Smorgasbord Health Column – What causes your cravings – Part Two – Need Chocolate? by Sally Cronin

Welcome to a new series on a sensation that has been blamed for our consumption or over consumption of certain foods since we were old enough to make excuses! How often do we tell ourselves or others that ‘we crave’ chocolate, crisps, cheese, soda, fried food or even something non-food related… such as dirt or coal?

We tend to assume that our craving is a form of addiction that only one food or drink can satisfy, but in fact it is more likely that it is our body reacting to a lack of an essential nutrient absent from our regular diet. Or that we are under stress and that has resulted in a imbalance in our hormone production.

During this series every fortnight, I am going to be looking at some of the causes of a craving, whether it is a need for an essential nutrient or is down to a habit that has formed or because we are stressed. I will also give you the food fix that will supply that nutrient or suggest some strategies to cope with an unreasonable expectation for a food by your body and your mind.

Last Week:

Part Two – Need Chocolate?

Chocolate is delicious, and I am partial to a good Swiss milk chocolate bar, with a large glass of milk in front of a good movie… or to be honest anywhere. There was a time when I would eat not just one bar, but several during the day, and would always have a stash in my office drawer. The taste of the chocolate and its sweetness were not the only reason that I craved it. At that time my job was extremely stressful, I was working 14 hour days, getting hassle from above and below with zero exercise, and little sleep. I was also drinking seven or eight coffees during the day, a couple of glasses of wine in the evening, and meals were definitely more take away than cooked from scratch. I also weighed 330lbs (150kilos, 24stone) which was not doing my general health any good at all.

Something had to give, and in 1995 at age 42, I was told that I was a heart attack waiting to happen and getting to 45 years old was unlikely. Everything that could be elevated was; dangerously so.

It was then that I decided that being good at your job was not worth damaging your health, and when my husband was offered a job in Belgium, I took the opportunity to put my future first. I studied nutrition and the human body to find out what had driven me to such lengths to self-destruct, and you might be surprised by the answer.

As were most of my clients who were very overweight when I told them they were suffering from it too.

Starvation and nutritional deficiency syndrome (my term for long standing voluntary food deprivation)

The body is a complex and highly sophisticated piece of machinery, with many moving parts and chemical reactions that are off the charts. As an entity it requires a constant daily intake of fuel in a form that it recognises, and can process to extract the nutrients it requires. Each major organ and operational system requires its own cocktail of vitamins and minerals to function at optimum capacity, and if they don’t receive what they regard as essential, they will begin to fail.

Think of your body as a formula one race car, with a very finely balanced chemical formula to extract every last inch of performance from the engine. If you put fuel in that has been contaminated with sugar, bad oil, additives that clog the engine and chemicals, the engine will seize up.

That is essentially what millions of people are doing to their bodies each day, as they eat a manufactured industrial diet, that is far removed from the initial food ingredients that you can get.

The body is being starved. And it reacts by urging you to eat and drink to obtain what it needs. But if you are only feeding it rubbish with minimal nutritional content, it will urge you to eat more of it,so it can extract even a small amount of what it needs, and it craves.

It needs fuel and the fastest way to get that is by eating sugars, it is absorbed quickly and burns fast, so you need more and more to satisfy the craving.

Add in a few more elements to your body’s state of health:

  1. Chronic stress, which is relentless day after day. Work, commuting, money, relationships, lack of sleep, poor eating habits, too much of the wrong foods and fluids, ill health.
  2. A decrease in organ and system efficiency. Your digestive system does not know if it is up or down. It is trying to extract gold from a landslide of mud and certain components are running out, such as stomach acid needed to digest the food in the stomach before it is passed to the gut to extract nutrients. You start to suffer from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), hormonal fluctuations, bone and joint problems, allergies, frequent infections. You become host to pathogens as your immune system fails to kill invaders, and your skin, hair and eyesight begin to age rapidly.
  3. Your brain like any computer is working overtime to find a solution to the problem and other functions begin to suffer such as healthy hormone production, already compromised by low nutrient intake. For a woman, this might mean a complete cessation of her menstrual cycle, for a man it might mean a loss of sex drive.
  4. You begin to take supplements and over the counter medications such as pain killers and multivitamins to counteract you lousy diet. Combined with a few too many glasses of wine or spirits, this further impairs your liver function, which is struggling to fill your blood stream with healthy cholesterol which is necessary for hormone production.

