National Nutrition Week 2022: How do nutrient deficiencies affect your body?

Each nutrient plays an important role in our bodies. Macronutrients are nutrients that our bodies need in greater amounts than micronutrients but this does not make micronutrients any less important. The body lacks nutrients due to not eating enough nutrients for a period of time leading to deficiency. Our bodies have different signals for different nutrient deficiencies. They can be adjusted with food or nutritional supplements on the advice of a doctor or a qualified dietitian.

How deficiency affects our bodies also varies with age. Let’s take a look at some common nutrients and how their lack affects us.

1) Iron – Iron deficiency causes anemia, in which the number of red blood cells and your ability to carry oxygen in your blood decrease. It is very common and causes fatigue and decreased immunity.
Source – Organ meats, dark green leafy vegetables, beans, bajra

2) Vitamin D- The most common deficiency after B12 would be vitamin D. Deficiencies include bone loss, muscle weakness and also an increased risk of fractures.
Source – Sunlight, cod liver oil, egg yolk

3) Vitamin B12- Most vegetarians and vegans are deficient in this nutrient. Symptoms can range from headaches, fatigue, coma to even brain fog.
Source – Meat, eggs, dairy products, organ meats

4) Iodine- It is necessary for the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. In children, it causes mental and physical retardation (stupidity). In adults, end stage causes goiter where the thyroid gland is enlarged.
Source – Eggs, milk, fish, iodized salt

5) Calcium- From early life for growth and mineralization of healthy teeth and bones to bone maintenance, calcium is needed. Calcium deficiency in later stages leads to osteoporosis and in children to rickets (soft bones).
Source- Ragi, milk and dairy products, amaranth

6) Vitamin A- We are all told to eat carrots and green leafy vegetables from an early age because they are good for our eyes. Vitamin A deficiency not only leads to eye damage, but it is extremely important for healthy hair and skin.
Source – Organ meats, sweet potatoes, dark green leafy vegetables

7) Magnesium – This mineral is not talked about but did you know magnesium is involved in more than 300 enzymatic reactions in our body, making it extremely important. Magnesium is essential for bone and tooth structure, and eating less can worsen pre-existing conditions or diabetes, heart disease, or osteoporosis. Magnesium supplements are recommended for people with muscle cramps and fatigue. If you have a sleep disorder, one of the deficiencies may be magnesium.
Source- Nuts, dark green leafy vegetables, dark chocolate

8) Protein – A macronutrient that can cause many problems if not supplied enough. Protein deficiency leads to muscle loss (abrasion). It leads to cravings, fatigue, hair-skin-nail problems, stunted growth in children, a higher risk of fractures.
Source- Eggs, milk and dairy products, fish, lean meat

These are just some of the nutrients we’ve mentioned, but as noted above, each nutrient plays an important role. It’s important to include variety in your diet this way you’ll make sure you don’t skip any nutrients (especially micronutrients). Include all the local and seasonal foods available to ensure that you don’t fall short of any nutrients.

About the author: Ms. Prachi Shah is a Nutritionist and Clinical Consultant, Founder, Health Habitat

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