3) FOUR COMMON NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES THAT CAN DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH
There are many advantages to rawfoods, however, eating them in isolation can have worrying consequences. That’s why rawfood fans, vegans and vegetarians often need to take extra special care to ensure that their diet provides both sufficient energy and all of the essential fatty acids, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals that their body needs.
Studies have consistently shown that you are at more risk of the nutrient deficiencies outlined below if you don’t complement your rawfood or vegan diet with organic superfoods
Research indicates that vegans and rawfood enthusiasts are most at risk of developing a vitamin B deficiency, and in particular B12 and B9.
- Vitamin B12, which can only be obtained from animal protein, plays an integral role in brain and nervous system function, as well as the formation of red blood cells. As your body is able to store vitamin B12, you may not notice the signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency immediately after switching to a raw food or vegan diet. However, if it isn’t addressed quickly, a lack of vitamin B12 may cause a whole host of symptoms such as fatigue, depression, poor memory and can lead to permanent nervous tissue damage, anaemia, mania, psychosis and even Alzheimer’s.
- Vitamin B9 (or folic acid as it is also known) is vital for the synthesis of nucleic acid, including DNA and RNA. It is important for cell division and growth, healthy red blood cells and particularly crucial for pregnant women, because it can prevent birth defects of the brain and spine. As our bodies are unable to store folic acid, we must obtain it on a daily basis from our food. A lack of vitamin B9 may cause anaemia, premature birth, birth defects, stress related disorders and certain types of cancer including gastric, colorectal, breast and prostate cancer.
Protein is known as the ‘building block of life’ and our bodies require it to both build and repair itself and to make essential hormones and enzymes. It is formed from amino acids, some of which we make ourselves (non-essential amino acids) and some of which we have to obtain from our food (essential amino acids)
The amount of protein that you need differs greatly from person to person and depends on a number of factors, such as how often you exercise.
Those on a strict vegan or rawfood diet may slowly start to use up their body’s protein reserves. The problem is that this won’t always be immediately evident because the process can take several weeks or months. The early warning signs of a protein deficiency include weight loss, reduced muscle mass and a thinning of the hair. If left unchecked, it can lead to other health complications such as oedema, skin rashes, lethargy, muscle cramps, delayed healing of wounds, bedsores and skin ulcers, insomnia, headaches, nausea, stomach pain, anxiety and depression. An acute deficiency may ultimately lead to gallstones, arthritis, heart problems, organ failure and even death.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 Fatty acids are important for our all round health and cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioural function.
Population studies have also indicated that omega-3 fatty acids can protect against strokes caused by either a build up of plaque or blood clots in the arteries leading to our brain. As our bodies are unable to manufacture omega-3, we must secure it from our daily diet. It is also important to receive omega-3 in the correct ratio, as a healthy balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is known to prevent heart disease.
Rawfood fanatics and vegans often experience a deficiency in this essential fatty acid, which can manifest in a variety of symptoms including fatigue, poor memory, mood swings, depression, dry skin, poor circulation and heart problems. If ignored, this may ultimately lead to a range of chronic ailments including heart disease, cancer, arthritis and diabetes.
A lack of iron is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies and not only for rawfood enthusiasts and vegans.
Iron performs several crucial functions within our body, including the manufacture of DNA and haemoglobin (the protein in your blood that carries oxygen around the body) and an enzyme called cytochrome oxidase (which actively destroys the body’s toxins). It also provides immunity from infections caused by bacteria and viruses and plays an important role in the transmission of nerve signals.
In addition, we need iron to produce protein, which as we already know, is the very building block of life. If your body lacks iron you may begin to suffer from anaemia, the symptoms of which include fatigue, dizziness, pale skin, hair loss, irritability, lack of energy, brittle nails, impaired immunity and restless leg syndrome.
How can I prevent nutrient deficiencies?
If you take care to enjoy a varied and balanced diet, you will be able to prevent the type of nutrient deficiencies listed above, even if you are a strict rawfood fan, vegan or vegetarian. In chapter 5 we outline important organic superfoods that are a perfect complement to a rawfood, vegan or vegetarian diet, as they supply all of the vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and proteins that you might be missing.