But, for a short time at least you and your body are satisfied because you just had a bar of chocolate, filling your blood stream with sugars and calming that craving. Until an hour later when you need another hit.

Calories are not all created equal.

A bar of milk chocolate (100gm) is 540 calories and high in sugar fats, over 50%, dark chocolate does too! Admittedly that with both milk and dark you are going to get some antioxidants, some calcium, magnesium, potassium, some vitamins A, D, E, B6, B12 E, and some zinc, iron and sodium. But just a couple of squares will be sufficient, you don’t need a whole bar.

I have covered the amount of calories the body needs each day and you can find more posts on this in the Health directory

N. B.. the body has an average daily requirement of nutrient dense calories of 1500 for women and 1800 for men. That is to run all the operating systems including the brain and immune system 24 hours a day. This will vary according to age and activity levels.. This also applies to moderately active children…

Girls -1000 calories age 2 years old, 2 – 4 years 1200 – 4 – 7 1400, 7 to age 10 – 1600, 10 – 12 1800 and 12- 18 years 2000 calories.

Boys – 1000 calories age 2 years old, 1200 at 3, 1400 4-7 1600 7- 10, 1800 10 – 12, 2000 12 – 18 years old.

For the purpose for comparing the difference in quality of calories ingested, I am going to use three chocolate bars, vs. a day of nutritionally dense foods. (about the amount of calories that a moderately active person would lose weight healthily eating.

That is 1620 calories for three 100gm chocolate bars, milk or dark with more antioxidants contained in chocolate over 70%.

Approximately 54.21 saturated fats (unhealthy fat) and 12 grms of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated (healthy fat)

Here are the same calories but in a high density nutritional daily menu.

Breakfast – A poached or lightly scrambled egg on wholegrain toast, with tomato or spinach with a scrape of butter, small glass of orange juice, cup of green tea.

370 Calories

Lunch – Roasted chicken breast skin off, 100 gm cooked wholegrain rice, Carrots or sweet potato, plenty of broccoli or other green vegetables, and a small amount of gravy.

450 Calories

Dinner – grilled 150gm Salmon, large mixed salad, medium jacket potato or mashed potato and herb oil dressing drizzle.

500 calories

This leaves 300 calories for healthy snacks – half an avocado, plain natural yogurt, an apple, a banana to make up the 1620 calories.

Approximately 10gm of saturated fat but 45gms of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated (healthy fats).

If you were to put yourself in the skin of your body for a few minutes, what do you think the body would prefer you to eat each day.

Three bars of chocolate or the full menu I have shared, with all the nutrients that it requires to be replenished every day?

This is not to say that you should not eat chocolate.. I would be very grumpy if I couldn’t have the odd bar from time to time. But I no longer crave them because my body is getting what it needs from the wide variety of foods that I eat each day.

Apart from general nutritional deficit, there are some nutrients in chocolate that you body may need.

This includes magnesium which is high in chocolate and is a common deficiency particularly as we get older. Also Chromium, B-Vitamins and essential fatty acids.

There is a clue to be found in these particular nutrients that identifies why it is women who seem to crave chocolate more than men!

During ovulation, menstruation and the menopause, our hormones have their own agenda leading to a more intense range of PMS or menopausal symptoms.

If our diets are deficient of the above nutrients, possibly because of repeated dieting, narrow range of foods daily, or stress then these vitamins and minerals are mainly to blame. At these times in particular, our craving for chocolate increases, and coming in handy sweet packets, make a bar or two easily accessible and comforting too.

What you need to include in your diet are these foods rather than increased amounts of chocolate.

These are the foods that have the best sources of Magnesium.

The best food sources for magnesium are to be found in dark green vegetables such as spinach also in fish, meat, seafood, apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, whole grain cereals such as brown rice, beans and nuts.

Foods rich in dietary chromium.

vegetablesBroccoli has the highest levels of chromium followed by other dark green leafy vegetables, romaine lettuce, onions and tomatoes. Wholegrains, potatoes, oysters and other seafood, liver, cheese, chicken, turkey, beef and lamb also contain good amounts. As you can see even in the sample menu you would be getting the chromium you need without reaching for the chocolate.

