You might not know it, but you may well be short of one, or several nutrients which are vital for your health and wellbeing. Whilst you might get adequate energy (kilojoules)through the foods you eat, the balance of foods you eat and your lifestyle may still mean that you are deficient or falling short of several nutrients. The result? You won’t be as healthy as you could be. While being low in iron and calcium are often discussed, there are other nutrients you might be short on too, here are some of them…
- Iodine deficiency can cause significant developmental issues and abnormalities for a developing fetus and for all ages after birth, iodine deficiency can result in an enlarged thyroid gland (goitre) and hypothyroidism.*
- Everyone in New Zealand is potentially at risk. So much of our food supply is low in iodine and the salt added to process food (apart from bread) isn’t iodized.
- To make sure you are getting what you need: Reduce the amount of processed food you eat and where you use salt yourself, use iodized salt. Milk products, eggs, seafood and foods containing seaweed are important to include regularly.
- Note to pregnant mums: The Ministry of Health recommends expectant and breastfeeding mums take an iodine supplement. Talk to your GP or midwife about this.
- Selenium is important to keep your immune system functioning well and it has been suggested that it may be a protective factor against cancers, particularly prostate cancer.
- Our soil here in New Zealand is low in selenium so the food that grows in our soil is therefore lower in this nutrient than in other countries.
- How to get enough? Super easy! For adults, just have 2 brazil nuts a day, for kiddies (when they are old enough to eat whole nuts safety) 1 nut a day is adequate. For toddlers who can’t yet have whole nuts, try grating half a brazil nut into their breakfast.
- Long chain omega 3 fatty acids are essential to keep the brain healthy and also reduce our risk of many chronic diseases.
- It is suggested that men have 610mg/day and women 430mg/day and many people in New Zealand probably aren’t getting that! Those at particular risk are vegetarian, vegans, children and older people.
- Get enough long chain omega 3 by including oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines at least twice a week. If you don’t eat oily fish, you may need a supplement. Talk to your GP, a pharmacist or a qualified nutritionist/Dietitian about this.
- Our body makes vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight, we also get a small amount of this fat soluble vitamin from certain foods including oily fish, eggs, meat and dairy products.
- Vitamin D helps our body to absorb calcium and is very helpful at keeping our immune system healthy as well as many other important things.
- Vitamin D deficiency affects most of the population and can be a particular problem at the end of winter. The most at risk groups are pregnant woman, children, those with darker skin, those who cover up a lot of their skin or people to stay inside a lot like older people for example. Those in the South Island of NZ are also at higher risk.
- Exposing your skin to sunlight is the best way to get more Vitamin D, exposing your face, hands and arms or legs on most days of the week. In summer, being outdoors before 11am and after 4pm should be enough to meet your needs (it is very important to take sensible precautions to avoid sunburn). In winter, it is important to make an effort to get outside for at least half an hour a day, longer if you live further south.*****
- If you spend a lot of time inside, covered up or are unable to expose your skin to sunlight for an adequate amount of time, it may be worth discussing this with your GP at your next visit to see if a blood test and potentially supplements maybe necessary.