Nutrient deficiencies is quite common. Magnesium, iodine, and vitamin B12 are just a few examples of nutrients that a good portion of people are missing in their diet, and the lack of these nutrients can be the cause of anything starting from fatigue and muscle weakness to a weakened immune system, impaired brain functioning and even dangerous long-term health effects.
These 5 nutrients are the ones that most people don’t get enough of:
People living in Western countries who typically eat a lot of processed foods and not enough leafy greens are often found to be deficient in magnesium, an essential mineral. In the US alone, about half of the population may not be getting enough magnesium from their diet.
Those who have an underlying health condition are especially likely to have lower than normal magnesium levels in their blood. Magnesium is very important and it directly influences our bone health and energy levels, but low levels of magnesium have also been linked to degenerative diseases, such as metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Magnesium is responsible for approximately 800 enzymatic functions in the human body, and is one of the most important minerals for good overall health in children as well as adults. Here are some reasons why you should include magnesium in your child’s diet:
- It helps children to get better sleep.
- It provides energy.
- It aids blood sugar and insulin management in the body.
- It helps in DNA formation.
- It is beneficial for the hormonal health of kids.
- It helps in maintaining blood pressure, and ensures good heart health.
- It aids digestion, helps in the absorption of various vital nutrients by the body, and regulates bowel movements.
- It is effective in building stronger bones and teeth.
- It is good for healthy muscles and nerves.
- It is beneficial in transporting calcium and potassium to the membranes of the body.
- It is helpful in protein synthesis.
- It aids the respiration process.
The recommended daily amount of magnesium for kids is as follows:
- Babies to the age of 6 months may require 30 mg.
- Babies from 7 to 12 months of age may require 75 mg.
- Toddlers from 1 to 3 years of age may require 80 mg.
- Kids from 4 to 8 years of age may require 130 mg.
- Children from 9 to 13 years of age may require 240 mg.
- Boys from 14-18 years of age may require 410 mg, and girls from 14-18 years may require 360 mg.
People suffering from certain conditions may require higher levels. To get enough magnesium, you may choose to take supplements and to include more magnesium-rich foods in your diet.
Foods rich in magnesium include:
- Nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts)
- Leafy greens (spinach, kale)
- Fruit (bananas, figs, berries)
- Vegetables (avocados, peas, broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts, cabbage)
- Legumes (beans, lentils)
Iron helps move oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and helps muscles store and use oxygen. If your child’s diet lacks iron, he or she might develop a condition called iron deficiency.
Iron deficiency in children is a common problem. It can occur at many levels, from a mild deficiency all the way to iron deficiency anemia — a condition in which blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells. Untreated iron deficiency can affect a child’s growth and development.
On average, iron deficiencies are more common among children and women of childbearing age, but it is among the most widespread deficiency in the world, affecting an estimated 25% of the people. This is alarming, as iron plays a key role in producing hemoglobin, a protein in our red blood cells that helps carry oxygen to the different cells in the body.
In turn, an iron deficiency may lead to a decreased number of red blood cells in the body, a condition also known as anemia, which causes symptoms like tiredness, a weak immune system and an inability to concentrate.
When possible, iron supplements should be avoided, unless otherwise recommended by your doctor, as excess iron intake, too, can be extremely dangerous and cause liver cirrhosis.
How much iron do children need?
Babies are born with iron stored in their bodies, but a steady amount of additional iron is needed to fuel a child’s rapid growth and development. Here’s a guide to iron needs at different ages:
|Age group||Recommended amount of iron a day|
|7 – 12 months||11 mg|
|1 – 3 years||7 mg|
|4 – 8 years||10 mg|
|9 – 13 years||8 mg|
|14 – 18 years, girls||15 mg|
|14 – 18 years, boys||11 mg|
Iron exists in food sources in two different forms: heme iron and nonheme iron. The former can be derived from animal foods only and is more easily metabolized by the human body. Nonheme iron, on the other hand, is more widespread and exists both in plant and animal products, but it is more difficult for the human body to absorb. This explains why vegetarians and vegans, too, are more likely to suffer from iron deficiencies than those who consume animal products.
