If you’re reading this, it’s a good time to stop and ask yourself, “Am I getting enough nutrients out of my diet?” Chances are, you may not know the answer. But you’re not alone—millions of people are deficient in several vitamins or minerals and don’t realize it!
Nutritional deficiency is linked to a host of health problems, so it’s important to be mindful about your daily intake of vitamins and minerals. Here are five of the most commonly forgotten micronutrients along with foods that’ll help you catch up on your daily requirements.
Calcium is the main mineral responsible for our bone health. Women, in particular, are at risk for developing osteoporosis in their later years, especially if their diet is low in calcium. Children also need to maintain sufficient calcium levels because their skeletal systems are still actively growing. Unfortunately, people of all ages may become calcium deficient since many snacky, processed foods are designed to be more appealing than healthier choices.
We frequently hear that a glass of milk will build strong bones. This is not necessarily true; many non-dairy foods, particularly leafy green vegetables like kale and collard greens, are actually much better sources of calcium than milk. Additionally, citrus fruits like oranges or fortified orange juice can help you meet daily calcium requirements. They make a great side to your breakfast and can add a bit of natural sweetness to your kid’s lunch box. Fish and broccoli also provide calcium and can make a delicious dish the whole family will enjoy.
2. Folate (B9)
Folate is a naturally occurring B vitamin. Its synthetic version, folic acid, is what’s commonly listed on packaged foods. This vitamin is essential for maintaining healthy red blood cells as well as helping to keep every cell in your body functioning at its best. Pregnant women are advised to increase their intake of folate before and during their first trimester because it offers protection against birth defects.
The best way to ensure you’re getting enough folate is by stocking your fridge with citrus fruits and vegetables, especially asparagus, brussels sprouts and leafy greens like spinach (you’ll also be getting some of the calcium you need in the process!). However, it’s no secret that most people fall short of the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. That’s why many packaged foods like bread, rice, pasta and cereal are now fortified with folic acid.
Iron is essential to maintaining optimal health. This mineral transports oxygen to every cell throughout your body via your red blood cells. People with an iron deficiency can become anemic, which leads to low energy and other health issues. Iron deficiency can also make it difficult to concentrate because your brain isn’t getting the oxygen it needs.
The form of iron that’s most easily absorbed by your body is found in meat, fish and poultry. To get the most iron from your diet, you’ll want to choose beef, turkey, pork, shrimp or tuna. However, iron can also be found in plant sources. The type of iron found in vegetables like spinach and broccoli, fruits like strawberries and figs or beans and tofu is not as easily absorbed by the body but can still help you reach your daily recommended intake. A mix of both meat- and plant-based sources of iron are ideal for balanced health.
Iodine plays an important role in thyroid hormone production, which influences your metabolism. Iodine also supports healthy brain function and helps fetuses and children develop their cognitive abilities. Iodine deficiency has been linked to obesity, brain fog and stunted growth in children.
Getting your daily dose of iodine should be no problem if you love sushi and fish. Cod, tuna, shrimp and even seaweed are great natural sources of iodine. Iodized salt is also common, providing an easy way to add iodine to meals.
5. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is important to maintain healthy blood and nerve cells. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to fatigue, weakness, weight loss and nerve problems.
Unfortunately, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, there’s some bad news—vitamin B12 is most often found in animal products. For this reason, people with dietary restrictions are most at risk for being vitamin B12 deficient. Thankfully, you can get your daily dose through vitamin B12 supplements or foods like cereal that have been fortified with it. If you don’t have dietary restrictions, your best natural sources of vitamin B12 are beef, eggs, chicken, fish and milk.
You don’t want to wait until you develop symptoms of nutritional deficiencies to take action. By the time you notice something’s wrong, a lack of nutrients might have already taken its toll on your health. It’s better to take a closer look at your diet and find out where you might be lacking in terms of vitamins and minerals now, so you can avoid the problems deficiencies bring about.