Know your vitamins & minerals!

VitaminDIt is practical to know what vitamins & minerals do and in what types of foods we can find them. It will also allow you to know if you are eating enough of each vitamin or if you should supplement, or adjust your diet. Following my post Should I take vitamins?, I figured that it may be useful for some of you to know which types of food contain which vitamins & minerals, as well as knowing what symptoms one gets if the vitamin/mineral is deficient in the body, so that you don’t waste your money on supplements that you don’t need. If you find that you are eating very little of a given category of foods mentioned below, or if you fall into the categories of people prone to specific deficiencies, then it might be a good idea to invest in those vitamins (and see your doctor!).

If you want to know more about vitamins & minerals, or if you are worried whether you should take some supplements – this is a good place to start. Below is a very simplified version of what we know so far:

18097VITAMIN A

found in: brightly colored vegetables (carrots, peppers, tomatoes), dairy, eggs, fish, meat

what it does: maintains healthy skin, internal layers of organs, and vision

deficiency is likely in: malabsorption diseases (Cystic Fibrosis, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Celiac disease, chronic pancreatitis, biliary obstruction), fad diets, malnourished population

deficiency symptoms: difficulty seeing in the dark/ at night, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, pus and blood in urine, cloudy pearly cornea (ie. blurred vision), dry scaly skin (especially elbows)

*Vitamin A is toxic in excessive amounts (especially drugs such as Accutane which are high amounts of vitamin A, and thus strictly monitored with regular blood tests). Do not take vitamin A supplements unless you have a deficiency!*

vitamin-b1-jpgVITAMINS B1 (thiamine)

found in: whole-grain foods, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, green vegetables

what it does: brain and heart function

deficiency is likely in: malnutrition, processed/refined diets (strips foods of their vitamins), alcoholism

deficiency symptoms: irritability, confusion, memory loss (and making up stuff because you forgot), muscles hurt, strange muscle twitching and movements, heart problems (fast heart rate, heart failure)

18101VITAMIN B2 (riboflavine)

found in: cheese, nuts, meats, milk, fish, eggs, sesame seeds, mushrooms, spinach

what it does: important in metabolic reactions in every cell of the body

deficiency is likely in: malabsorption, malnutrition, some prescription drugs, contraception pills

deficiency symptoms: dry cracked skin in corners of mouth, swollen red tongue, red eyes, anemia

niacin-food-sourcesVITAMIN B3 (niacin)

found in: fish, poultry, meat, liver, peanuts, peas, seeds, avocado

what it does: important in metabolic reactions in every cell of the body

deficiency is likely in: malnourished people, anorexia, malabsorption, diets based mainly on corn

deficiency symptoms: blisters like sunburn, diarrhea, depression, delirium, dementia, heart problems, death

18106VITAMIN B6 (pyridoxine)

found in: sunflower seeds, fish, poultry, meat, fruits, avocados, spinach

what it does: sugar levels, blood oxygen and brain health

deficiency is likely in: malabsorption, dialysis, some prescription drugs, steroids, sickle cell disease, chronic inflammatory conditions (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis,…)

deficiency symptoms: seizures, anemia, skin lesions, kidney stones, irritability

b 7VITAMIN B7 (biotin)

found in: dairy, fish, nuts, poultry, leafy greens, legumes, mushrooms, fruits

what it does: general cellular metabolism, hair growth

deficiency is likely in: raw eggs consumption, valproate medication, nutrition by tube in hospitals

deficiency symptoms: skin inflammation (mostly around eyes and mouth)

9049418_f520VITAMIN B9 (folate, folic acid)

found in: vegetables (especially leafy greens), citrus fruits, bananas, corn, nuts

what it does: proteins, DNA & blood cells production, especially important in pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects in babies

deficiency is likely in: growth (children), pregnancy, Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, anti-epileptic drugs, cerebral folate deficiency

deficiency symptoms: anemia, irritability, neural tube defects in babies

vitamin b12 sourcesVITAMIN B12 (cobalamin)

found in: animal products, fortified foods/cereal

what it does: general cell metabolism, neurons function

deficiency is likely in: vegetarian/vegan diet, Crohn’s disease, pernicious anemia

deficiency symptoms: anemia, irritability, weak muscle tone, developmental delay, high pigmentation, strange nervous sensations such as tingling/burning

