Health Topic of the Month

What the Heck am I Eating? (Part 2)

By Samuel W. Ascioti, DC

In December, I introduced the first part of a two-part series on some of the basics of nutrition – macronutrients! Carbohydrates, fats, and protein were all discussed. We’ll be starting the new year of 2018 with the second part, micronutrients, as well as the differences between the essential vs. non-essential nutrients.

You probably already are familiar with most, if not all, micronutrients – in the United States, we tend to refer to these substances as vitamins and minerals – nutrients such as Vitamin C and D, as well as the minerals calcium and potassium.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), micronutrients are called as such because they are only needed in small amounts in the human body. The WHO refers to these micronutrients as “magic wands” that enables the body to produce the special enzymes, hormones, and other chemical substances that are needed to fully develop and maintain the human body. A lack of any of the following micronutrients may result in disease!

Vitamin B1: Thiamin

Thiamin is needed to release energy found in carbohydrates and protein; a lack of B1 can lead to the disease beriberi , which may affect either the cardiovascular system or the nervous system. Beriberi is rare in the United States since most foodstuffs are fortified with vitamins. Alcoholics may suffer from B1 deficiencies, as excess alcohol makes it more difficult for the body to absorb and store B1.

Food Sources for Vitamin B1:

  • Whole grains
  • Animal proteins
  • Peanuts
  • Peas

Micronutrients Whole Grains

Vitamin B2: Riboflavin

This particular vitamin is needed to build and maintain the body’s tissues, and can be found in many different food sources. Riboflavin also helps support adrenal function, maintains the nervous system, and helps the body convert food to energy! A lack of riboflavin can lead to ariboflavinosis , which may present as general weakness, a sore or swollen throat and tongue, anemia, and cracking/dry skin.

Food Sources for Vitamin B2:

  • Whole grains
  • Green and yellow vegetables
  • Animal proteins

Vitamin B6: Pyridoxine

An extremely important vitamin, pyridoxine functions to help develop and maintain the nervous system of the human body and is also involved in the production of blood cells. Additionally, B6 helps break down glucose and protein from food sources in order to produce energy to fuel the body. A deficiency of vitamin B6 can lead to low energy/fatigue, muscle aches, confusion, and irritability, anxiety, and/or depression. For females, a lack of B6 can lead to worsening of PMS symptoms.

Food sources for Vitamin B6:

  • Bananas
  • Fish
  • Rice
  • Chickpeas
  • Nuts

Vitamin B12: Cobalamin

Another very important vitamin, cobalamin promotes the proper growth and development of the central and peripheral nervous system. Vitamin B12 also helps create DNA and assists with the development of red blood cells. Mild B12 deficiency usually does not come with symptoms; however, a severe lack of B12 can lead to weakness/fatigue, heart palpitations, nerve problems (numbness and tingling and muscle weakness), vision loss, and depression and memory loss.

Food sources for Vitamin B12:

  • Eggs
  • Algae
  • Animal products (meat, poultry, seafood)
  • Fortified cereals

Micronutrients Vitamins

Vitamin C: Ascorbic Acid

Just about everybody is familiar with good ol’ vitamin C! The first thing comes to mind is that vitamin C helps the immune system fight disease and illness; it also helps form growth hormones and is required to build strong and health gums, teeth, and bones. Vitamin C also acts as a powerful antioxidant. If you’re deficient in vitamin C, you may be prone to developing scurvy , which is characterized by swollen and bleeding gums and the opening of previously healed wounds. Other symptoms of vitamin C deficiency includes easily bruising, gingivitis, dry/splitting hair, dry red spots on the skin, and scaly skin.

Food sources for Vitamin C:

  • Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, etc)
  • Berries
  • Peppers
  • Cabbage

Folic Acid

Also known as folate, folic acid is a type of B-vitamin and helps with making and repairing DNA, aiding in bone growth, as well as assisting in the production of red blood cells. Diets lacking in folic acid can have bodily consequences, such as the development of anemia, which is a result of not having enough red blood cells to carry oxygen in and waste out of the body. Folate is especially important for women planning on pregnancies or for those already pregnant, as birth defects may arise without enough folate. Symptoms of folic acid deficiency include gray hair, mouth sores, and tongue swelling, and for folate-related anemia, persistent fatigue and weakness with pale skin may be present.

Food Sources for Folic Acid:

  • Yeast
  • Wheat germ
  • Dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, etc.)