B12 is present in beef, offal like liver, eggs and dairy.. also mackerel, shellfish such as clams and crabs, fortified cereals and tofu, Marmite and cottage, feta and mozzarella cheese.

It is better to drink a cold glass of milk than to eat yoghurt as the fermentation process destroys most of the B12 as does boiling milk.

There are very few sources, if any of B12 in plants, although some people do believe that eating fermented Soya products, sea weeds and algae will provide the vitamin. However analysis of these products shows that whilst some of them do contain B12 it is in the form of B12 analogues which are unable to be absorbed by the human body.

Essential fatty acids

Omega 3– flaxseed, walnuts, pumpkinseeds, avocados, dark green vegetables, poultry and seafood such as salmon.
Omega 6olive oil, eggs, dairy and some of the above.
Omega 9
avocado, olives, almonds.
Amino Acids
dairy products, fish, meat, poultry, soybeans, nuts and seeds.

I know that this has been a long post, but I hope that if you have been drawn to the sweetness of chocolate on more than an occasional snack, you may be deficient in one or more of the nutrients I have mentioned or generally.

Keep a food diary for a week and circle the foods that you were drawn to in particular.. a sudden urge for eggs, onions, potatoes… and also the times that you wanted a bar of chocolate!

If you have any questions please leave them in the comments or if you wish email me on

My nutritional background

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here:

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis.

Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. However, I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.

Thanks for dropping in and I hope you find useful.. Sally.


Smorgasbord Health Column – Are you getting enough Vitamin B6? – Chicken and Prune Tagine, Tofu and Honey Bites, Spicy Sweet Potato Balls – Sally Cronin and Carol Taylor

In this series we look at cooking and your diet from a different perspective. Usually we emphasize the health benefits of food and how they can be incorporated into your diet. But, what happens if you do NOT include them in your diet.

We wanted to share with you what happens if your body is deprived of individual nutrients over an extended period of time.

Thankfully most of us eat reasonably well, with plenty of variety, but if you take a look at a week’s worth of meals, do you find that you are sticking to a handful of foods, all the time.

Variety is key to good health, to provide your body with as broad a spectrum of nutrients as possible that the body needs. Taking a supplement or relying on shakes and bars to provide your daily allowance of vitamins and nutrients is not in your body’s best interest. Giving it foods that the body can process and extract everything it needs is vital.

Over the next few months we are going to be working our way through the most essential of these nutrients and I will share the symptoms that you might experience if you are becoming deficient in the vitamin or mineral and list the foods where you can find the nutrient.

Carol Taylor is then going to provide you with some wonderful recipes that make best use of these foods… Cooked from Scratch.

B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that exists in three major chemical forms: Pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine.

Being water soluble it is necessary to replace this vitamin every day from your diet and B6 plays such a crucial role in so many functions of the body that a deficiency can have a huge impact on your health.

What is B6 necessary for?

It is required for over 100 enzymes that metabolise the protein that you eat. Along with the mineral Iron, it is essential for healthy blood. The nervous and immune systems also require vitamin B6 to function efficiently. It is also necessary for our overall feeling of well-being as it converts the amino acid tryptophan, which is essential for the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin in the brain.

Without B6 you would not be able to manufacture haemoglobin to carry oxygen around the body. Once the haemoglobin is produced the vitamin also helps increase the amount of oxygen it can carry. A deficiency therefore is one of the leading causes of anaemia.

Without a healthy immune system we are at the mercy of any bacteria or virus that takes a fancy to us. A complicated biochemical interaction is required to ensure we can fight off infections; the food that we eat plays a vital role in producing the white blood cells that form the defence system. B6 ensures that the food that eat is metabolised efficiently thus producing enough of these cells.

Additionally B6 helps keep your lymph system healthy by maintaining the thymus, spleen and lymph nodes. The lymph system runs parallel to your circulatory system and is the battleground for the white blood cells and the viruses.

