Nutrient deficiencies might be overrated these days, but studies show that even people who follow healthy and well-balanced meal plan are still not getting the needed amount of nutrients.
Busy lifestyles, low quality and processed foods, and poor environment can contribute to it, but in most cases it’s all about your eating habits.
What’s more alarming is that the majority of people aren’t aware of their nutrient deficiencies and this leads to chronic conditions and diseases.
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Here are the most important vitamins and minerals that can be deficient in, even if you eat tons of healthy foods.
The fourth most important mineral in the body, magnesium involves from 300 to 600 various biochemical reactions, which cover a host of vital processes, such as regulating muscle movements, protein synthesis, regulating the heartbeat, converting food into energy, and even repairing and creating genetic material. Magnesium is also needed for teeth and bone structure.
Chronically low intake of magnesium can lead to metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, asthma, osteoporosis, heart disease, depression, and many other conditions. According to the National Institute of Health, men should take around 400 milligrams of magnesium while women need 300 milligrams on a daily basis.
The most common symptoms of magnesium deficiency include sleep disturbances and disorders, muscle spasms and cramps, mood swings, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, migraines, restless leg syndrome, and abnormal heart rhythm.
Foods rich in magnesium are:
- Banana: 1 medium-sized banana contains 32 milligrams ( 8% of RDI)
- Dark chocolate (70 – 85%): 1 square contains 95 milligrams (24% of RDI)
- Swiss chard: 1 cup of cooked Swiss chard contains 150 milligrams (38% of RDI)
- Spinach: 1 cup provides 157 milligrams (39% of RDI)
- Yogurt: 1 cup contains 47 milligrams (12% of RDI)
- Dried figs: 100 milligrams (26% of RDI) in a cup
- Avocado: 58 milligrams (15% of RDI)
- Black beans: 1 cup contains 120 milligrams (30% of RDI)
- Almonds: 75 milligrams (19% of RDI) in 1 ounce
- Pumpkin seeds: 74.3 milligrams (18% of RDI) in 1 ounce
If you opt for a magnesium supplement, the highest dose should be 350 milligrams per day for adults.
If you include magnesium-rich foods in your daily diet, you may not need supplementation.
Affecting about 1 in 3 of the global population, iodine deficiency makes people invest in spirulina supplements each day.
Even with iodizing salt, this nutrient deficiency can affect anyone. Iodine plays a critical role in producing the key hormones, which are responsible for regulating the basal metabolic rate.
Getting enough iodine is essential for promoting a healthy thyroid, increasing the energy levels, forming healthy teeth, hair, and nails, and strengthening the immune system.
The symptoms of iodine deficiency are goiter, thyroid problems, a shortness of breath, depression, and weight gain.
Foods rich in iodine include:
- Seaweed: a single gram of kelp provides up to 1000% of RDI
- Fish and other seafood
- Eggs: one egg contains 16% of RDI
- Himalayan crystal salt: half a gram provides 150% of RDI
The recommended daily intake of iodine is 150 micrograms for adults and 250 micrograms for pregnant women.
If you’re looking for iodine supplement, don’t take more than 150 micrograms as it can have side effects.
Calcium is crucially important for each cell and bone health in particular. It helps to keep your teeth and bone healthy as well as can aid in lowering high blood pressure, preventing kidney stones, and protecting your heart muscles.
Plus, calcium helps to prevent weight gain through the parathyroid hormone.
The most common symptoms of calcium deficiency are tooth decay, osteoporosis or poor bone density, and muscle pain and cramps. The National Institute of Medicine suggests taking at least 1,000 milligrams of this mineral on a daily basis. Women over 50 should take at least 1,200 milligrams.
Foods rich in calcium are:
- Milk: 1 cup contains 300 milligrams (30% of RDI)
- Kale: 1 cup of cooked kale contains 245 milligrams (24% of RDI)
- Sardines: There are 217 milligrams (21% of RDI) in 2 ounces
- Yogurt: 3/4 cup of yogurt has 300 milligrams (30% of RDI)
- Broccoli: 2/3 cup serving contains 100 milligrams (about 8% of RDI)
- Cheese: 1 ounce contains 224 milligrams (22% of RDI)
- Bok Choy: There are 74 milligrams (7% of RDI) in one cup
- Almonds: one ounce serving contains 76 milligrams (8% of RDI)
The main component of the red blood cells, iron binds with hemoglobin and provides oxygen to the cells. Iron deficiency affects over 25% of people around the globe, making it one of the most common nutrient deficiencies to watch out for.
The most known kinds of iron are heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is easily absorbed while non-heme iron takes time to be absorbed. The first type is found in animal products while the second one can be found in plant-based foods.
Women are more prone to iron deficiency due to their menstruation cycle. Vegetarians and vegans are at risk too. Anemia, weakness, fatigue, impaired brain function, and weakened immune system are the warning signs of iron deficiency. Since too much iron is dangerous, it’s recommended to munch on foods rich in this mineral.
The biggest sources of heme iron are:
- Canned sardines: one can contains 34% of RDI
- Shellfish, including oysters, mussels, and clams: 3 ounces of cooked oysters contains 50% of RDI
- Red meat: 85 grams of ground beef contains around 30% of RDI
- Organ meat: 80 grams of liver provides over 50% of RDI
The biggest sources of non-heme iron are:
- Spinach, kale, and broccoli: one cup of each provides 4%, 5%, and 3% of RDI
- Pumpkin and sesame seeds: 1 ounce of each provides 4% and 7% of RDI
- Beans: There are 33% of RDI in half a cup of kidney beans
The vital, fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin E is considered as a powerful antioxidant that helps to ward off free radical damage.