18109VITAMIN C (ascorbic acid)

found in: mostly citrus fruit, leafy greens, other fresh fruits and vegetables (not processed/cooked), sauerkraut

what it does: collagen synthesis (gives strength to tissues), hormone production, fats metabolism, antioxidant (aka good for the immune system), iron absorption

deficiency is likely in: children who are picky eaters, people who don’t eat citrus fruit or fresh fruits/vegetables in general

deficiency symptoms: infections, gum bleeding, tooth loss, bone pain & fragility (ie. frequent fractures), small bruises around body hairs, anemia, muscle pain, loss of appetite, irritability, anemia

*Vitamin C deficiency may often appear as arthritis or leukemia*

*It is extremely difficult to overdose on vitamin C because the body excretes it rapidly, however,  some studies report mild constipation*

vitamin-d-food-sourcesVITAMIN D

found in: not many foods! It is now found in fortified milk and produced from sun light exposure, it is in very limited amounts in some other foods

what it does: calcium and phosphate levels regulation, bone formation and maintenance

deficiency is likely in: malabsorption diseases, people living in north countries (such as Canada, North of USA, Scandinavian countries), post-menopausal women (who should all be taking calcium and vitamin D supplements), liver disease, refeeding syndrome (when you start eating normally after starvation eg. anorexia), some cancers, dark-skinned individuals, cystic fibrosis, pancreas disease, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, some seizure and tuberculosis medications

deficiency symptoms: irritability, jitteriness, fatigue, wheezing, muscle cramps, seizures, rickets in children, bone pain/problems

18114VITAMIN E (tocopherol)

found in: many oils, nuts, leafy greens

what it does: antioxidant, protects the nervous system, helps prevent clot formation/bleeding and fat deposits

deficiency is likely in: premature babies, malabsorption diseases

deficiency symptoms: anemia, bleeding, strange movements and body sensations due to nervous system fragility, blindness, shaking (tremor), swelling (edema), body instability

2205760_f260VITAMIN K

found in: produced mostly by our natural intestinal flora (ie. the bacteria in our gut), but can also be found in leafy greens, cabbage, olive oil, tomatoes, and cereals

what it does: prevents bleeding

deficiency is likely in: newborns (because they lack the intestinal flora that makes vitamin K, it is given in the hospital to ALL newborns), malabsorption states, patients on warfarin, breastfeeding mothers (newborns need lots of vitamin K in your breast milk!), anti-epileptic drugs

deficiency symptoms: nosebleeds, bruises, heavy menstrual periods, gut bleeding, blood in urine, in babies you can get intra-cranial bleeding

Tips For A Tasty Doses_4IRON

found in: meat, seafood, fortified cereals, dark chocolate, beans

what it does: makes up red blood cells which carry oxygen in the blood

deficiency is likely in: pregnancy, women with heavy periods, children up to 18 years of age, infants being breastfed <4 months of age, malabsorption, cancer patients, vitamin C deficiency, frequent blood donors

deficiency symptoms: fatigue, pallor, weakness, fast heart rate, shortness of breath, chewing on ice / eating dirt or metals (it’s called pica), poor appetite, restless leg syndrome

food-sources-of-magnesiumMAGNESIUM

found in: nuts, wheat, brown rice, beans, soy milk, peanut butter, spinach

what it does: required by every cell for enzymatic processes, affects other ions in the body such as potassium and calcium

deficiency is likely in: alcoholics, malabsorptive states, diabetics, some renal diseases

deficiency symptoms: heart abnormalities, fast heart rate

ZINC deficiency is very mild but causes those white spots on the nails. So try eating more of the foods below:

4-zinc-rich-foods

**Fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E and K so you need to eat some fats in order to absorb them. For example, drinking a fat-free milk won’t make you absorb much of the vitamin D that’s supplemented in it. For this reason, those 4 vitamins are commonly deficient in people who have a malabsorption condition, which prevents fat absorption and thus causes fatty stools.**

**Pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant should take daily maternal vitamins.**

Keep in mind that vitamin deficiency is quite common in North America and Europe. If you have noticed any of the above symptoms, or if you belong in one of the categories of people at risk, you should see your doctor for proper diagnosis and supplements recommendations, as well as a likely referral to a nutritionist.

Stay Healthy ❤

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