disease. Symptoms of a potassium deficiency include weight loss, muscle weakness, constipation and in very severe cases, an abnormal heart rhythm. Potassium is found in a variety of food groups including bananas, sweet potatoes, whole grains, milk and legumes.
Vitamin C deficiencies could occur in people who don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables. You may experience easy bruising, bleeding gums and slow healing wounds if you are not getting enough vitamin C. In addition to citrus fruit, there are many great sources of vitamin C that may surprise you such as bell peppers, kiwi, papaya and broccoli!
If you feel you have a poor diet and may have nutritional deficiencies talk to your physician. To confirm a deficiency, you will need to have a laboratory test. If you are deficient your doctor can refer you to a registered dietitian or recommend supplements.
Here are some tips for getting the nutrients you need for a healthy body:
- Eat a rainbow of colors! Each color indicates a different vitamin. Red tomatoes are filled with vitamin C and lycopene, green spinach has calcium, folate and vitamin K, oranges have vitamin C and potassium.
- Eat a healthy breakfast! If you don’t usually eat breakfast, keep it simple by just eating a piece of fruit. Add a glass of low fat milk for some calcium and protein. Breakfast cereals are usually fortified with vitamins so they can be a great choice but look for those with less than 8 grams of sugar per serving.
- Eat a healthy snack! These may include an apple with peanut butter, hummus and veggie sticks, Greek yogurt with blueberries or a handful of almonds and raisins. Snacks are important to balance your energy and provide the nutrients you need to stay healthy.
Laura Tolle RDN, LDN, CDE is a Wellness Nutritionist with MyHealthyLife Wellness Services at Mission Health. For more information on services available, please call (828) 213-8250 or visit mission-health.org/myhealthy-life.php.