Iron isn’t the only thing missing from your diet. (Photo: Amanda Chan/Yahoo)
If you’re an overall healthy eater, you’re probably not overly concerned about getting “enough” nutrients. But the truth is, even the most health-minded among us can be at risk for nutrient deficiencies (athletes, for instance, may be low in magnesium because they lose the mineral through sweat).
But even if you were deficient in a nutrient, would you even know the signs or how to get more of it? Below, find nine nutrient you may not be getting enough of — and how to remedy the situation.
Symptoms: “A B12 deficiency could take years to appear as a deficiency but can present itself via weakness, pale skin, rapid heartbeat, sore tongue, easy bruising, upset stomach, diarrhea or constipation,” Kristin Kirkpatrick, RD, the manager of nutrition services at Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, tells Yaoo Health.
How you got it: You went vegan or meatless or you have digestive diseases, says Ilyse Schapiro, an RD practicing in the greater New York City area. Other ways you can become deficient: You’re a heavy drinker or use antacids a lot. Older people are more prone to B12 deficiencies, as well.
How to fix it: “If you aren’t a vegetarian, incorporate meat, chicken, fish and seafood, milk, and yogurt,” Schapiro tells Yahoo Health. “Vegan sources include: non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast, meat substitutes, and fortified cereals.”
Symptoms: Lacking energy, being easily annoyed, or feeling sort of off, says Kirkpatrick. (Read more about the silent epidemic of magnesium deficiencies here.)
How you got it: Magnesium deficiency impacts about 50 percent of the population, and the mineral is required for more than 300 reactions in the body including blood pressure regulation, blood sugar regulation, and energy metabolism. Stress, birth control pills, diuretics, drinking more than seven alcoholic drinks per week, carbonated beverages, and losses through sweat during exercise can all cause deficiency.
How to fix it: Include the following foods in your diet: nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, fish, soybeans, avocado, bananas, dark chocolate, whole grains, and legumes. “Basically, get off the processed foods and start eating a sound diet high in plants and lean-based proteins,” says Kirkpatrick.
Symptoms: Decreased skin health, bone pain, muscle weakness, and cognitive impairment, says Kirkpatrick. “With prolonged deficiency, your bones can get soft,” adds Schapiro.
How you got it: Vitamin D is not readily available in the food supply. And by wearing ultraviolet-ray-blocking sunscreen, your body may not get enough sunlight to make adequate amounts of the vitamin, says Schapiro. But people over 40, strict vegans, people with dairy intolerances, people with dark skin (which protects the body from the sun), or obesity can also put you at risk. Even more: “Having a digestive tract issue can compromise the body’s ability to metabolize vitamin D,” says Kirkpatrick.
How to fix it: Incorporate mushrooms; three servings per day of fortified milk, yogurt and/or cereal; and fatty fish, like salmon or tuna, twice a week. Also, spend 15 to 20 minutes a day in the sun without sunscreen, suggests Schapiro. And consider a supplement — most people need it. Just make sure to talk with your physician about getting your D status tested before mega-dosing, reminds Kirkpatrick.
Symptoms: Weakness, fatigue, muscle cramping, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, constipation, or irregular heartbeat.
How you got it: Athletes, beware! Dehydration and excessive sweating can leave you deficient if you’re not careful. So can starvation, consuming more than the recommended amount of alcohol, or taking diuretics, says Kirkpatrick.
How to fix it: Focus on foods high in potassium like bananas, white mushrooms, avocado, salmon, yogurt, acorn squash, apricots, oranges, tomato sauce, sweet potatoes, milk, dark leafy greens, or white beans.
Symptoms: Hair loss, hair thinning, loss of pigmentation, compromised immunity, fatigue, brittle nails, swollen tongue, craving ice, shortness of breath, cold hands and feet, and poor appetite.
How you got it: If you cut out meat or are a vegetarian, if you’re pregnant, or you are a woman of childbearing age, you could be at a greater risk.
How to fix it: Consume lean meat, poultry, fish, iron-fortified grains, beans, tofu, and dark leafy greens and, if recommended only by a physician, an iron supplement, says Kirkpatrick.
Symptoms: “Calcium is not only important for strong bones, but a deficiency can lead to a poor appetite, muscle cramps, fatigue and an abnormal heart rhythm,” says Schapiro.
How you got that way: You cut out dairy.
How to fix it: “If you can tolerate dairy, aim to have three servings of milk, yogurt, or cheese per day. Non-dairy sources of calcium include beans, tofu, broccoli, dark leafy greens, canned salmon, kale, almonds, calcium-fortified grains, and calcium-fortified non-dairy milks like almond, coconut, or soy milk,” says Schapiro.
Symptoms: Low energy, cavities, red bumps on the back of your arms, thyroid issues, and PMS.
How you got that way: You may have a liver disorder, are not getting enough fat, or have a fat malabsorptionproblem, says Schapiro.
How to fix it: “Dark green leafy vegetables, deep or bright colored fruits such as papayas or oranges, carrots, yellow vegetables (squash, pumpkin). Also, Vitamin A-fortified milk and cereals, liver, egg yolks, and fish liver oils,” says Schapiro.
Symptoms: Hair loss, diarrhea, impotence, eye and skin conditions, delayed wound healing, frequent infections, weight loss and loss of appetite, taste changes, and mental slowness, says Schapiro.
How you got that way: “You are an athlete or sweat a lot, you’re vegan or vegetarian. Also, underactive adrenal glands, thyroid, or an overly active parathyroid gland can lead to deficiencies. Certain medications such as anti-depressants, anti-inflammatory medications such as cortisone and prednisone, as well as diuretics can also lead to deficiencies,” says Schapiro.
How to fix it: Crab, lobster,oysters, wheat, oats, pumpkin seeds, eggs, milk, nuts, meat, and peas.
Symptoms: Fatigue, gray hair, swollen tongue, and mouth ulcers, says Schapiro. If you’re pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, folate deficiency could also cause neural tube defects in an unborn child, she adds.
How you got that way: You’re not eating enough fruits and vegetables.
How to fix it: Fortified cereals,leafy green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, Brussels sprouts, peas, citrus fruits, bananas and melons, eggs, beans and legumes, mushrooms, asparagus, poultry, pork, shellfish, and wheat bran, says Schapiro.
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