It’s impossible to reach the top of your game if you’re constantly running your body on empty. If you’re like most women, unfortunately, you have at least one of the seven following deficiencies that will someday catch up with your health.
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According to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency is the “most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world.” If you’re iron deficient, you may feel vaguely tired or have full-blown anemia, which can surface as extreme fatigue, generalized health problems and even premature death.
How to supplement: Take a multivitamin with iron, or eat iron-rich foods like beef, tofu, broccoli or dried apricots to get your recommended 15-18 mg of iron per day.
An estimated 30 million Americans are chronically sleep-deprived. The Mayo Clinic recommends that adults sleep seven to eight hours per night to prevent illness, dementia and even early mortality. Unfortunately, all too many of us are functioning with six hours or less per night, which will eventually catch up with and cause problems for our body systems.
How to supplement: Go to bed on time, no matter how busy you are. If you have difficulty falling asleep, exercise during the day to reset your body clock. Turn off your electronic devices an hour before you go to bed, as well.
Our bodies don’t just run on food and water. In actuality, feeling the sun on your skin is very important for both physical and mental health. Sunshine is what helps our bodies produce vitamin D, which is a vital nutrient for bone health and cancer prevention. Unfortunately, most Americans are vitamin D deficient due to lack of sunshine — especially during cold winter months.
How to supplement: Expose your legs and arms to 10 to 15 minutes of sun each day, preferably when the sun isn’t blazing hot. Just 10 minutes is enough to produce the vitamin D your body needs.
Two out of three Americans do not consume the recommended 320-420 mg of magnesium per day. It’s really a shame, too, since magnesium plays a vital role in the body’s regulation of hormones, heart rate, blood pressure and even stress. Magnesium deficiency may be to blame if you have difficulty with painful periods, PMS symptoms, infertility and weight fluctuations.
How to supplement: Soak in an Epsom salt bath to draw magnesium into your body through your skin. You can also consume magnesium by eating leafy greens, dark chocolate and sunflower seeds.
If you’re pregnant or think you might try to get pregnant, you need to pay special attention to your folic acid intake. Deficiencies in folic acid can put your baby at risk for very serious birth defects if you become pregnant. Researchers estimate that 50 to 70 percent of neural tube defects are preventable if women just take a folic acid supplement a month before conception and during the first trimester.
How to supplement: Pregnant women — and all women of childbearing age — should consider taking a prenatal vitamin with 400-1,000 mcg of folic acid per day. You can also look for it in enriched cereals, spinach, asparagus and citrus.
Steps per day
You’ve probably heard the recommendation to take 10,000 steps per day for weight loss and general fitness. Even though the actual recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control calls for only 150 minutes of activity per week or 8,000 steps per day, most Americans are woefully deficient in their step counts. We average closer to 5,800 steps per day, which puts us at risk for cardiovascular disease and obesity.
How to supplement: Stand up and stretch your legs during the work day. Even an extra 10-minute walk at lunch will nudge you closer to your recommended activity levels.
Gut troubles are no fun, but many Americans grapple with constipation and bloating caused by fiber-deficient diets. Fiber is also linked to reducing the risks of diabetes and obesity over time, but the majority of Americans consume less than half of the recommended 25-38 grams per day.
How to supplement: Reduce your meat and processed food intake, while upping your consumption of plant-based foods like celery, whole-grain bread and romaine lettuce. A bowl full of bran cereal won’t hurt, either.