Blood sugar levels can fluctuate depending on the types of food that we eat particularly carbohydrates. If you are not eating sufficient calories your body uses B6 to convert stored carbohydrate or other nutrients to glucose to maintain normal blood sugar levels. This is one of the reasons that people on crash diets can suffer dizziness and fatigue. Without sufficient intake of food they are not replenishing their B6 on a regular basis. Because they are taking in too little calories for their body to function and they do not have B6 to convert any stored energy, they become weakened.

The balance of chemicals in our brain affects our feeling of well-being. Neurotransmitters like serotonin, melatonin and dopamine are required for normal cell communication. In research lower levels of serotonin have been found in people suffering from varying degrees of depression and also migraine headaches. The research is not conclusive but at B6 is needed for the manufacture of these neurotransmitters it makes sense to ensure that there are adequate amounts being taken in through diet.

What are the signs of B6 deficiency?

With a balanced diet, which includes wholegrains and fruit and vegetables, it is unusual to find a B6 deficiency in a healthy adult.

• The elderly are more at risk due to reduced intakes of food resulting from lack of appetite and a general wearing down of internal systems and functions such as food metabolism.
• People who are perpetual dieters and in particular those who follow restricted food type diets are at risk as well, although unfortunately it is usually only when the deficiency has become critical that the symptoms might appear.
• One of the early signs will be changes to the skin with inflammations such as dermatitis.
• Another affected area is the mouth and Glossitis is a condition where the tongue becomes swollen and sore.
• Because of the role of B6 in our chemical balance within the brain, depression is not unusual.
• A lack of B6 may have an impact on PMS symptoms and also regularity of periods.
• In severe cases a person might suffer convulsions and as you will see from the post later in the week on anaemia, the quality of our lifeblood is compromised.
• Alcoholics tend to eat poorly which will restrict both their intake of B6 and its availability but alcohol also causes the destruction and loss of any B6 that is consumed.
• If you have an asthmatic child and they are on the prescribed medication theophylline they may require supplementation with B6 as the drug destroys B6 in a similar way to alcohol. You must talk to your doctor first however before taking or giving anyone B6 if they are already taking a prescription drug.
• Taking too much vitamin B6 in supplementation form can lead to some nerve damage particularly in the arms and legs. This might result in tingling sensations or numbness. Usually the symptoms disappear when the supplementation is stopped. Do talk to your doctor before stopping the supplement if you are taking it on his advice.

These foods include:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna,
  • lean chicken breast
  • lean pork
  • lamb
  • fortified tofu
  • potatoes
  • sweet potatoes
  • avocados
  • bananas
  • porridge oats
  • brown rice
  • walnuts
  • sunflower seeds
  • dried prunes and raisins
  • eggs
  • wheatgerm
  • pistachios.

Time to hand you over to Carol Taylor who has been creating dishes that include ingredients that are great sources of this vitamin.

B6 is one of the water soluble vitamins thus they need to be in our everyday meals and of course if we are eating a healthy balanced diet then for most of us a deficiency of B6 is not a problem.

I have also been looking closer at the food I prepare and have noticed and also think that most of us have favourite foods which we love to eat and prepare but my favourite foods may not be yours so I have stepped outside my comfort zone and had a look at some of the foods which are rich in B6 which I haven’t or don’t cook so often…But foods which maybe you cook and prepare more often than I do… I do hope you enjoy the recipes…

I started with Prunes…Prunes are dried Plums and that is it…They can be used in many dishes sweet or savoury such as tagines, stews and compotes although I am not a fan of them in compote I prefer mixed red berries.

Semi-dried prunes are good for fast-cooked savoury dishes, almond tarts, rich fruit cakes, muesli and breads. They can also be stuffed, wrapped in bacon and served as a savoury snack, or stuffed with marzipan or dipped in chocolate and served as a sweetmeat.

