Vitamins

two bowls of vitamin rich healthy fruit salad

Vitamins – signs that you’re not getting enough

Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients your body needs to function well and stay healthy. Experts suggest that most people should be able to get all the nutrients they need by eating a varied and balanced diet, but some find they need to take supplements to provide extra nutritional support.

So, how can you tell whether you’re getting enough?

Here’s a handy guide on what to look out for!

Vitamin A – it’s important for your immune health, skin and eyes. Best food sources for vitamin A include orange vegetables such as carrots, pumpkins and butternut squash, dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and rocket, plus fish and dairy products. Daily requirements – 700µg for men and 600µg for women.

What happens when you aren’t getting enough vitamin A?
Low levels can lead to dry skin and hair, and brittle fingernails. You may also feel rundown and find that you’re more prone to infection.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine) – it’s important for your nervous system, digestion and muscles. When you’re low in B1, you might also notice that you don’t cope with stress as well. Good food sources for vitamin B1 include wholegrains, pork, fortified breakfast cereals, nuts, and fruit such as bananas and oranges. We only need small amounts of most vitamins – for B1, the recommended daily amount is 1mg for men and 0.8mg for women.

Signs of vitamin B1 deficiency – loss of appetite, feeling irritable, muscle weakness and fatigue.

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) – it’s important for growth, healthy skin, hair and eyes, and normal production of red blood cells. It’s also good for your metabolism, nervous system and brain health. Food sources of vitamin B2 include dairy products, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, turkey and yoghurt. Daily requirements – 1.3mg for men and 1.1mg for women.

What happens when you aren’t getting enough vitamin B2?
You might notice problems with your skin, and cracks and sores developing in the corner of your mouth.

Vitamin B3 (niacin) – it’s a really important nutrient for your body as it helps it to release energy from food. Vitamin B3 also helps to keep your nervous system and skin healthy. Good dietary sources of niacin include beef, liver, dairy products, eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, avocado and wholegrains. Daily requirements – 16.5mg for men and 13.2mg for women.

Signs that you are low in niacin – swollen mouth, bright red tongue, headache, incontinence or constipation, fatigue and feeling anxious or on edge a lot of the time.

Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) – it’s important for red blood cell production, digestive health, stress hormone health and your skin, hair and nails. Avocadoes are a great source of vitamin B5, other good options are fortified cereals, nuts, seeds, milk, mushrooms and meat such as beef and chicken. Daily requirements – no amount has been set in the UK, but US experts recommend 5mg.

Signs of low levels of vitamin B5 – headache, fatigue, restlessness and irritability, disturbed sleep and stomach or muscle cramps. You might also experience numbness or a burning sensation in your hands and feet.

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) – this is a really important vitamin as it helps your body to form haemoglobin, the substance found in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body. Vitamin B6 also helps your immune system to guard against infection. Great food sources of B6 include dark leafy green vegetables, carrots, spinach, papaya, bananas, oranges, chickpeas, salmon, lentils, brown rice and wholegrains. Daily requirements – 1.4mg for men and 1.2mg for women.

Signs that you aren’t getting enough B6 in your diet – not having much energy, dry and cracked lips, sores around the corner of the mouth, skin rashes, muscle weakness, mood changes, sleep disruption, and you might also experience a pins and needles sensation in the hands and feet.

Vitamin B12 – it’s vital for the production of red blood cells, nerve formation and brain health. Good food sources include yeast products such as Marmite, fortified breakfast cereals, milk, cheese and yoghurt, sardines, tuna and liver. Daily requirements – 1.5mg.

Signs that you aren’t getting enough B12 – older adults and vegetarians and vegans are more at risk of B12 deficiency. Low levels can cause fatigue, lethargy, headaches, palpitations, feeling faint, pale skin, and tingling and numbness in the hands and feet.

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Vitamin C – is another important nutrient that helps to protect cells, helps with wound healing, and maintains healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage. Vitamin C is found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables such as oranges, strawberries, green peppers, broccoli and brussels sprouts. Daily requirements: 40mg.

Signs you aren’t getting enough vitamin C – irritability, poor wound healing, fatigue, weakness and bruising more easily.

Vitamin D – it’s known as the sunshine vitamin because we make most of our stores of this vital nutrient during spring and summer via the action of direct sunlight on the skin. It’s crucial for healthy bone development as it helps your body to absorb calcium. Vitamin D is found in a small number of foods including egg yolk, oily fish, fortified breakfast cereals and red meat. Daily requirements: 10mcg.

Classic signs of vitamin D deficiency – experiencing aches and pains and stiffness when you wake up, generally feeling low on energy and rundown.

Vitamin E – it’s a powerful antioxidant that’s important for preventing oxidative damage to cells. It also helps to maintain healthy skin and eyes and strengthens the immune system. Great food sources include sunflower seeds, spinach, nuts including almonds and plant oils such as rapeseed. Daily requirements – 4mg for men and 3mg for women.

Signs that you’re low on vitamin E – muscle pain or weakness, vision problems, loss of feeling in the arms and legs and weakened immunity.

Vitamin K – is a group of vitamins that help with blood clotting, wound healing and keeping your bones healthy. Food sources of vitamin K include green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale, spinach, cabbage and lettuce, asparagus, eggs and liver. Daily requirements – 1mcg for each kilogram of your bodyweight.

Signs that you’re not getting enough vitamin K – wounds bleeding for longer and excessively heavy nosebleeds and periods. You might also experience bleeding gums and see blood in your urine. Bruising easily is also common.

Resources

nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/

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