They say knowledge is power, and giving birth to a deformed baby is any parent’s worst nightmare. You want to know how some of these defects can be prevented? The answer is your diet. Like I said, knowledge is power, and if you don’t have knowledge pertaining to a particular subject, you can easily succumb to issues that can be prevented. The information I’m about to give you here is not new. Any medic: Doctor, nurse, nutritionist, etc knows about this since they have the knowledge in these subject areas. Since not everyone is educated in medicine or reads information relating to foods, nutrition and diet, they have little knowledge on such subjects and don’t know that these conditions can be prevented and not leaving everything to chance when the power is in your hands and your diet.

Vitamins are organic compounds that are needed in small amounts to sustain life. They are essential for normal body metabolism and if we do not take enough of any kind of vitamin, certain medical conditions result. Vitamins are either fat-soluble or water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the fatty tissues of the body and the liver. They can stay in the body as reserves for days and sometimes months. These are Vitamin A, D, E and K. Water-soluble vitamins cannot be stored in the body, and they are soon excreted in the urine, because of this, water-soluble vitamins need to be part of your daily intake. These include: All vitamin Bs and vitamin C. 

Vitamin A is essential for immune function, cell growth, fetal development and placental health. It plays a role in sperm and egg development and the best-known functions of vitamin A is its role in vision and eye health; Meaning, if one has conditions with their eyesight, they need to have vitamin A in their diet so as to improve on vision. Vitamin A also helps maintain surface tissues such as skin, intestines, lungs, bladder and inner ear. Deficiency causes night blindness which is a condition where there is inability to see well at night or in dim light. Lack of vitamin A also causes irregular patches on the whites of eyes, infection risk, pregnancy complications, dry skin or hair, and skin issues. Foods containing good sources of vitamin A include pumpkin, sweet potatoes, cod liver oil, liver, milk, eggs, papayas, carrots, cantaloupe melon, kale, spinach, orange and yellow vegetables and fruits,  etc.

Vitamin B1 also known as Thiamine is a water-soluble vitamin meaning it is not stored in the body. As we stated earlier all vitamin Bs aren’t stored in the body, so they should be part of your daily diet. Very small amounts of vitamins are needed in our bodies. Recommended daily intake for vitamin B1 is 1.2 micrograms in adults, which is a very tiny amount that can’t lack in the daily foods we take. Thiamine enables the body to use carbohydrates as energy. It plays a key role in nerve, muscles and heart function and also helps prevent complications in the same.  Because thiamine is involved in several basic cell functions and the breakdown of nutrients for energy, a deficiency can lead to various problems of the heart and brain that require a constant supply of energy. Lack of vitamin B1 causes mental problems including confusion and short term memory loss. So next time if you feel you’re a bit confused, it’s probably something lacking in your diet. Thiamine helps keep liver, skin, hair and eyes healthy and a lack of thiamine makes muscles weak and causes cardiovascular conditions such as an enlarged heart. Thiamine is destroyed with high heat cooking or cooking for long cooking times. It also leaches into water and will be lost if any cooking or soaking water is thrown out. It may also be removed during food processing such as with refined white bread and rice. That is why thiamine is enriched in many foods that have undergone processing. Good sources of thiamine are: Beef, pork, nuts, whole grains, beans, lentils, green peas, liver, oranges, eggs, potatoes, kale, cauliflower, fish, yogurt, brown rice, enriched foods, and many other more.

Vitamin B2 also known as Riboflavin helps break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Riboflavin helps in maintaining the body’s energy supply and lack of it causes dry skin, cracked lips, mouth ulcers/ canker sores, sore throat, eyes may be sensitive to bright light and may be itchy and watery. Next time you find yourself experiencing such symptoms you should probably check your diet. That’s why we are constantly told our food is our medicine. And most of these conditions result due to a lack of some nutrients. Good food sources of vitamin B2 are fish, meat, poultry, kidneys, liver, eggs, dairy products, asparagus, avocados, cayenne, beans, peas, green vegetables, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, etc

Niacin or Vitamin B3 boosts brain function, ease arthritis, helps lower cholesterol. B3 increases HDL the good cholesterol needed for your body. Good sources of vitamin b3 are liver, chicken breasts, salmon, turkey, avocado, peanuts, beef, pork, salmon, tuna, brown rice, mushrooms, green peas, potatoes, etc Lack of niacin in severe cases causes pellagra, a disease of the 3Ds. Dermatitis: relating to the skin, red flaky skin, skin discoloration, etc, Diarrhea and Dementia: memory loss, confusion, headaches, fatigue depression, restlessness, anxiety, delusions, etc, so if you experience such symptoms of anxiety, fatigue, depression, stress or anxiety, it could probably to an extent, be your diet.

