Eat these foods rather than taking those supplements
Eat these foods rather than taking those supplements
By Samantha Walker, Naturopath, Absolute Body Health Solutions
As a naturopath, I don’t like hearing from my patients that their previous experiences with other natural health providers have resulted in them leaving consultations with armfuls of supplements. The thought makes me cringe, as in my consultations I always like focusing on food as medicine. Don’t get me wrong, there are always cases where supplementation is needed, when a person’s deficiency is so severe that diet alone will not increase it fast enough. But knowing what foods to include in their diet to help boost their levels will also be an important step in them reaching their health goals faster.
Below I list some clinical signs of common nutrient deficiencies that I see every day in clinic and the corresponding foods to include in your diet if you feel you may be low in one or all of them.
This mineral is very important in maintaining strong immune and reproductive systems and is required in the process of cell division. Symptoms of a zinc deficiency include white spots on your nails, the need to add extra salt to your food, thinning hair, wounds that take more than seven days to heal, poor skin (acne, eczema, psoriasis), continually getting sick and poor appetite. Foods rich in zinc are wheat, oats, pumpkin seeds, eggs, milk, oysters, nuts, meat and peas. Zinc should always be taken in recommended doses. Excessive intake can be toxic, causing nausea, vomiting, headaches and abdominal pain. Continued intake of zinc in excess quantities can lead to organ failure and can even be fatal.
Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency, and women are among those at greatest risk. Iron is critical for producing haemoglobin, a protein that helps red blood cells deliver oxygen throughout your body. Symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, shortness of breath, heavy periods, pale complexion, heart palpitations, and for women anovulation. Foods to include in your diet are red meat, pork, poultry, seafood, beans, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, and dried fruit such as raisins and apricots (sulphate free if you suffer from asthma or sulphate allergies). Please note, however, that in clinic I never go by symptoms alone and ask my patients to get an iron study done if we suspect low iron, as iron competes with other nutrients such as calcium, and also signs of high levels of iron can be very similar.
Did you know that B12 is made in your lower intestines? Vitamin B12 is essential for the manufacture of red blood cells; a deficiency leads to a characteristic kind of anaemia. It is required to support the normal function of nerve cells and to manufacture myelin, the insulating material that surrounds some of our nerve cells and speeds neural transmission. And, most importantly, it is required for the replication of DNA. Each of these is obviously quite important, but note the third one in particular. When B12 is deficient, our DNA cannot replicate normally – meaning we can’t generate new, healthy cells. As a result, vitamin B12 deficiency can mimic all of the effects of ageing. B12 deficiency is a commonly seen in vegetarians and vegans, especially as B12 is only found in animal proteins. So sorry vegetarians/vegans, this is something that you will need to supplement with a sublingual tablet or, if very deficient, will need injections at your local GP. The most common signs of deficiency are poor concentration and memory, anaemia, dementia, depression and fatigue. Foods to include to boost your levels are offal, egg yolks (poaching eggs and keeping them runny are great for increasing all your B vitamins), clams, meat, milk, oysters, salmon and sardines.
An adequate intake of vitamin B6 is essential as it helps the body to convert food into glucose, which is used to produce energy and make neurotransmitters (brain chemicals), produce hormones, red blood cells and cells of the immune system. It is also needed (along with B12 and B9) to control levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that may be associated with heart disease. Some signs of deficiency are premenstrual fluid retention, acne, arteriosclerosis, anaemia, insomnia, low blood sugar and poor immunity. Foods that are rich in this important vitamin are avocados, bananas, carrots, chicken, egg yolks, legumes, lentils, mackerel, offal, peanuts, salmon, tuna, sunflower seeds and walnuts.
Who hasn’t suffered from an eye twitch or a muscle cramp before? It is one of the important electrolytes in our body that is responsible for muscle contraction, improving blood sugar sensitivity, balancing our calcium levels and helping keep normal blood pressure. It is required in over 300 enzymes systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body. So if you are anxious, have cold hands and feet, suffer from chronic fatigue, depression, insomnia and premenstrual tension, these are all signs that you are not getting enough from the foods you are currently eating. Increasing foods such as almonds, cashews, raw cacao, figs, parsnips, seeds and eggs can help boost your levels. Also, having a bath two to three times a week with a couple of handfuls of Epsom salts or magnesium flakes can help boost your levels and relax you at the same time!
Note: please remember to activate your nuts before eating them to rid them of their anti-nutrients.
Samantha (a qualified Naturopath) and her Mum, Elizabeth Walker (Chiropractor), run Absolute Body Health Solutions in Bentleigh, and are a part of the Nourish Melbourne Community. They offer Nourish Melbourne Members 20% off their initial naturopathic or chiropractic consultations, with 10% off products at appointments thereafter. Click here to find out more, or find our more about the Nourish Melbourne Membership here.