CHENNAI: One of the earliest Science lessons we learn in primary school is the importance of consuming a balanced diet. Let’s rewind a bit and recall the learnings. A balanced diet is one that includes proteins, fibres, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals that aids in smooth functioning of the body.
Even if one of the components is unbalanced, in the long run, it can slow down our body. While it is relatively easy to keep track of your protein, carbohydrate and fibre consumption on a daily basis, it is also imperative that we focus our attention on vitamins too.
While non-vegetarian food sources contain a good level of all the components, it’s the vegetarian diet that needs a closer look. “The easiest way to gain all the vitamins and minerals your body requires is by including fruits and vegetables of all colours. Instead of white rice, you can opt for any indigenous variety, millets, whole wheat, etc. The idea is to keep the plate colourful,” says Dr Vinitha Krishnan, nutritionist at SIMS.
Following this can keep your vitamin levels in check. But, beyond that, if you find any symptoms in your body, Dr Vinitha advises going for supplements after consulting a doctor. “Vitamin deficiencies can occur in people of all age groups. While vitamins A, B and E deficiencies are common in children, vitamin B12 deficiency is extremely common in elders.
Those with diabetes and other co-morbidities may have a deficiency of multiple vitamins. Vitamin E deficiency is common in those who consume alcohol. Hence, while your diet can help you maintain nutrient levels or prevent deficiencies, supplements can help if you are already deficient. So test for your vitamin levels during your annual health check-up,” she explains.
And how do you know if you’re running low on certain vitamins? Your body will give you the signs. Just look for them. Here’s a guide that will help you listen to your body.
Vitamin B1: Thiamine
Symptoms Extreme weakness, difficulty in doing daily activities, fatigue, irritability, and heart failure
sources: Oats, brown rice, pork, liver, soya bean, and nuts
Vitamin B2: Riboflavin
Edema, bristles near the lips and other parts of the body, redness in the tongue, and chronic dandruff
Sources: Milk and milk products, eggs, liver, fish, and omega-3 capsules, sea food, whole grains, whey powderw
Vitamin B3: Niacin
Symptoms: Dermatitis, diarrhoea, and dementia. If not treated, it can lead to
Sources: Peanuts, peas, oat bran, wheat bran, liver, poultry, and lean meat
Symptoms Weakness, insomnia, difficulty in talking, dermatitis, and stromatitis
Sources: Banana, chickpeas, wheat, potatoes, brown rice, salmon, tuna, and chicken
Symptoms Neurological disorders, irritability, and muscle loss. This is common in the elderly.
Sources: Lentils, pulses, spinach, clams, oyster, salmon, cereals, and yolks
Symptoms: Night blindness, spots in the eyes, and issues related to eyesight
Sources: Cod liver oil, egg, milk and milk products, carrot, red pumpkin, and yellow butter
Symptoms: Fatigue, bleeding gums, depression, dry skin, and delay in healing of wounds
Sources: Citrus fruits, papaya, strawberries, bell peppers, cabbage, and broccoli
Can have supplements for water soluble vitamins (vitamins B and C) and it does no harm. Fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K) need external supplements and must be prescribed by a doctor
Vitamin B7: Biotin
Symptoms: Myalgia, muscle pain, anorexia, dementia. All vitamin B deficiencies have dermatitis as symptom
Sources; Fish, nuts and seeds, sweet potato, almonds, peas, banana, and walnuts
Symptoms: No blood clotting when hurt, and haemorrhage
Sources: Greens, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, dry fruits, kiwi, and prunes
Symptoms: Rickets, osteoarthritis, and correlated with many diseases like diabetes too
Sources: Cod liver oil, fatty fish, milk, yolk, and sun-dried mushrooms. Sun exposure for 20-30 minutes daily
Symptoms: Sensory and motor disorders, loss of balance while normally walking, degeneration of retina, hemophilic anaemia, and burning sensation in the feet (common in diabetics)
Sources: Seeds, nuts, sunflower oil, spinach, radish and turnip greens