Our menu should provide not only the right amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat, but also the right portion of hundreds of compounds necessary for the functioning of the body. The two most important groups are vitamins and minerals.
In Europe, shortages of most of these substances are rare, because even without special care for a balanced and healthy diet, we provide a large part of them in the right dose. However, there are some compounds that we will provide too little, if we do not show special care. In many situations, not only the simplest, but also the most appropriate solution turns out to be dietary supplements.
- Long-chain omega-3 acids
There have been rare times in recent years when no public health organization is convincing to eat fish regularly. They, especially fatty marine species, are the most important source of the two essential fatty acids belonging to the omega-3 family. These compounds, included in the vitamin F group, play a huge number of important biological roles. Suffice it to say that they are made of four classes of hormones that are primarily responsible for the immune, nervous and muscular systems, eyesight and skin.
People who do not eat fatty fish regularly (at least twice a week) should definitely provide the body with a supply of long-chain omega-3 acids in the form of cod liver oil or omega-3 capsules. Some people think that consuming plant-based omega-3 sources, i.e. linseed oil or walnuts, is enough, but unfortunately you have to remember that the conversion of linolenic acid to EPA and DHA is very low and does not meet the body’s needs.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our body and at the same time the main element that we consume too little in relation to the recommended standards. The fault is only partially on the side of an unbalanced menu. It’s just very difficult to get the right amount of calcium in your daily diet, especially if you are not a fan of canned dairy or sardines.
Calcium can also be found in grains, nuts and green vegetables, but you really need to try to make sure that 1000 mg of calcium is in it every day when you plan your diet, and even a small permanent deficiency weakens the skeleton and increases the risk of developing osteoporosis. The demand increases even more in the case of adolescents, nursing women and the elderly. It is a very good idea to support the diet with supplementation. Of all the elements, it is calcium that most often requires intervention in this area.
- Vitamin D
In the autumn and winter period, cholecalciferol becomes by far the most important supplement in our climate zone. However, in spring and summer, it even ceases to be a vitamin, because the main source of this compound is the production in the skin under the influence of sunlight. With a short day, high cloudiness and working in classic hours, the majority of the population is deficient in vitamin D, and this compound is one of the most important regulatory molecules for our body.
It is also worth noting that it is extremely difficult to provide the right amount with the diet. Its sources are basically only oily fish. Small amounts are also found in milk fat and egg yolks. From fall to early spring, everyone should take vitamin D supplementation.
For most people, magnesium is the second most important element, after calcium, that requires special care. It’s easier to provide it in the diet, and the recommended dose is only around 400 mg, but today’s lifestyle and stimulants can significantly increase the amount of magnesium ions needed. The real wealth of this mineral is grains, nuts and cocoa. Whole grain cereals, vegetables and fruits also contain it.
Magnesium participates in over three hundred biochemical pathways. It plays an important role in the work of the heart and the functioning of the nervous and muscular systems. Half of this element in the human body is stored in the bones – together with calcium and phosphorus it is responsible for their hardness and strength. It is worth buying a calcium-magnesium supplement or taking both preparations at the same time, because it has a positive effect on their absorption and metabolism.
- Deficiencies in vegetarian diets
Vegetarians, and even more so vegans, are a group of people at high risk of nutritional deficiencies. Limiting the share of animal products in the diet or their complete exclusion leads to a situation where it becomes almost impossible to provide the right amount of vitamins and minerals present in this part of the food. We can talk here primarily about vitamin B12, iron and zinc.