Pantothenic acid or Vitamin B5 helps in the making of lipids and helps our bodies to properly use carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids and it helps maintain healthy skin. B5 is present in almost all plant and animal based foods and deficiency is very rare except in people with severe malnutrition.

Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine is used for the proper growth and development of the brain and nerves, skin, and other parts of the body. It is significant for protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism and creation of red blood cells. Rich food sources of B6 are: pork, chicken, turkey, fish, bread, whole grain cereals, eggs, vegetables, soya beans, milk, potatoes, peanuts, beef liver, tuna, salmon, papayas, dark leafy greens,  mangoes, avocados, bananas, etc. Lack of B6 causes anemia, since it helps in creation of red blood cells, weak immune system, itchy rashes, scaly skin on lips, cracks at the corners of the mouth, swollen tongue, depression, confusion, etc.

Biotin also known as Vitamin H or B7 plays a vital role in assisting enzymes to break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins in food. It is also needed for healthy hair and bones. It also helps keep skin, eyes, liver and nervous system healthy. It is crucial during pregnancy as it is important for embryonic growth. Deficiencies are rare but deficiencies often show symptoms of hair loss or thinning hair, scaly skin rashes around eyes, nose, mouth and brittle nails. Sources of vitamin B7 include egg yolk, organ meats such as liver, kidney, nuts and seeds, almonds, peanuts, walnuts, soybeans and other legumes, cooked eggs, pork, bananas, cereals, salmon, sweet potato, mushrooms, cauliflower, etc

Vitamin B12 is needed for nerve tissue, a healthy brain function and it is involved in the production of RBCs and DNA. The metabolism of every cell in the body depends on vitamin B-12 as it plays a part in the synthesis of fatty acids and energy production. B-12 enables the release of energy by helping the human body absorb folic acid. The human body produces millions of RBCs every minute. These cells, cannot multiply properly without vitamin B-12. The production of the red blood cells reduces if vitamin B12 levels are low and thus anemia can occur. It is naturally available in meats and animal products: beef, pork, ham, poultry, lamb, fish, liver, dairy products, milk, eggs, etc. Vegetarians are at a risk of vitamin b12 deficiency as their diet excludes animal-sourced food products and thus they should supplement their diet with vitamin B12. Vitamin b12 also helps create and regulate DNA. Deficiencies cause anemia, depression, confusion, memory problems and fatigue. If symptoms escalate, they include neurological changes such as numbness, tingling in the hands and feet, difficulty in maintaining balance. Other symptoms include constipation, loss of appetite, and weight loss, reflex problems, face tremors, etc

Vitamin B9 or Folic acid: I saved this B vitamin as the best for last and this brings us to the title of this article. Folic acid is a key ingredient in the making of nucleic acid that forms part of all genetic material. Folate occurs naturally in foods and folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin. It is important for the synthesis and repair of RNA and DNA. It also helps your body make red blood cells. If you don’t have enough red blood cells, you get anemia. Folate is particularly important in women of childbearing age. It is recommended that pregnant women should take folic acid for at least a month before getting pregnant, and every day while you are pregnant. Birth defects of the baby’s brain or spine occur very early in pregnancy 3-4 weeks after conception, before most women even know they are pregnant; this is because the brain and spine are the first to develop and they develop within the first month after conception. So it is important to have folate in your system during those early stages when your baby’s brain and spine is developing. A folate deficiency during pregnancy can lead to birth defects. Folic acid helps prevent the fetus from developing major congenital deformities of the brain or spine, including neural tube defects such as spina bifida (incomplete development of the spinal cord) and anencephaly (a serious birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull). Since 90% of women don’t have adequate folate levels for maximum protection against neural tube defects, it is recommended of women of reproductive age take at least 400 micrograms of supplemental folate per day, this should increase to 600mcg when pregnant and 500mcg when lactating. Mothers who use folic acid and multivitamin supplements before and during pregnancy appear to reduce their offspring’s risk of autism. Natural sources of folate are asparagus, yeast, broccoli, cabbage, legumes,  eggs,  leafy greens, beets, citrus fruits, Brussel  sprouts,  cauliflower, egg yolk, jacket potato, kidney, lentils, lettuce, papayas and kiwi, milk, oranges, parsnips, peas, spinach, wholewheat fortified, nuts and seeds, bananas, avocados, foods fortified with folic acid, etc.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant and it protects the body against oxidative stress, helps repair tissue, reduces damage of inflammation and helps prevent oxidation of other molecules. High doses of vitamin C have been found to reduce the speed of growth of some types of cancerous tissues. Vitamin C helps produce collagen, which is the main component of connective tissue and the most abundant protein in mammals. Collagen is a vital component in fibrous tissues as tendons, ligaments, skin, cornea, cartilage, bones, the gut and blood vessels. Vitamin C widens blood vessels and this could help protect against heart disease, hypertension and HBP. It also helps lower cholesterol levels, enhances iron absorption so it’s good for anemic people. Vitamin C also helps to metabolize proteins and defends the body against viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. Deficiencies cause joint pain, bleeding gums, fatigue, problems with wound healing, tooth loss and depression.  Sources: fresh fruits and vegetables especially citrus fruits, oranges, lemons, tomatoes, hot green chili, bell peppers, guava, papaya, pineapples, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower), etc

