Diet.

dietAs sad as it is, living on a diet of takeaway pizza and 7p noodles isn’t going to do your body any favours in the long run. Our bodies require a variety of vitamins and minerals to function, and although you won’t drop dead the second you become deficient, your body won’t be able to operate to its full potential. This can cause you to have low moods and feel sluggish, reducing your ability to concentrate and recall information– crucial skills for a student!

So to ensure your brain and body are working to the best of their ability, a healthy diet is essential.

What is a healthy meal?

Your diet should be made up of starchy foods, fruit and vegetables, protein rich foods and dairy. A combination of all of these foodstuffs should fulfil your nutritional needs. But although most people eat all of these from time to time, many fail to get the balance right. A glance at the NHS eatwell plate will give you a good idea about the proportions that should be on your plate.

You don’t need to make sure that you match up every meal exactly, but try to get the proportions right across your whole day. Ultimately, if all of your meals are varying shades of brown, it’s time to have a rethink!

What vitamins do I need?

Vitamin A

  •  What Does it Do? Vitamin A boosts your immunity and improves your vision in low light.
  • Where Can I Find It? In cheese, oily fish, eggs, milk and yogurt.
  • How Much Do I Need? Women need 0.6mg, men need 0.7mg.  Most people get this from their daily diet. Your body stores any not immediately used for use at a later date.

Vitamin C

  • What Does it Do? Vitamin C helps to keep your cells healthy and assists with the repair of wounds.
  • Where Can I Find It? In most fruits and vegetables. Especially good sources include oranges, bell peppers and broccoli.
  • How Much Do I Need? Adults need around 40mg of Vitamin C a day, which you’d get from drinking half a glass of orange juice or eating a single kiwi. However, it’s not stored in the body, so you’ll need to make sure that you get some every day.

Vitamin D

  • What Does it Do? Vitamin D helps to keep your bones and teeth strong and healthy.
  • Where Can I Find It? We get most of our vitamin D from the sunlight on our skin. It can also be found in eggs, oily fish and fortified spreads and cereals.
  • How Much Do I Need? Unless you’re pregnant or confined to the house for a long period of time, you should be able to get enough Vitamin D from sunlight and a balanced diet.

Vitamin E

  • What Does it Do? Vitamin E helps to maintain cell structure.
  • Where Can I Find It? In plant oils, nuts and seeds and cereals.
  • How Much Do I Need? Men need 4mg a day and women need 3mg.  You should be able to get enough Vitamin E from a balanced diet and any not immediately used is stored for the future.

Vitamin K

  • What Does it Do? Vitamin K helps your blood clot, allowing wounds to heal. There is also increasing evidence to support their role in the creation of strong bones.
  • Where Can I Find It? In green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils and cereals.
  • How Much Do I Need? Adults need around 0.001mg a day for each kilogram of their weight. But you should be able to get enough from a balanced diet. Any not used immediately will be used by your body at a later date.

How can I get more nutrients into my diet?

Whether your unhealthy meals are down to a lack of money, a lack of skill or a lack of enthusiasm, there are many easy ways to create cheap and easy nutritious meals. When you’re just cooking for one, making a whole meal can seem like an awful lot of effort, so why not make a bigger batch and freeze some for a later date?

Buying frozen vegetables can also be a great idea; frozen vegetables are often cheaper than buying fresh, yet they’re full of vitamins and you don’t have to run the risk of turning your fridge into a mouldy jungle.

Can I lead a healthy vegetarian or vegan diet?

If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, it’s especially important to be aware of what nutrients you’re getting.  Most people get the majority of their iron from meat, so if you don’t monitor your diet carefully it’s easy to become deficient.

Iron:

If your body is low on iron you may start showing symptoms of anaemia. Anaemia is typically characterised by a feeling of tiredness and lethargy, which is also frequently accompanied by pale skin. This occurs because the lack of iron in the blood inhibits the production of haemoglobin, leading to less oxygen reaching tissues and organs. Women are particularly susceptible around the time of their period.

Naturally iron rich foods include beans, dried fruit, nuts and green leafy vegetables, but many cereals and wholemeal breads are also fortified with iron. When you eat these foods make sure that you’re also getting plenty of Vitamin C, as it’s essential for helping your body to absorb fortified iron. Calcium on the other hand can reduce the levels absorbed.

Vitamin B12:

A lack of vitamin B12 can also cause anaemia and this vitamin is particularly problematic for vegans as it’s only naturally found in meat, dairy products and eggs. However it is available in the form of fortified cereals, fortified soya milk and marmite.

Calcium:

If your diet doesn’t include dairy products then it’s likely that your calcium supplies are running low. Calcium is essential to the development of healthy bones and teeth, so a long term deficiency could lead to brittle bones, while in the short term you may experience muscle cramps and heart palpitations. Calcium is found naturally in pulses, dried fruit and sesame seeds, but it can also be found in manmade products. In the UK it’s added to bread by law and you can also find fortified soya and tofu.