Top 7 Common Nutrient Deficiencies
You need a lot of nutrients to maintain good health. You can get most of them from real foods but thanks to our modern diets, many of us end up with deficiencies of essential nutrients.
Hop on to find out the 7 common nutrient deficiencies
Iron is an important mineral because it is the main component of red blood cells. It binds with hemoglobin that performs the task of transportation of oxygen to cells.
Dietary iron is of two types:
Heme iron– Found in animal foods and red meat. It is easy to absorb
Non-heme iron– Found in both animal and plant foods. Not easy to absorb.
Deficiency of iron is the most common one in the world. It affects 25 percent of the people worldwide. 47 percent of the preschool children are deficient in iron. 30 percent of menstruating women are deficient in iron as they lose blood every month. About 42 percent of pregnant women can also suffer from deficiency of iron. Vegetarians and vegans also have an increased risk of iron deficiency.
Deficiency of iron leads to anemia. The red blood cells count gets reduced and the blood is less able to transport oxygen properly. Signs of anemia are weakness, tiredness, poor immunity and impaired brain function.
Food sources of heme iron:
- Red meat
- Organ meat
- Fish such as sardines
Food sources of non-heme iron:
- Seeds of pumpkin and squash, sesame seeds
- Greens like spinach, broccoli and kale
Moreover, eating foods rich in vitamin C improves iron absorption.
2) Deficiency of iodine
Iodine deficiency is a common nutrient deficiency and affects 1/3rd of the worl’d population. Iodine is a mineral that is essential for normal functioning of thyroid gland.
One of the most common symptom of iodine deficiency is goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland). Other signs are weight gain, increased heart rate and shortness of breath. Severe deficiency can affect children, which includes mental retardation and abnormal development.
Food sources of iodine
In India, iodine is added to the salt. So, don’t forget to buy iodized salt!
3) Deficiency of vitamin D
Vitamin D or the sunshine vitamin is produced by the body when exposed to sunlight. People living away from the equator are generally more susceptible to be deficient in this vitamin due to less sun exposure.
The signs of vitamin D deficiency are subtle and may take years together to develop. Adults may have muscle weakness, loss of bone and an increased risk of fractures. In children, it shows up as rickets(soft bones) and delay in growth.
Food sources of vitamin D:
- Egg yolks
- Cod liver oil
- Fatty fish
The sad part is that it is difficult to get the needed vitamin D through diet alone. People who are really deficient should take supplements and increase their sun exposure.
4) Vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 is required for formation of blood, function of brain and nerves. Each cell of the body requires vitamin B12 to function properly. It is very important for the body but the body can’t produce it on its own, so we need to get it from food or supplements.
Vitamin B12 is found in animal foods alone. People who don’t eat animal products (vegans and vegetarians) have an elevated risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Deficiency of the vitamin causes blood disorder and impaired brain function.
Food sources of vitamin B12 are:
- Organ meat
5) Deficiency of calcium
Calcium is an important mineral for the body. It maintains bone health and is crucial during growth years. Without calcium, the functioning of the heart, muscles and nerves would not be possible.
The lack of calcium in diet results in the release of calcium from bones. That is why osteoporosis is the common symptom of calcium deficiency in which bones become soft and fragile. This usually happens in adults. In children the deficiency takes the form of rickets.
Food sources of calcium:
- Boned fish
- Dark green veggies
Those who don’t get enough calcium from their die need to take calcium supplements.
6) Deficiency of vitamin A
Vitamin A is needed for the health of teeth, bones, skin and cell membranes. It also has a role to play in vision.
The deficiency of the vitamin can lead to both temporary and permanent eye damage and even blindness. It can affect immunity too.
Food sources of the vitamin A:
- Organ meat
- Fish liver oil
- Sweet potatoes
- Dark leafy greens
However, consuming very large quantities of vitamin A can be detrimental to health.
7) Deficiency of magnesium
Magnesium is a mineral that plays a key role in 300+ enzyme reactions.
Magnesium deficiency is linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome and osteoporosis. Signs of severe magnesium deficiency are muscle cramps, abnormal heart rhythm, fatigue, restless leg syndrome and migraines. Long term symptoms are high BP and insulin resistance.
Food sources of magnesium:
- Whole grains
- Leafy, green vegetables
- Dark chocolate
So, these were the common nutrient deficiencies!
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