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Five “did you knows?” about nutrition

Personal · Apr 8, 2021

Nutrition issues like vitamin deficiencies and allergies are common among Canadians, and they can often go undetected. You may be surprised to learn about some of them, but remember that the team of clinicians at TELUS Health Virtual Care can help with prevention, diagnosis and management of nutrition-related health concerns. Here are five common nutrition issues, things to look out for, and our clinicians’ tips for addressing them:

Iron deficiency

Iron deficiency is very common, especially among women and in people who have a diet that is low in iron. There are two types of iron: heme iron (animal-based) and non-heme iron (plant-based). Non-heme iron is not as easily absorbed by the body, but you can increase its absorption by combining it with foods rich in heme iron or vitamin C, such as:

  • Iron fortified breakfast cereal (non-heme) with strawberries (vitamin C)

  • Split pea soup (non-heme) with some poultry (heme iron)

  • Salad made with spinach (non-heme) and peppers (vitamin C)

Avoid drinking black tea, herbal tea or coffee with your meal, as they can reduce the amount of non-heme iron your body absorbs. Wait 1 to 2 hours after eating to enjoy these beverages instead.

If you are concerned about having low iron, log on to TELUS Health Virtual Care to discuss with one of our clinicians, who will be able to request a blood test if necessary.

Vitamin D deficiency

Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is produced when the sun’s rays interact with our skin. It helps build stronger bones by increasing the absorption of calcium and improves the function of muscles, which can improve your balance and decrease the likelihood of falling and suffering a fracture.

In Canada, we often don’t get as much sun as we need to produce adequate vitamin D; additionally, the skin’s ability to make vitamin D decreases as we age. There are also very few food sources of vitamin D, making it nearly impossible for adults to get sufficient vitamin D from diet alone. (Osteoporosis Canada 2015).

Health Canada suggests that most Canadians supplement their vitamin D intake during the winter months. Initiate a consult with a TELUS Health Virtual Care clinician to discuss how to optimise your supplementation.

Vitamin C deficiency

Vitamin C is important for your health in many ways. It helps the body absorb iron to prevent anemia, helps fight infections, heal wounds and acts as an antioxidant. In Canada it is rare to have a severe deficiency. However, signs of a deficiency can manifest as fatigue, depression or connective tissue defects. A deficiency in infants and children can present with symptoms of impaired bone growth.

Vitamin C is mostly found in fruits and vegetables. For that reason, it is recommended you eat a variety of vegetables and fruit each day and choose colorful produce. (Health Canada 2019) If you think your diet may provide you with a suboptimal intake of Vitamin C-rich sources, connect to TELUS Health Virtual Care and speak with a health care provider.

Sodium surplus

Most Canadians, including children, eat too much sodium.

On average, Canadians eat about 2760 milligrams of sodium per day - almost twice the sodium we need.

Almost 80% of the sodium we eat comes from processed, packaged and restaurant foods, not the salt shaker at home. Here are the top six sneaky food sources of sodium:

  • Baked goods such as bread, buns, muffins, cookies and crackers

  • Appetizer and entrées such as pizza, lasagna and frozen potatoes

  • Processed meat products such as sausages, deli meat and burgers

  • Cheese

  • Soups

  • Sauces and condiments

Your TELUS Health Virtual Care health professional may ask you to eat less sodium if you have a medical condition, such as high blood pressure, kidney disease, or diabetes.

If you experience bloating, swelling, thirst or any other concerning symptoms, check in with a TELUS Health Virtual Care clinician to discuss.

Allergies and sensitivities in infants

In a shift from previous recommendations, the Canadian Pediatric Society now recommends an introduction to common allergens like egg and peanuts at a young age to minimize the risk of an allergic reaction.

Solid foods that are allergenic should be introduced one at a time and without unnecessary delays between solids. If the food is well-tolerated, it is important to continue to introduce the particular food a few times weekly to ensure tolerance.

Here are some tips to help you introduce nuts to your infant:

  • Mix a teaspoon of peanut or almond butter in your child’s cereal, applesauce or yogurt

  • Spread peanut or almond butter on a cut up piece of toast as a finger food

  • Add a teaspoon of pesto to your infant’s purees, stews or soup

If you would like to discuss food allergy concerns, log on to TELUS Health Virtual Care at any time to speak with a clinician.

Camille Lalonde and April Stewart are nurse practitioners with TELUS Health Virtual Care.