Nutrition is an important part of overall health and many key vitamins and minerals affect critical parts of our body, including skeletal, cardiovascular, digestive and neurological systems.
10 Common Nutritional Deficiencies
Nutrition is a matter of balance, like most things in life. You need to take in a certain amount of fuel to keep your body going. Beyond that, optimal health can be reached with the right concentration of nutrients in the food you eat.
Check out these 10 specific nutrients that are often deficient in a typical diet:
Bone health is commonly associated with calcium intake, but there are other signs of a calcium deficiency. Heart rhythm issues, fatigue, muscle weakness and poor blood clotting are also signs there is not enough calcium in your diet.
Most of the calcium in your body is in your bones where it provides a strong framework. However, it is also involved in some essential cellular functions, which may mean it can help protect you from cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Calcium is found in most dairy products as well as sardines, collard greens, white beans and almonds.
Anemia, trouble sleeping, muscle weakness, weight fluctuations and mood swings can all be signs of an iron deficiency. Iron helps your body produce the portion of red blood cells that carries oxygen through your body. It also aids in the digestion and nutrient absorption process to help your body make the best use of the nutrients you ingest.
White beans, kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils are all good plant sources of iron. It can also be found in beef, lamb, duck and sardines.
3. Vitamin B12
Fatigue, muscle aches and joint pain are some common signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Other symptoms can include depression, anxiety, poor appetite and bleeding gums.
Vitamin B12 is essential in the production of DNA and some neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers of the central nervous system. It is only released in the presence of certain stomach acids and enzymes, so gut health plays a part in relieving a deficiency.
Wild-caught fish and grass-fed meat are the best sources of vitamin B12. It can also be found in yogurt, raw milk and chicken or beef liver.
Every cell in your body contains magnesium to help it perform several biochemical reactions each day. Asthma, migraines, hypertension, stroke, inflammation and osteoporosis can all be signs of a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium helps your body build RNA, DNA and other necessary proteins, and it assists in nutrient absorption and balance throughout the body.
Chocolate is one of the most concentrated sources of magnesium, so a magnesium deficiency could explain frequent chocolate cravings. Other sources of magnesium include: avocados, pumpkin seeds, tofu and almonds.
High blood pressure, stroke and heart disease are the more severe signs of potassium deficiency. It may also cause joint pain, muscle spasms, memory loss, fatigue and poor concentration. As one of the most abundant minerals in your body, potassium helps balance fluids and minerals in your body.
Potassium works with sodium to maintain daily cell functions including heartbeat and other muscle contractions. Lima beans are a great source of potassium, along with broccoli, avocado, bananas and sweet potatoes.
6. Vitamin D
Immune issues, emotional ups and downs, hormone imbalance, trouble gaining muscle or losing weight, weak bones or teeth, cancer, diabetes and heart disease can all be symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D acts as a sort of steroid hormone in the body, helping to absorb calcium and maintain strong bones. It is also essential in digestive health and hormone balance. Sunshine is the best source of vitamin D, but it is also accessible in these foods: halibut, salmon, eel, sardines, tuna, eggs and cod liver oil.
Recurrent infections, depression, headaches and menstrual problems are all signs of a potential iodine deficiency. Brain development is one of the vital functions that involves iodine. It also helps the thyroid gland produce certain hormones that control cell and brain development.
An iodine deficiency can negatively affect your liver, kidneys, heart and brain. Although not common in the American diet, seaweed is especially high in iodine. Other good food sources include cranberries, yogurt, potatoes, milk and shrimp.
8. Vitamin A
The most obvious signs of a vitamin A deficiency are vision problems, and children without enough vitamin A in their diets can develop blindness or less severe vision impairments. In the U.S., vitamin A is prevalent in most diets, but an inability to absorb vitamin A can lead to a deficiency. Vitamin A also helps you maintain bone and skin health, plus it is essential for eye health.
People suffering from alcoholism typically struggle to absorb enough vitamin A. These food sources offer natural vitamin A: carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, romaine lettuce, butter and eggs. Talk to your doctor before adding any vitamin A supplements to your diet.
9. Folate (Vitamin B9)
Frequent colds and poor digestion can be signs of a folate deficiency. Other signs include premature gray hair, anemia, canker sores and poor growth during infancy. Folate is also called vitamin B9 and is essential for new cell production, proper fetus development and immune function.
The right amount of folate in your diet might prevent certain types of cancers and birth defects. Natural sources of folate include spinach, broccoli, black-eyed peas, Brussels sprouts and asparagus.
10. Vitamin B6
If you are experiencing lack of energy, irritability and fatigue, you may have a vitamin B6 deficiency. A severe vitamin B6 deficit may be accompanied by trouble staying asleep, recurring pink eye and skin irritations.
Vitamin B6 is involved in memory, blood flow, movement and energy regulation. It helps circulate oxygen throughout the body and maintain a healthy nervous system. Chicken and turkey breast are good sources of vitamin B6, along with pistachios, pinto beans, sesame seeds and avocado.
Ask Your Doctor
Nutrition is key to achieving optimal health, but always consult your doctor before making drastic changes to your diet or taking any supplements. A doctor can effectively diagnose any symptoms that you are experiencing and recommend any necessary changes to your diet or supplement intake.