Let’s be honest: Chances are, you have some sort of nutritional deficiency. But with the vast array of vitamins and nutrients that your body needs, it seems overwhelming and nearly impossible to consume all of them. Yet, achieving this is exactly what you need to ward off health conditions like heart disease, cancer, and stroke. This becomes increasingly crucial as you age and become more susceptible to these illnesses.
Regardless of who you are, striving to obtain your full quota of essential vitamins and nutrients is crucial. It can be challenging to determine which ones should take precedence and which ones you might be deficient in. So let’s delve into some of the most common deficiencies, why they’re important, and how you can get more of them.
6 Key Vitamins and Nutrients You Need More Of
Many people are slacking off when it comes to Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, Omega-3, and folate. Why do these matter so much? Allow us to break it down for you.
Who would have thought Americans were so opposed to sunny weather? Yet, it seems to be the case since Vitamin D, which is primarily sourced from sunlight, is a nutrient that 41.6% of American adults are deficient in.
There are many reasons why people aren’t getting enough Vitamin D. It can be chalked up to spending too much time indoors, wearing layered clothes, habitually using sunscreen, or deliberately avoiding sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency is also more common amongst those with darker skin, high blood pressure, low levels of good cholesterol (HDL), having conditions like Crohn’s, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, kidney or liver disease, being overweight or elderly, or simply having a diet low in this vitamin.
No matter why it’s happening, not having enough Vitamin D can lead to aches in your bones, fractures, fatigue, and muscle pain or weakness. Here are a few foods that can boost your Vitamin D intake:
- Fatty fish
- Egg yolks
- Beef liver
- Vitamin D-fortified foods like milk (or plant-based alternatives), breakfast cereals, orange juice, and yogurt
If dietary sources are insufficient or if you have limited sun exposure, look to the benefits of Vitamin D supplements. There are two types to choose from: D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol.) Most people prefer D3 because it’s the same form that’s naturally produced by the body when skin is exposed to sunlight and it’s thought to be more effective at raising and maintaining overall Vitamin D levels. But if you’re following a plant-based diet, you might lean towards D2 instead. It’s derived from plant sources like fungi, making it a solid choice for vegetarians and vegans.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is pretty common, particularly for vegetarians and vegans, because it mainly comes from animal products. This vitamin is crucial for helping nerves communicate, warding off problems like numbness and balance issues. It’s also key in creating DNA, which is vital for growth and repairing skin tissue. Additionally, B12 is essential for producing red blood cells that transport oxygen all over your body. Lacking B12 can lead to megaloblastic anemia, a condition marked by extreme fatigue due to poor oxygen delivery.
To avoid Vitamin B12 deficiency, include foods like beef, pork, lamb, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products in your diet. For vegans, fortified plant-based milk and nutritional yeast are good options. Vitamin B12 supplements are primarily available in two forms: cyanocobalamin and methylcobalamin. Cyanocobalamin is often recommended because of its stability and affordability. However, older adults and individuals with specific neurological conditions or genetic variations may benefit more from methylcobalamin B12.
Iron is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the US, especially among menstruating, pregnant, or breastfeeding women. Iron deficiencies are also common in adults over 65, who often eat less, and in individuals with chronic conditions such as bone marrow or autoimmune disorders. Factors like gastrointestinal bleeding from ulcers, polyps, or colon cancer, blood loss from injuries or surgery, and regular blood donation can also lead to iron deficiencies.
Why should you care about getting enough iron? Because skimping on it can lead to anemia, impaired cognitive function, weakened immune system, heart problems, and pregnancy complications. To boost your iron levels, dive into foods like lentils, chickpeas, soybeans, red meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, watermelon, apples, and citrus, or consider an iron supplement. If you struggle with absorbing iron, supplements like heme iron polypeptide or iron bisglycinate might do the trick. If iron absorption is an issue for you, give carbonyl iron, ferrous gluconate, or iron bisglycinate a whirl. If you’re really low on iron, ferrous sulfate or ferrous fumarate might be your best bet.
Magnesium deficiency might pop up because of problems like impaired absorption from gastrointestinal diseases, alcoholism, diabetes, and insulin resistance. Certain medications, such as diuretics and proton pump inhibitors, or simply aging can also play a role. It’s concerning that these issues can prevent you from getting enough magnesium, especially since this mineral is so crucial for keeping your muscles and nerves in check, regulating blood sugar, and keeping blood pressure steady.
You can up your magnesium intake by eating more green leafy vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. If you’re looking for an extra magnesium kick, Magnesium Oxide, Citrate, and Glycinate can further help. Not only do these supplements bump up your magnesium levels, but they can also improve your sleep, relieve headaches, improve muscle comfort, and aid heart health.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Don’t be thrown off by the word “fatty”. Omega-3s are crucial for heart and brain health. Like many other nutrients, vegetarians, vegans, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and the elderly often find themselves short on omega-3s. If you have a condition that affects fat absorption, like Crohn’s disease and cystic fibrosis, or if you’ve undergone bariatric surgery, getting enough Omega-3s from what you eat can also be a challenge.
Omega-3 supplements come in various forms that cater to different dietary preferences and health needs. The main types can be supplied from fish, krill, algal, flaxseed, or plant-based oils. These can be taken in a tablet or capsule and luckily, you don’t even have to taste the oils to experience their health benefits.
What causes a folate deficiency? Common culprits include gastrointestinal disorders that impair folate absorption, excessive alcohol consumption, increased folate needs during pregnancy and breastfeeding, medications interfering with folate absorption or utilization, certain medical conditions like kidney disease or cancer, and genetic variations like kidney dialysis and liver disease.
A folate deficiency can trigger a cascade of health concerns, ranging from anemia and heightened risk of cardiovascular disease to complications during pregnancy, digestive disturbances, and even mental health challenges. You can get more folate by eating leafy greens, fruits, nuts, and beans. But if you’re considering supplements, the main types are folic acid and methylfolate. Folic acid is often recommended for women of childbearing age. Methylfolate is favored for individuals with genetic variations affecting folate metabolism, offering better absorption and tolerance for those with absorption concerns or issues related to folic acid metabolism.
Consider This Before Adding Supplements to Your Health Routine
There are numerous benefits of incorporating Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, Omega-3, and folate supplements into your life. However, it’s essential to consult with your doctor to identify your specific situation and determine the best options for you. While supplements generally have few known side effects, seeking professional advice before starting any new regimen is prudent. If you’re unsure about your specific deficiencies, your primary care physician can recommend a blood test for vitamins and minerals deficiencies. They can also provide tailored guidance to ensure you reap the maximum benefits from incorporating these supplements into your daily routine.