Vitamin A: Retinal

As the name retinal may imply, this vitamin is essential for healthy vision; in technical terms, vitamin A is needed for the formation of rhodopsin, which is a photoreceptor pigment in the retina. Vitamin A also helps promote healthy skin and hair. Night blindness is an early warning sign of vitamin A deficiency, and severe deficiency can lead to xeropthalmia , a drying and thickening of the conjunctivae and corneas.

Food Sources for Vitamin A:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Deep- or bright-colored fruits
  • Carrots
  • Yellow vegetables (squash, pumpkin)
  • Liver and fish liver oils

Macronutrients Vitamin A Carrots

Vitamin D

Another very well-known vitamin! Popularly featured in advertisements for milk and dairy products, vitamin D helps increase calcium and phosphate absorption in the intestines. Of course, vitamin D also promotes strong and healthy bones and teeth and helps prevents rickets , a condition caused by a severe deficiency of vitamin D. Rickets can present itself in children and may softening of the entire skull, and skeletal deformities such as bowleggedness and knock-knees may develop. Vitamin D also preventsvhypocalcemia’s tetany and osteomalacia . Vitamin D is also produced by the body when exposed to sunlight!

Food Sources for Vitamin D:

  • Dairy milk and other fortified non-dairy milks
  • Fortified cereals
  • Mushrooms
  • Cod liver oil, tuna, and salmon

Macronutrients Vitamin D Milk

Vitamin E

Vitamin E helps prevent damage to cell membranes, protects vitamin A from degradation, and assists in blood production. The main symptoms of a lack of vitamin E are anemia and neurological problems; this can include the loss of feelings in the arms or legs, uncontrollable body movements, muscle weakness, and vision trouble.

Food Sources for Vitamin E:

  • Seeds and nuts
  • Vegetable oil

Vitamin K

A very important vitamin for our blood! When bleeding occurs, the blood eventually clots and helps stop the bleeding. Vitamin K aids in this process, and without vitamin K blood clotting will not be as effective or efficient. Without vitamin K, symptoms include easy bruising, excessive bleeding from wounds, heavy menstrual periods, and possible blood in the urine and stool.

Food Sources for Vitamin K:

  • Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, etc.)

Macronutrients Vitamin K Green Leafy Vegetables


Closely related to vitamin D, calcium helps maintain healthy and strong bones and teeth, and also assists in helping blood clot effectively. Calcium also plays a very important role in the neuromuscular systems. Those with inadequate amounts of calcium may experience muscle cramping, tetany of the hands and feet, and overly-active reflexes. Prolonged calcium deficiency may lead to osteoporosis, osteomalacia, and rickets.

Food Sources for Calcium:

  • Dairy milk and fortified non-dairy milks
  • Dark green vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Almonds


Potassium regulates water balance in cells and assists with maintaining the nervous system, and is very important for proper heart rhythm. Low potassium intake may cause weakness, tingling/numbness, constipation, and heart palpitations.

Food Sources for Potassium:

  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Dried beans


Sodium tends to get a lot of flak for its role in high blood pressure and heart disease, but sodium is crucial in a healthy individual. Sodium helps the kidneys regulate water balance by having the body hold on to more water, and is an important nerve stimulator. Having less sodium in your diet may help you lower or avoid high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. A typical person should consume about 2,300mg of sodium per day.

Food Sources for Sodium:

  • Table salt
  • Just about anything!


Iron is intimately linked to the body’s cardiovascular system, as it helps transport oxygen throughout the body! Iron is also needed to help form blood cells. If you’ve ever accidentally bit your lip and tasted your blood, that metallic taste is related to the iron in it! Low iron levels can lead to iron deficiency anemia, the most common form of anemia. Symptoms include feeling weak and tired more frequently, increased grumpiness, headaches, and pale skin.

Food Sources for Iron:

  • Dark green vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes

Macronutrients Iron Nuts Seeds Legumes


Zinc helps the body form enzymes in the body, and plays a role in wound-healing and in the transport of carbon dioxide, the primary waste product of our respiration cycle! Not enough zinc in the diet can lead to poor wound healing.

Food Sources for Zinc:

  • Whole grains
  • Dairy milk and fortified non-dairy milks
  • Legumes

If you ever have any questions about diet and nutrition, talk you your chiropractor or other health care provider!


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Health Topic of the Month