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The Most Common Nutrient Deficiencies and How to Avoid Them

There are so many vitamins and minerals that the body utilizes that it can feel almost impossible to consume all the ones you need.  The typical American diet lacks quite a few essential nutrients, and these deficiencies take their toll on the body over time. So today, we’re looking at the most common nutrient deficiencies among Americans and what you can to do prevent and correct them.

Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiencies are very common among menstruating women, children, and athletes. However, anyone can become iron deficient without a nutritious diet. Iron is an important part of the red blood cells because it helps make hemoglobin to transport oxygen to the body’s cells.

Heme iron is mostly contained in red meat, while non-heme iron is also found in plant-based foods. People who are iron deficient are at risk of developing anemia, which commonly causes symptoms of fatigue and weakness. To get more iron in your daily diet, you can eat more red meat, organ meat, shellfish, and sardines. Plant-based sources of iron include kidney beans, pumpkin seeds, broccoli, and spinach.

Photo credit: BrokenSphere via WikiMedia Commons

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vegetarians and vegans often struggle with getting enough vitamin B12 in their diets because this vitamin is mostly found in animal foods. Elderly adults are also likely to become deficient in vitamin B12 because absorption of this vitamin tends to decrease with age. Vitamin B12 is important to maintain proper brain functioning and homocysteine levels.

Plant-based sources of vitamin B12 are nori seaweed and tempeh. However, supplementation with vitamin B12 capsules is often recommended to vegans, in particular. If you do eat meat, shellfish, organ meat, eggs, and whole milk are all good ways to get your daily vitamin B12.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Many people in American are deficient in vitamin D, especially individuals who live in cold and cloudy climates. That’s because vitamin D is naturally produced in the body when it’s exposed to sunlight.

If you are deficient in this vitamin, you run the risk of bone fractures, muscle weakness, and bone loss. Research has also made connections between healthy levels of vitamin D and immune system functioning. Aside from getting outside more often, you can increase your vitamin D intake by consuming fatty fish, cod liver oil, egg yolks, and milk that’s been fortified with vitamin D.

Photo credit: David Whelan via Flickr

Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium is important for maintaining strong bones and teeth, as well as proper enzyme functioning. This is a very common deficiency among Americans, and it has been connected to a wide variety of disorders. Restless leg syndrome, migraines, muscle cramps, and high blood pressure are just a few of the conditions that have been studied in regards to magnesium intake.

Fortunately, you can get the magnesium your body needs through many different foods. Leafy green vegetables, almonds, oats, and dark chocolate are all delicious ways to consume more magnesium.

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Deficiency

Something else that many Americans are deficient in is omega-3 fatty acids. This is largely because the average American’s diet doesn’t contain as much fish when compared to diets in many other countries. Omega-3 fatty acids support good brain functioning and have anti-inflammatory effects in the body.

Oily fish, such as salmon, is packed with healthy and beneficial omega-3s. You can also get this nutrient through soy, walnuts, Brussels sprouts, chia seeds, and marine protein supplements.

Photo credit: Ján Sokoly via Flickr

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