Optimum nutrition is not about eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day and popping a few vitamin supplements. What is important is whether your body is absorbing all the nutrients in food. We give you useful tips to help keep your food wholesome.
We told you in the last issue why it’s important to be nutrient smart. However, even with all this knowledge, you could still be missing out on good nutrition because the nutrients you eat are not being fully absorbed by the body. If you eat a healthy diet but you have two or more of the symptoms listed here, it could be that your body is not absorbing nutrients properly.
You need to review how you buy, store and cook your food as these could be robbing you of nutrients. You also need to check whether you are eating foods together, which inhibit the uptake of nutrients, such as having bran cereal without a source of vitamin C to accompany it. Also check if you are a frequent consumer of those nutrient thieves, which include tea, coffee, alcohol and cigarettes, or if you suffer from stress.
Prescription medication such as antibiotics, the contraceptive Pill or sleeping pills can further prevent nutrient absorption. For example, the Pill destroys the essential amino acid tyrosine, which boosts the mood. Antibiotics prevent the absorption of vitamin K in the intestines. If you live in polluted cities or work in industries where you breathe more carbon monoxide from motor vehicles and machines, you need more nutrients, as this compound impairs nutrient absorption, especially of vitamin C. Chlorine in tap water can also impair absorption of vitamin E. Taking diuretics, such as tea and coffee, can flush magnesium and potassium out of your body.
Symptoms to watch out for…
Fatigue. Feeling tired all the time can be one of the first signs that you are not getting all the vitamins and minerals you need.
Mouth ulcers. These can be triggered when you are nutrient deficient, especially in B6, B12, folic acid, iron and vitamin A.
Breast tenderness. This can be a sign you are not getting enough essential fatty acids (EFA), which in turn means you may not be absorbing enough calcium. Take a daily EFA supplement, such as evening primrose oil, and swallow with a glass of calcium-rich, semi-skimmed or fat-reduced milk instead of water.
Stained teeth. These can be a sign that you are drinking too much tea, coffee, or red wine, which puts you at risk of mineral deficiencies, especially iron.
Painful periods. This can be a sign your body needs more vitamin A, found in abundance in fruits and vegetables as the precursor beta-carotene. Check you are eating green leafy and yellow vegetables, cooked and dotted with oil to boost absorption of beta-carotene.