Wrapped in bacon sounds good to me…

Now prunes are something that as kids we used to have with custard as a pudding my mum didn’t use the word dessert…I also remember we used to line the pips around the side of our bowl and say Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man , poor man ,beggar man or thief…

I also didn’t exactly tell the whole truth when asked what I was making…I said oh just a different dish using chicken for my blog it has a sauce a bit like a stew and I don’t have a proper Tagine …then I quickly changed the subject…The main reason is hubby as he sees prunes with custard and as a pudding as that is the only way he has eaten them…

Chicken and prune Tagine/Stew…


• 4 large Chicken breasts, skinned and cut into cubes
• 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil I used coconut oil
• 1/2 tsp Ground Allspice
• 1/2 tsp fresh ground Black Pepper
• 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
• 2 tsp Cumin Seeds
• 1/2 sp Ground Nutmeg
• 1 tsp Ground Turmeric
• 200g/7oz pitted Prunes
• 2 large Onions, sliced
• 1 tbsp freshly grated Ginger
• 3 Garlic Cloves, crushed
• Salt to taste
• 14fl.oz fresh Chicken Stock

Let’s Cook!

  • Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed pan then add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides.
  • Add the spices, garlic, ginger and onions and cook stirring over a medium heat until the onions have softened.
  • Add the stock and season with salt then bring to a slow rolling boil and reduce the heat to very low, cover and cook for about one hour stirring occasionally.
  • At the end of the cooking remove the lid and increase the heat to reduce the sauce.
  • Serve with rice or couscous… The other concession I made was to use white rice instead of brown less for them to object to…haha..Told you I was sneaky…

The verdict: Everyone including little Lily loved it… After they had expressed their delight and hubby said he thought the black things were mushrooms(shitake) and grandson asked for more I confessed the dish contained prunes… a dish I will definitely make again even I was pleasantly surprised given the lack of chilli and some of the spices used…The biggest plus is now the grandkids will try dishes with prunes…

Changes next time: I would use chicken thighs and legs and maybe add a little chilli but it was very nice but would definitely use prunes in a savoury dish with no hesitation.

Next on the menu is tofu…Tofu is eaten a lot here by Thais in soups, grilled on BBQ’S and in stir fries …I know I should it and I did like this dish when I made it as I used a firm tofu I am still not a fan when it is soft…

Tofu and honey bites.


• 1 block Extra Firm tofu (14 oz)
• 4 tbsp honey
• 2 tbsp soy sauce
• 2 tbsp lemon juice…I used lime Juice
• 1 inch (2.5 cm) ginger, grated
• Sesame seeds to sprinkle

Let’s Cook!

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly mist the pan with oil cube your tofu, press and drain off the liquid…I didn’t realise the first time I did this just how much liquid there was.
  • Bake the tofu, uncovered for 10 minutes then remove from the oven press and drain the liquid again…yes..
  • Bake again Uncovered for a further 10 minutes…If there is no more liquid then pour the sauce over the tofu and bake uncovered for a further 10 minutes…
  • To make the sauce combine the soy, honey, lemon/lime juice and ginger…Then sprinkle over the sesame seeds.
  • Serve hot and enjoy either as a snack or a main course…

Lastly Sweet Potatoes…Something I like very much however no one else does although when I made these delicious little bites and mentioned cream cheeses and bacon…Their little ears pricked up and I was on to a winner…Did I not tell you I was sneaky…

Sweet Potatoes are lovely roasted in their skins and mashed with butter, I also sneak them into a curry but these little balls went down a treat and without a murmur except to ask for another one.

Spicy sweet potato balls with cream cheese and bacon


• 2 sweet potatoes
• 2 spring onions finely chopped
• 2 cloves garlic finely chopped or grated
• 1-2 tsp red curry paste
• 3 rashers of bacon cooked until crispy
• Cream cheese
• Breadcrumbs to coat
• Oil to cook

Let’s Cook!

  • Wash and cook the sweet potatoes in the oven until soft…
  • When cooked allow to call a little and then remove the skins and mash with a little oil or butter then add the garlic, spring onions and red curry paste.
  • Combine well and season to taste.
  • Chop your cooked bacon and add to the cream cheese.
  • Take a good spoonful of the sweet potato mix form into a ball and make an indent then push the cream cheese and bacon into the whole and then make into a ball again. Repeat until all your potato is used.

  • Roll the balls into some breadcrumbs you may need to use some milk or egg to get them to stick.
  • Heat your oil and cook in batches just be careful as sweet potatoes have a tendency to brown quicker than ordinary potatoes.
  • Serve as a starter or snack with a sweet chilli sauce …Enjoy!

