Eating a healthy and balanced diet can be difficult. In our world that runs at light speed 24/7, having the time to plan your every meal around nutrient quality and health is a struggle at the best of times and impossibly difficult at the worst.
Your body needs proper nutrition to function and keep you in the best condition to take on the world. And this involves getting all the necessary vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients vital to your body.
There are a lot of different nutrient deficiencies out there, and you may be surprised to find that nutrient deficiencies are shockingly common. Here are a few of the most common nutrient deficiencies and some tips on how to avoid them in your diet.
Are You Dealing With Iron Deficiency?
One of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the western world is iron deficiency. You may know iron as an important metal in construction, but iron is also an essential mineral for your body.
Iron is one of the major components of red blood cells, where it assists in the transportation of oxygen around your body.
Two different kinds of iron are necessary for your body: heme iron and non-heme iron.
Heme iron is only found in animal products, particularly red meat. If you are vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian, then you may be low in heme iron.
Non-heme iron can be found in plant-based foods and animal-based foods but is less easily absorbed by your body than heme iron.
What Are the Symptoms of Iron Deficiency?
There are several symptoms and drawbacks to a nutritional iron deficiency. The most severe and pervasive outcome of iron deficiency is anemia.
Anemia is a decrease in your red blood cell count and, by extension, a decreased oxygen flow around your body. Anemia can cause symptoms such as muscular weakness, exhaustion, a poorly functioning immune system, and impaired cognitive functioning.
How To Avoid Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency globally; in fact, an estimated 25% of the global population suffers from some level of iron deficiency.
The best way to avoid an iron deficiency is to regularly consume sources of both heme and non-heme iron. Iron-rich foods that are good sources of heme iron include red meats and shellfish like clams and oysters.
Good sources of non-heme iron to include in your diet are kidney beans, dark leafy vegetables, and pumpkin seeds. Additionally, vitamin C-rich foods like kale, bell peppers, and oranges can help improve your iron absorption.
Be careful about supplementing with iron unless you truly need it. Too much iron can cause side effects that are just as harmful, if not more so than iron deficiency.
Am I Deficient in Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is another of the most important nutrients for your body. Vitamin D behaves like a steroid hormone in your body, making it essential for growth and development.
Vitamin D is mainly produced from the cholesterol in your skin when it is exposed to sunlight. This means that if you are not getting sunlight, your body is likely not producing enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency is a very common vitamin deficiency in the US, where approximately 42% of people are deficient in Vitamin D.
What Are the Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency?
Unfortunately, Vitamin D deficiency is one of the hardest nutrient deficiencies to spot since the symptoms typically develop over the course of many years.
For adults, the most common symptoms are general weakness and weakened or lost bone tissue. For children, vitamin D deficiency can cause growth slowing and delays and can also cause rickets.
How Can I Avoid Vitamin D Deficiency?
The best way to avoid a vitamin D deficiency is actually not through diet but by getting more exposure to sunlight. Getting outside in the sun often can encourage your body to produce the proper levels of vitamin D.
The best dietary sources of vitamin D are cod liver oil and fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and trout, which are also great sources of essential fatty acids like omega-3. Egg yolks, orange juice, and yogurt are also very high in vitamin D.
Taking a supplement can also be a good idea to boost your vitamin D intake, as diet alone is typically insufficient to give yourself enough vitamin D.
What Is a Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Vitamin B12 plays a vital role in your body's ability to create blood cells and also impacts brain and nervous system functioning.
The human body cannot produce vitamin B12, but it is essential for the functioning of every cell in your body. The only way to get vitamin B12 is through diet or supplementation. B12 deficiency is common after weight loss surgery, as well.
Unfortunately for vegans, vegetarians, and others who avoid eating animal foods, B12 is only found in animal foods and seaweed, although in very low quantities. Some 80% or more of vegans and vegetarians are deficient in B12.
What Are the Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
There are several symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, most notably megaloblastic anemia, which is a condition that causes your red blood cells to become enlarged.
Other symptoms include elevated homocysteine levels, which are known to be a factor in the development of many different diseases and disorders.
How To Avoid Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 is an easy vitamin to get through your diet if you are a meat or seafood eater, but it is quite difficult for vegans and vegetarians to get. Vitamin B12 is also a common supplement that is easy to find at your local pharmacy in the vitamin section.
Red meat, clams and oysters, dairy products like cheese and milk, and eggs are amongst the best dietary sources of vitamin B12. There is nothing to be afraid of with getting too much vitamin B12, so in general, you should shoot for more rather than less in your diet.
Why Are Nutrient Deficiencies So Common?
That is a question that many researchers are trying to figure out. The easiest answer is that diets, particularly in the western world, have been decreasing in nutritional value in recent years.
For example, vitamin A deficiency is also extremely common—alongside magnesium deficiency, folate deficiency, and iodine deficiency—even though you can find vitamin A in everyday foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, and milk.
Easy access to processed food, junk food, and fast food means fewer nutrients are present in the diets of most people, leading to high levels of both macro and micronutrient deficiency.
While we may know that we need more vitamins like A, B12, and D, it's important to consume enough of other minerals, too. Zinc, manganese, folic acid, copper, and other compounds are also essential in the prevention of diseases and the fortification of our bodies.
The best thing you can do to avoid all nutrient deficiencies, in general, is to eat a diverse diet of colorful fruits and veggies and various sources of proteins and grains. Whole foods like broccoli, for example, are rich in both iron and calcium.
This is especially true for children, where nutrient deficiencies can stunt growth and development and cause lifelong health problems. Make sure that your children eat healthy foods and take their vitamins to ensure that they are developing healthily.
Takeaways and Final Thoughts
Nutrient deficiencies are widespread across the globe. These nutrient deficiencies can cause all sorts of issues and symptoms, ranging from fatigue and muscle weakness to blindness to an increased risk of diseases. Nutrients help wounds heal properly, helps prevent neural tube defects, and perform many other basic functions we never really think about.
Eating a diet rich in fruits and veggies and healthy sources of proteins and grains is the best defense against nutrient deficiencies. You can also take a multivitamin and other supplements if you are in a category that is particularly at risk for certain deficiencies.
Make sure to check us out at VINA for more health info and tips on leading a healthy life. And check out our prebiotic sodas, which are packed with vitamins and minerals to offer you a healthy alternative to soda.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies may be common, but they don’t have to affect you and your loved ones. By making a few easy and practical changes to your diet and lifestyle, like sipping on the occasional can of VINA, you can help prevent nutrient deficiency from causing problems in your life.