When struggling to get the nutrients, you may feel like your diet needs to be completely revamped. But that’s not necessarily the case, nutrition experts say. You can still reach your nutrition goals with minor adjustments, like adding fish or taking a vitamin supplement.
Here are the most common nutrient deficiencies that are often overlooked and what you need to combat them.
Iron is an essential nutrient that your body needs for most physical activities. Iron is vital if you’re participating in exercise that requires more power and endurance, such as long-distance running, cycling, swimming or triathlons. But, too little iron can lead to anemia
Iron is found in red meat, shellfish, poultry, and leafy greens. To boost your iron levels, eat two to three servings of iron-fortified foods each day, experts recommend. In addition, those with iron-deficient anemia should check with their doctor to make sure they’re getting enough iron, especially if they’re women who are pregnant, have diabetes or a family history of iron deficiency.
According to the CDC, folate is an essential nutrient that helps the body make red blood cells and platelets, which help form healthy blood vessels. Unfortunately, we don’t make as much folate as we age, which can lead to a deficiency. Folate supplements are typically recommended for people over 70, but there’s no specific age limit for those with iron deficiency anemia.
Like iron, zinc is an essential nutrient for your muscles, but you don’t have to be old or at risk for anemia to be deficient. Zinc is found in lean meats, nuts, dairy, eggs, and beans. Dairy and eggs too contain zinc. Instead of getting zinc in supplements, try getting an extra serving of meat, including lean beef and poultry, a good mineral source, and some nuts, like almonds, which are also rich in zinc.
Calcium is another essential nutrient that needs to be in your diet. The maximum amount of calcium your body can absorb from food depends on how much you weigh and how quickly your kidneys can remove the calcium. The best way to ensure you’re getting enough calcium is to choose foods rich in calcium, like dark leafy greens and dark chocolate. If you’re not a big fan of meat, try increasing your calcium-rich plant foods, such as beans, lentils, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, whole-grain cereal, and soybeans.
Some people are more sensitive to magnesium, which is found in some legumes and grains. Other people don’t absorb magnesium as well as they should. And because magnesium helps with several bodily functions, you may be deficient without even realizing it.
In addition to iron and zinc, magnesium is also essential for pregnant women and breastfeeding, and it may help prevent or treat fatigue. But, the health department advises that too much magnesium can lead to low blood pressure and nausea.
- Vitamin D
It’s not that surprising that vitamin D is a nutrient everyone needs. You need vitamin D to absorb calcium, and many individuals who don’t get enough of the vitamin may also have too much calcium in their blood.
You can get vitamin D from foods such as milk and fish. But many people — particularly those in cold regions — don’t get enough vitamin D from these foods. So instead, they should opt for vitamin D-fortified beverages, such as milk and orange juice.
- Vitamin K
Vitamin K is essential for healthy blood clotting and promoting bone growth. A healthy level of vitamin K can protect against certain diseases, including coronary artery disease and some types of cancer.
Most people get enough vitamin K from leafy green vegetables and some dairy, but if you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, you may not get enough. Your doctor can help you determine whether your diet is low in vitamin K or whether a vitamin K supplement is needed.
- Vitamin B6
B vitamins are an important group of nutrients necessary for the body to convert food into energy. They also play an essential role in brain development and maintain a healthy heart and digestive functions.
As with vitamins C and E, your body can’t make all the B vitamins it needs on its own. So, it’s important to get enough of each one. B6 is one such vitamin that you don’t generally get from food, so you should aim to add it to your diet.
- Vitamin C
Most adults get the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. But if you want to boost your intake, consider eating more fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits and tropical fruits, and more cruciferous and dark green vegetables, like kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, which are good sources of vitamin C.
Iodine is required to make thyroid hormones, including T4 and T3. However, because thyroid issues are common in the United States, you may not get enough iodine in your diet. Iodine is also a component of bromides and iodized table salt. These last two are two different types of iodine, but most people get both.
While you probably already know you need to get enough selenium in your diet, many people don’t get enough. Iodine is one mineral that can help meet your selenium needs, but if you have trouble eating enough selenium-rich foods, consider taking a supplement.
The CDC notes that an international study has shown that some selenium deficiency disorders, including pernicious anemia, occur in people who get little to no selenium from their diets.
The good news is that most people get enough health-boosting vitamins and minerals in their diets. However, if you don’t, a nutrient supplement may be necessary to ensure you get enough of the nutrient you need.