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Top five nutrient deficiencies

Sarah Kelsey is a lifestyle writer, editor and spokesperson based in Toronto. She was the editor of AOL/The Huffington Post Canada’s StyleList, Style and Living sites. Today, she's a freelancer writing for some of North America’s top pub...

Need more of these nutrients?

Preventing nutrient deficiencies is one of the most important things we can do to improve our health. But recent research shows, certain deficiencies are not only common, they're also on the rise. Read on for the top five nutrient deficiences and how to get more these key nutrients in your diet.

Woman Drinking Milk

Calcium

The problem: Research indicates that the average American only gets 40 to 50 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of calcium.

Why it matters: If you fall short of your daily dose of calcium, you increase your risk of developing osteoporosis, depression, rickets, tooth decay, insomnia, brittle nails and menstrual problems.

How to get more in your diet: By eating foods rich in calcium, like dairy products or leafy greens, you should be able to meet your RDA. You may also want to talk to your doctor about supplementation.

(How much calcium do women really need?)

Vitamin D

The problem: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently reported that more than 60 percent of all Americans don't get enough of vitamin D on a daily basis.

Why it matters: Recent research shows getting your daily dose of vitamin D may stave off osteoporosis, depression, cancer and other ailments. What's more, the sun provides us with our biggest dose of this important nutrient, so depending on where you live or how many hours of sunshine you see in a day, you could be getting even less of the nutrient than you think.

How to get more in your diet: Talk to your doctor about supplementation and spend 15 minutes every day outside in the sun without sunscreen (some of the chemicals in sunscreen block the body's vitamin D absorption powers).

(Are you at risk of a vitamin D deficiency?)

Folic Acid

The problem: Most people only get 60 percent of the RDA of folic acid and a recent study shows almost all seniors are 100 percent deficient in this important nutrient.

Why it matters: On top of preventing neural tube defects, adequate folic acid can decrease your risk of developing anemia or even insomnia. A shortfall of folic acid can cause a loss of appetite, headaches, weakness and apathy.

How to get more in your diet: Take a supplement (especially if you're pregnant) and eat foods high in the nutrient (like leafy greens and beans).

(The importance of folic acid for women)

Magnesium

The problem: Almost 85 percent of North Americans don't get their daily dose of magnesium.

Why it matters: Because magnesium helps maintain the health and functioning of the nervous system, being deficient can cause everything from muscle spasms and weakness to heart attacks and hyperactivity.

How to get more in your diet: Eat lots of magnesium-rich foods, such as nuts and seeds, and talk to your doctor about supplementation.

(Why you need magnesium)

Iron

The problem: Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency seen by doctors today. Women are especially susceptible to the problem.

Why it matters: Iron is an energy-inducing nutrient that gives you stamina to get through the day. It also helps your body's muscles and nervous system function properly. Without it, you can develop a whole host of problems including anemia, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, arthritis, depression and digestive problems.

How to get more in your diet: Eat iron-rich foods like lean beef, dark turkey meat and sardines. Also, be sure to eat lots of leafy greens and beans. If you suspect you are anemic, talk to your doctor about supplementation.

(Are you getting enough iron?)

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