Some foods rich in nonheme iron:
- Legumes (beans, chickpeas, and lentils)
- Leafy greens (spinach, kale)
- Seeds (pumpkin and sesame)
- Dark chocolate
- Iron-fortified foods, such as oatmeal and other grains.
3. Vitamin B12
Nowadays, it’s very rare for people to suffer from vitamin C deficiency, as this vitamin is so abundant but lately we witness mass vitamin B12 deficiency, with an estimated 80-90% of vegans and vegetarians suffering from this condition.
Another group often having lower-than-normal vitamin B12 levels are older adults, as the ability to absorb the vitamin decreases with age. But don’t let these trends affect you, as maintaining an adequate B12 intake will benefit your health since the vitamin is essential for every cell in the body.
Unlike many other vitamins, such as vitamin D, for example, the body cannot produce vitamin B12 on its own, so we rely on our diet completely to supply us with cobalamin (another name of vitamin B12).
Deficiency in B12 manifests itself in megaloblastic anemia, a condition where the bone marrow produces large, immature red blood cells that are much worse at carrying oxygen. This condition manifests itself in many symptoms, such as muscle weakness, shortness of breath, fatigue and other symptoms. Luckily, taking vitamin B12 in supplement form isn’t dangerous, as the vitamin is water-soluble, so any excess is easily excreted through urine.
Infants up to 6 months old need 0.4 microgram per day, and those between 7 and 12 months old need 0.5 microgram per day of vitamin B-12. The RDA for children between the ages of 1 and 3 is 0.9 micrograms per day, and for children from 4 to 8 the requirement is 1.2 micrograms per day. Children aged 9 to 13 need 1.8 micrograms per day and everyone aged 14 and older needs 2.4 micrograms per day.
Foods rich in vitamin B12 are typically meat, diary (milk, yogurt, cheese) and eggs. Kids who are vegan may need to take vitamin B-12 supplements to meet their daily needs.
Another essential mineral that we often don’t get enough of is calcium, with over half of the US population alone reportedly suffering from a calcium deficiency. This is especially true about kids and adults past the age of 50.
Calcium is essential for transmitting electrical signals through the nerves. The body stores excess calcium in the bones, and when we eat less than the required amount of calcium, this storage is extracted. The tragic result is conditions where a person has soft and more fragile bones, the most common ones being rickets and osteoporosis. Young kids and babies need calcium and vitamin D to prevent a disease called rickets. Rickets softens the bones and causes bow legs, stunted growth, and sometimes sore or weak muscles.
Good food sources of calcium include:
- Green vegetables
- Fortified drinks and foods
- Beans and lentils.
Dairy foods like these are among the best natural sources of calcium:
- hard cheeses, like cheddar
The percentage of fat in milk and other dairy foods doesn’t affect their calcium content — nonfat, 1%, 2%, or whole milk all have about the same amount of calcium.
The last, but not least nutrient that people are often deficient in is iodine. Unlike many other deficiencies we discussed above, iodine deficiency has a more regional pattern. The amount of iodine one consumes will depend on how rich in iodine the soil in a specific region is, as well as how accessible seafood is in your specific region.
Nearly a third of the world population is deficient in iodine. Iodine is essential for one’s hormonal health, as it participates in the production of thyroid hormones, which control anything from your weight, metabolism and brain development. The main symptom of iodine deficiency is an enlarged thyroid gland, increased sweating, and weight gain.
Amount of iodine needed in a kid’s diet:
- Children aged 1-11 years – 90-120 mcg/day
- Infants – Adequate intake is 110-130 mcg/day
Researchers from a study from November 2013 published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology determined that infants assimilate additional iodine quite efficiently when they are breastfed by mothers taking iodine supplements. It’s possible to achieve that by either taking a supplement or consuming foods rich in iodine:
- Sea vegetables, including nori, kombu, wakame, and arame, which have the highest concentrations of iodine of any food available.
Also, in some countries where iodine deficiency is widespread, regulations require fortifying table salt with iodine.
Source: Internet & Others
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The views expressed in this article should not be considered as a substitute for a physician’s advice. Always make sure to seek a doctor or a professional’s advice before proceeding with the home treatment plan.