These balls were a bit of an experiment with the kids and we all agreed that next time we would either use jalapenos finely chopped or more red curry paste…

I hope you enjoy these recipes they are a bit of a departure from my normal choice of ingredients but were all well received by hubby and the kids…

My thanks to Carol for her creative way to ensure we all get sufficient Vitamin B6 in our diet, and thanks to her family for being the guinea pigs!! 

You can find out more about Carol and catch up with her Food and Cookery Column HERE

Connect to Carol via her blog:

Thank you for dropping in today and if you have any questions for either of us then please do not hesitate to ask in the comments. Your feedback is always welcome.

Carol and I are both in a group on MeWe, where you can share your blog posts


Size Matters – Chapter Ten – Avoiding Nutritional Deficiency.

I often use the term ‘Nutritional Deficiency Syndrome’ to describe what I believe is the root cause of the majority of illnesses.  I also call those diseases ‘Lifestyle Induced’.

It is in our own hands to make a difference and I know that making changes looks like it will be a costly or time consuming option, but really it is not.

For example, just simply adding sweet potato into your diet three or four times a week can reverse eye-damaging Vitamin A deficiency in a relatively short space of time. Tasty, can be cooked in one 20 minute session and stored in the fridge.

I do take some supplements, particularly those that are manufactured by the body but in decreasing quantities as we get older. Also I do not do winter very well and whilst I have enjoyed getting my Vitamin D from sunshine for the last 8 months, I now am taking some Vitamin D in spray form along with other nutrients needed to enable it to be absorbed such as calcium.

I will up my foods that supply those particular nutrients in the coming months and we are now eating our winter diet of brightly coloured root vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes, broccoli and other green leafed vegetables such as kale, and canned fish such as sardines and salmon.

In Chapter Ten of Size Matters I am giving you a brief overview of some of the symptoms associated with a vitamin or mineral deficiency. Not overly common in our westernised cultures but with the increased emphasis on dieting and the use of packaged foods we are all at risk.


Size Matters – Chapter Ten -Avoiding Nutritional Deficiency

I believe that we should be obtaining the majority of our nutrients from the food that we eat. However, if you have been poorly nourished for an extended period of time both as a serial dieter or because you have had a nutrient-sterile food intake, I suggest that you do consider taking a supplement.

I have come to the conclusion after several years that tablets do not necessarily offer the best option for me. I appear to obtain the most benefit from liquid supplementation and so I take Aloe Vera gel in drink form and I also have a green smoothie for breakfast with a number of nutrient-dense ingredients like wheat grass and flaxseeds.

If we were in my health food shop that I owned I would take down your personal and health history and then recommend a specific regimen for you. As we cannot do that I suggest that you go to a recognised nutritional therapist or a high standard health food shop and ask for expert advice.

In the following pages I have listed the major vitamins and minerals that are needed for general good health. The best way to get these vitamins and minerals is to eat the foods that contain them, so it is worth noting which foods will provide you with these nutrients and then including them in your program to ensure a healthy, balanced diet.

If you need more detail on the general properties of vitamins and minerals you can get this from a post in my nutritional directory or from a good quality high street health food shop.

One important reason to focus on vitamins and minerals is that you need to understand exactly what affects you can expect from a consistently poor diet. Most vitamin and mineral deficiency problems are cumulative over a long period of time.

If you deprive your cells of the nutrients they need for their health, they will degenerate and begin to fail. It is not my intention to frighten anyone into taking supplements, but you must make sure that you have a varied and healthy diet so that you absorb adequate levels of each vitamin and mineral.

It is unlikely that you will be suffering from deficiencies of any of the major vitamins if you have a healthy diet. Unfortunately, if you have been a ‘yo-yo’ dieter for most of your adult life, you will have suffered a reduced intake of these nutrients for extended periods of time.

The other worrying aspect of over-farming in certain areas is that the soil is becoming nutritionally deplete. This means that the vegetables that look bright green or orange are not as nutritious as they were 20 or 30 years ago. For this reason I eat at least 8 portions of vegetables and some fruits a day, not the recommended five.

A deficiency can be rectified by changing to a healthy eating program and where appropriate including a nutrient dense supplement in your diet. Take note of the following effects of vitamin deficiencies, so that you understand the impact that restrictive diets, or prolonged starvation, can have.

