Vital nutrients can be secured from all sorts of places and while oily fish are the most common source of essential fatty acids, there are also some excellent plant-based sources. This week’s Nutrition News covers the latest research in health and diet, including some of the best vegan sources of omegas.

The healthiest seeds

We all know that fruit and vegetables are important for keeping us healthy as they are packed with vitamins and minerals but nuts and seeds also play a vital role. This article by the Cleveland Clinic gives a summary of some of the healthiest seeds we can and should be introducing in our diet.

In general, seeds are good sources of iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus; all important nutrients for keeping you healthy, supporting a range of normal functions in the body. The article then goes into detail on some of the benefits of these healthy seeds:

  • Hemp seeds

Hemp seeds and Hemp Seed Oil are a great source of vitamin E and potassium. They’re also a fantastic, plant-based way of obtaining omega 3 and 6 fats and have the highest protein value of all seeds.

  • Flaxseeds

In addition to their fibre, protein and potassium content, flaxseeds provide significant levels of the polyphenol antioxidant lignans, which research shows to have anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Chia seeds

Like other seeds, chia seeds are a good source of omegas and alpha lipoic acid. They also help keep you feeling fuller for longer due to their liquid absorption capabilities and fibre content.

  • Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc, which helps support a healthy immune system.

  • Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds can be a great plant-based source of B vitamins, vitamin E and minerals like selenium.

  • Sesame seeds

Much like sunflower seeds, sesame seeds are an excellent source of selenium and fibre.

Whether you choose to sprinkle them on your morning cereal or snack on them during the day, seeds can be a great way of introducing more essential vitamins and minerals into your diet.

Do unhealthy foods counteract the benefits of healthy foods?

The rise of so-called “cheat days” and “cheat meals” may lead the general public to believe that, by eating healthily most of the day, the occasional treat won’t lead to any harm; but is that the case?

This study, reported by Science Daily, suggests that even if we were to consume a healthy Mediterranean style diet most of the time, the occasional unhealthy food could counteract that good work. The study suggests that the positive effects of eating a diet high in fruit, vegetables, fish and wholegrains could be diminished if fried foods, sweets, refined grains and red and processed meat are also consumed.

The article cites an observational study of 5,001 people over the age of 65 in Chicago over the period between 1993 and 2012; it found that those who followed a more Mediterranean diet had a cognitive age that was, on average, 5.8 years younger than those who followed a Western diet high in processed foods. Of the study’s findings, Puja Agarwal, PhD, a nutritional epidemiologist and assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Rush Medical College said, “when it is combined with fried food, sweets, refined grains, red meat and processed meat, we observed that the benefits of eating the Mediterranean part of the diet seems to be diminished."

It is worth noting that this is an observational study and it only took into account participants of a certain age, in a certain area. To reach conclusive findings, more research would be needed and eating a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, fatty fish and wholegrains will be of more benefit than consuming none at all, regardless of what other foods are introduced to the diet.

The effects of vitamin A deficiency

Most people are aware of the old wives’ tale that carrots help us see in the dark but a recent article suggests there may be some truth to the tale. Carrots, like other red and orange vegetables such as sweet potatoes and peppers, are good sources of beta-carotene, which the body then converts to vitamin A (retinol), which supports normal eye health.

Issues relating to vision, as highlighted by this Medical News Today article, are among the first symptoms of vitamin A deficiency. The eyes may be become very dry, which could damage the cornea and retina, followed by night blindness, which is where you have difficulty seeing in low light.

Further to diminished eyesight, the article also cites skin issues, fertility issues, stunted growth and frequent infections, as vitamin A plays a role in supporting the immune system, as problems related to vitamin A deficiency.

Sufficient vitamin A can be secured through diet but can also be supported through food supplements where necessary. Premature infants, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions such as cystic fibrosis, may be more prone to deficiency so it is important to consult a doctor if you are concerned about your levels.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is Director and Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.