Proper intake of vitamin E lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, improves metabolism, strengthens the immune system, protects your eyes and prevents eye issues like cataracts.
Moreover, this vitamin boosts stamina and is essential for your skin, nails, and hair.
The warning symptoms of vitamin E deficiency are neurological issues, anemia, weak immune system, and chronic fatigue. According to the National Institute of Health, we need to take at least 15 milligrams of vitamin E each day.
Breastfeeding women might need to increase their intake to 19 milligrams. If you opt for vitamin E supplements though, consult your doctor since each supplement is different.
The foods rich in vitamin E are:
- Sunflower seeds: A single ounce has 37% of RDI
- Nuts: Almonds contain 35% of RDI in one serving, while hazelnuts contain 21% of RDI
- Leafy greens, including mustard greens, turnip greens, Swiss chard, and spinach
- Avocado: One medium-sized avocado provides 4% of RDI
- Asparagus: 18% of RDI in one cup
The “Sun Vitamin,” vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that affects about 200 genes in your body. It’s in a family of the compounds of vitamin D-1, vitamin D-2, and vitamin D-3. Almost all cells in the body have the receptors for vitamin D. More than one billion people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D.
While it’s possible to boost your vitamin D intake through exposure to the sun, sunscreens can prevent its absorption. People over 50 have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency as their skin start thining and their intestines have difficulty absorbing the vitamin.
Vitamin D plays a key role in almost all aspects of your health. The nutrient is involved in keeping a strong immune system, managing calcium absorption, developing strong teeth and bones, relieving mental disorders, and preventing cancer.
The alerting signs of vitamin D deficiency are bone loss, muscle weakness, chronic fatigue, depression, poor brain function, excess sweating, and development of numerous illnesses and conditions. Vitamin D is hard to obtain from the food sources and injections and supplementation are the two efficient ways to fix the deficiency.
The Food and Nutrition Board recommends taking from 400 to 800 IUs of vitamin D, albeit it’s best to check your deficiency through a lab test and let your doctor determine your daily dosage.
The food sources of vitamin D are:
- Eggs: One egg yolk provides 1 IU
- Beef liver: 49 IU in 100 grams
- Fatty fish like sardines, tuna, salmon, and swordfish
Another fat-soluble vitamin that many of us are deficient in, vitamin A produces the eye pigments and helps to form and keep healthy teeth, skin, cell membranes, and bones. Unlike vitamin D, vitamin A is easy to get from natural sources, but still a lot of children and women lack this nutrient.
There are two kinds of vitamin A – -preformed vitamin A and pro-vitamin A. The first kind is found in animal products, such as dairy, meat, poultry, and fish. The second one is found in fruit and veggies. The most common form of pro-vitamin A is beta-carotene that your body turns into dietary vitamin A.
The latest statistics show that vitamin A deficiency is the major cause of blindness in the world. A lack of this nutrient can lead to permanent or/and temporary eye damage, and if left untreated, can cause blindness. Moreover, vitamin A deficiency weakens the immune system and can boost the mortality rate, especially among pregnant or breastfeeding women and children.
The warning signs of vitamin A deficiency are sore eyelids, night blindness, mouth ulcers or throat infections, scaly, dry, and acne skin, chronic skin infections, dry hair and dandruff.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends taking 5,000 IU of vitamin A on a daily basis, but it’s an average daily value and it changes depending on your age, health, and reproductive status.
Foods rich in vitamin A are:
- Winter or butternut squash: 22,869 IU in a single cup of cooked cubes
- Carrots: one medium-sized carrot contains 10,190 IU
- Kale: 10,302 IU in a cup of chopped kale
- Sweet potato: one medium sweet potato contains 21,907 IU
- Broccoli: 567 IU in one cup
- Dried apricots: 1,009 IU in one ounce
- Spinach: 2,813 IU in one cup
- Egg yolks: 245 IU in one egg
Since it’s easy to meet your daily value of vitamin A by eating healthy foods, it’s not recommended to take vitamin A supplements – unless you’re taking a multivitamin that contains vitamin A.
The last but not the least, vitamin B12 deficiency now affects not only vegetarians and vegans, but meat eaters as well.
Better known as cobalamin, vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin needed for blood formation and nerve and brain functions. In fact, each body cell requires this nutrient in order to function properly. Since the body isn’t able to produce vitamin B12, it’s important to eat foods rich in it or take supplements once in a while.
Vitamin B12 is mostly found in animal products making it hard for vegetarians and vegan to obtain it from natural sources. Although tempeh and nori seaweed do contain some amounts of vitamin B12, injections and supplementation might be required if you don’t eat animal products. Around 80-90% of vegetarians and vegans have vitamin B12 deficiency.
The most common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are jaundiced or pale skin, weakness and severe fatigue, nerve damage, poor balance and coordination, mouth ulcers and glossitis, dizziness, breathing issues, disturbed or blurred vision, mood swings, high temperature, etc.
The daily value of vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg for adults and 2.6 mcg to 2.8 mcg for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Vitamin B12 is found in meat, seafood, eggs, and milk products, but since it’s poorly absorbed, supplementation may be needed.
Read more: 17 Foods High in Vitamin B12
Nutrient deficiencies can be different, but these eight are the most common ones, which means you should reconsider your eating plan to ensure it includes these nutrients.
If you have any signs of the deficiencies mentioned above, see your doctor as soon as possible.