Bear in mind that this is a very brief overview to give you an idea of how a deficiency of even one major nutrient can affect your health. This is an important part of taking back control of your weight and health and I urge you to find out more.

root vegetables


Vitamin A
A deficiency of Vitamin A can lead to various physical changes in the eyes and eventually to blindness. A marginal Vitamin A deficiency will contribute to increased susceptibility to respiratory tract infections and skin problems, dry hair or loss of hair, and weight loss.

A deficiency of this vitamin is generally unlikely in the western world, unless you have a very poor diet or abstain from any animal products or follow an extremely low-fat diet.

Vitamin A can be found in: halibut and cod-liver oil, lamb’s liver, fish oils, apricots, full-fat dairy products, eggs, yellow and orange vegetables, green vegetables and tomatoes.

A deficiency of beta-carotene would show symptoms similar to a deficiency of vitamin A.

The best food sources are: carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, dried apricots and watercress.

B vitamins
The group of B vitamins is wide-ranging, with different functions relating to the central nervous system and connective tissue. Vegetarians and Vegans may be susceptible to deficiency and need to take supplements to ensure that they get adequate levels of this group of vitamins.

(B1) Thiamin
A minor lack of B1 can cause depression, irritability and lack of concentration. A major deficiency is rare in western culture but can result in beriberi (muscle weakness, nausea, loss of appetite and water retention).

The best foods for B1 are: yeast extract, fortified breakfast cereals, soya beans, pork chops, brown rice, seafood, liver, nuts, poultry, potatoes and milk.

(B2) Riboflavin
A lack of this vitamin will lead to oral complaints such as sore and even burning lips and tongue. The eyes can also be affected with burning, itchiness and visual fatigue. Other symptoms are hair loss, insomnia and trembling.

The best sources for B2 are: yeast extract, lamb’s liver, pig’s kidney, cereal, wheat-germ, cheese, eggs, green vegetables, beans and peas.

(B3) Niacin or Nicotinic acid
Insufficient B3 can lead to tiredness, depression, loss of memory, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhoea and headaches.

Rich sources of this vitamin are: tuna, chicken’s liver, chicken meat, wheat-germ, brown rice, peanuts, brewer’s yeast, eggs, fish and dried fruit.

(B5) Pantothenic acid
A deficiency of B5 can lead to fatigue, headaches, dizziness, muscle weakness and gastro-intestinal upsets.

The best foods to eat are: brewer’s yeast, pig’s liver, yeast extract, nuts, wheat bran, wheat-germ, beans, split peas, oranges and egg yolk.

(B6) Pyridoxine
B6 deficiency can lead to recurrent infections or extreme cases of premenstrual tension (PMS). You need to have a diet rich in the following: green vegetables, brewer’s yeast, yeast extract, fish, prunes, raisins, soya beans, flour, whole-grain cereals, milk, wheat-germ, bananas and chicken.

(B9) Folic acid
B9 has had quite a lot of publicity in recent years. A deficiency of B9 in the diet can lead to megaloblastic anaemia, usually in the elderly. Also poor growth in babies and children. A deficiency in pregnancy may lead to foetal problems such as spina-bifida.

Foods that contain B9 are: liver, kidney, most meat, green vegetables, brewer’s yeast, yeast extract, wheat-germ and beans.

Deficiency of B12 can produce conditions such as pernicious anaemia, loss of appetite, fatigue. A severe deficiency can lead to degeneration of the nervous system, causing mobility and speaking difficulties.

The best sources of Vitamin B12 are: eggs, milk, cheese, milk products, meat, fish, shellfish and poultry.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy, lowered immunity, bleeding or soft gums, loose teeth, tender joints, muscle degeneration, irritability and anaemia.

It is easily absorbed from raw fruit and vegetables, citrus fruits and juices, mango, rose hip, chillies and peppers.

Vitamin D
A vitamin D deficiency is rare these days. It used to cause rickets in young children and is linked to osteoporosis, dental cavities and cramping muscles.

Vitamin D is absorbed from sunlight through the skin. It is also obtained from: liver, oily fish, egg yolk, full-fat dairy products.

Vitamin E
Vitamin E deficiency is linked to fat absorption problems, causing dull hair, muscle weakness, possible prostate gland enlargement, and even miscarriages.