Vitamin D is both a nutrient we eat and a hormone our bodies make. It is produced by the body as a result of sun exposure. It can also be consumed in food or supplements. It helps maintain healthy bones and teeth, protects against cancer, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes.  It supports the health of the immune system, brain and nervous system. It also regulates insulin levels and thus aids in diabetes management. It supports and regulates cell growth and it is used for cell to cell communication, lung function and cardiovascular health. Sensible sun exposure on bare skin for 5 to 10 minutes 2-3 times a week allows most people to produce sufficient vitamin D. A sunscreen with an SPF of 30 and above can reduce the body’s ability to synthesize vitamin D by 95%. For vitamin D synthesis, the skin has to be directly exposed to sunlight and not covered by clothing. Deficiency symptoms include getting sick or infected more often, fatigue, painful bones, and back (next time your back hurts, check your vitamin D), depressed mood, impaired wound healing, hair loss, muscle pain, etc Deficiency has also been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and swine flu. Pregnant women who are vitamin D deficient seem to be at a greater risk of developing preeclampsia (a condition in pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure and swelling of hands and feet)  and needing a cesarean section. Few food sources are rich in Vitamin D. Good sources are: fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, cod liver oil, foods fortified with vitamin D such as cereals and dairy products, egg yolks, etc

Vitamin E: The main function of vitamin E is acting as an antioxidant. It also enhances immune function and prevents clots from forming in heart arteries. Normal body processes produce free radicals and accelerated aging takes place in your body when cells are exposed to molecules called free radicals which weaken, damage, break down and shorten the life of healthy cells. Free radical damage is involved in the early stages of artery-clogging atherosclerosis and might contribute to cancer, vision loss, premature aging and a host of other chronic conditions.  Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant which reduces free radical damage and slows the aging process of your body cells. Since it is a powerful antioxidant, it helps fight infection. Vitamin E deficiencies are very rare. Food sources of vitamin E are: vegetable oils such as sunflower, safflower, wheat germ oil and soybean oil, Nuts such as: peanuts/peanut butter, almonds, hazelnuts, vegetables such as: spinach, broccoli, other sources include pumpkin, red bell pepper, asparagus, mango, avocado, fortified breakfast cereals and spreads.

The last of the vitamins we’ll be talking about is Vitamin K. Vitamin K mainly helps to make various proteins that are needed for blood clotting which stops wounds from continuously bleeding. It also helps in the building of bones and heart health. Food sources: green leafy vegetable: spinach, kales, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, etc Deficiencies are rare but common signs of deficiency are: a longer time for blood to clot in the event of a wound, bleeding and hemorrhaging.

Recap: The required daily intake of these nutrients is very minimal (micrograms). We’ve noticed that some foods keep recurring and some foods contain more than one nutrient. We’ve also noticed that meats and dairy products are good sources of most nutrients, thus avoiding meats and dairy products completely is not such a very good idea unless recommended by a doctor but meats also should not be taken in excess.

In conclusion: Doctors recommend that we take in our vitamins in forms of diet rather than using supplements that are made in the laboratory. There are a wide range of foods that contain a lot of nutrients and those listed here are the known sources that contain highest amounts of each nutrient. The reason we rarely get sick or get deficiencies is because we consume these foods regularly in our diet. You are what you eat so avoid these small illnesses that take you to the hospital each time and eat a healthy diet.


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