Vitamin E is found in most foods, but mainly vegetable oils, egg yolks, whole-grain cereals, wheat-germ, green vegetables, nuts, seeds and margarine.

Vitamin K1
The last major vitamin is vitamin K. A deficiency in this vitamin is rare but can be caused by the long-term use of antibiotics, resulting in bleeding below the skin, nosebleeds and diarrhoea.

This vitamin is mainly found in green vegetables, seaweed (kelp), liver, potatoes and wheat-germ.


Minerals are as important as vitamins and they often work together to enhance each other’s performance. For instance, calcium and vitamin D are better taken together to enable absorption of the calcium. I have listed the most common minerals that should be included in every healthy diet.

Deficiency symptoms can range from rickets to osteomalacia, the equivalent of rickets in adults. In women, a cumulative deficiency from puberty can lead to premenstrual syndrome and osteoporosis.

Calcium is found in dairy products, hard tap-water, fish (especially sardines and pilchards), watercress, fortified cereals and wholegrain flour products.

A lack of Iron can cause anaemia and, in extreme cases, the suppression of the immune system resulting in frequent infections.

Iron is found in red meat, kidney, liver, pulses, dried apricots and figs, cocoa, fortified flour products, cereals and nuts (especially almonds and walnuts).

A deficiency of Magnesium can result in muscle cramps, low blood sugar, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea and weakness. It can also cause premenstrual tension and occasionally hypoglycaemia. Magnesium can also be a powerful remedy for PMS if taken in conjunction with calcium.

Magnesium can be found in peanuts, wholemeal bread, dairy products, eggs, pulses, shellfish, potatoes, white fish and chicken.

One thing to be aware of when taking magnesium as a supplement is that it may interfere with the function of tetracycline antibiotics, so they should always be taken several hours apart.

Lack of Potassium can lead to vomiting, abdominal distension, muscular weakness, paralysis, pins and needles, loss of appetite, low blood pressure, thirst and, in extreme cases, drowsiness and coma.

Potassium is found in most foods, but in particular, in fresh fruit, vegetables (including potatoes), meat, wholemeal flour, cereals, milk, coffee, tea and salt substitutes.

A lack of Sodium may result in dehydration, which causes low blood pressure.

The most common sources of sodium are: salt, baking powder, cured meats, smoked fish, tinned meats and bakery products. Most processed foods contain an element of sodium. Bear in mind that too much sodium results in high blood pressure which can be very dangerous.

This is a mineral which plays an important role in maintaining our blood sugar levels. It is rare to have an extreme deficiency, but a lack of chromium can cause irritability, confusion, weakness and depression. A lack of this mineral has also been linked to sugar cravings or a ‘sweet tooth’ attributable to fluctuating blood sugar levels. The most common foods containing chromium are whole-grain flour, cereals and fresh fruits, nuts, liver, kidney and beef.

Iodine levels affect our metabolism. A lack can lead to drowsiness, lethargy, fatigue and increased weight.

You will find the most useful sources are iodised table salt, seafood, kelp, meat, fruit and vegetables.

A selenium deficiency has been linked to cardiovascular disease and some types of anaemia. It is more effective when taken with vitamin E.

Food sources are kidney and liver, fish and shellfish, meat, whole grains and cereals, dairy products, fruit and vegetables.

Last but not least is zinc. People who suffer from frequent infections, delayed wound healing, reduced appetite, decreased sense of smell or taste, skin disorders and white marks on their nails may have a zinc deficiency.

Because it is mainly found in meats, eggs and dairy produce, people on a restricted vegan diet may suffer from a lack of this mineral. It is important to eat whole-grain flour products, cereals and, if possible, seafood.

As you can see from this list, a widely varied diet will ensure that you receive the full spectrum of nutrients your body needs. If you have a heavy exercise schedule or are recovering from an illness, you may require additional help in the form of a high potency vitamin and mineral supplement. Always choose a good-quality supplement that is suited to your age and lifestyle. A pharmacist or staff in a health food shop will be happy to tell you about the choices that are available.

You can find the other nine chapters in this directory.

©sallygeorginacronin 2001 – 2015 Size Matters and Just food for Health.

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thanks Sally