Eating a healthy and balanced diet that includes mostly whole, unprocessed foods is the best way to ensure your body is getting all the vitamins and minerals it needs to function optimally. However, in our modern times of fast and processed foods, some of us may find ourselves suffering from common nutrient deficiencies that can have dire consequences to our health and wellness.
An estimated 80% of Americans are deficient in this mineral. It plays an important role in detoxifying the body and minimizing the effects of environmental damage. It can also help prevent heart disease, strokes, constipation, fibromyalgia and migraine headaches.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiencies can include muscle spams and cramps. According to Wellness Mama, other symptoms to look out for are anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, sleep disturbances and low energy levels.
Whole food sources of magnesium include dark leafy greens such as spinach or chard, salmon, avocados, bananas, pumpkin seeds and gloriously delicious dark chocolate!
We actually don't have much of a calcium deficiency in our diets. We do however lack co-factors that should be consumed with calcium to help it work efficiently, such as vitamin D, K2 and magnesium. For example, vitamin K2 shuttles calcium from places where it shouldn't be, such as your arteries, and moves them to where they need to be, like your bones and teeth. Even Dr. Axe agrees, and cites a study by the University of Aberdeen that shows a 30% increase in heart attack risk from folks who take calcium supplements.
Signs of calcium deficiency include having brittle bones and being prone to fractures, problems with blood clotting, weakness and fatigue, high blood pressure and heart arrhythmia's.
Whole food sources of calcium include dairy, sardines, kale, broccoli, watercress, bok choy, mustard greens, okra and almonds.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that assists in the formation of red blood cells, and protects against free radical damage that can lead to heart disease. It helps your body maintain stores of vitamins A and K, selenium and iron. It's also crucial for brain health, and may delay the loss of cognitive function in those suffering with Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Weil also notes that it can also help prevent cancer, and is necessary for the muscle maintenance.
Symptoms of vitamin E deficiency, although very rare in humans, can include oily stools, diarrhea, neuromuscular issue such as muscle weakness or loss of muscle mass, and abnormal eye movements.
Whole food sources of vitamin E include spinach, kale, almonds, sunflower seeds, legumes, shrimp, butternut squash, avocados and mangoes.
To reap the benefits of vitamin E, stay away from synthetic supplements, which can be identified by the "dl-" form of vitamin E on the bottle. Naturally derived vitamin E is listed as the "d-" form, as in d-alpha-tocopherol.
Iron is essential to life, and is responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood. It's also critical to muscle, brain and energy function. Without iron, all your cells would die. I think you know what happens after that!
Symptoms of iron deficiency include anemia, fatigue, decreased immunity, general weakness and poor concentration.
Whole food sources of iron include red meat and beef liver, navy and black beans, egg yolks, swiss chard, artichokes and prunes.
You may be familiar with vitamin B12 as an energy or weight loss vitamin, especially if you've ever been on the receiving end of the injectable shots! B12 plays a few different vital roles in the body, including DNA synthesis, red blood cell formation, and energy production. It's also responsible for myelin formation, which is a sheath that wraps around and protects your nerves.
Symptoms of B12 deficiency, as noted by Medical News Today, include fatigue, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, tingling in fingers or toes, confusion, general muscle weakness and forgetfulness.
Whole food sources of B12 include beef, pork, lamb, poultry, scallops, shrimp, salmon and eggs. All natural food sources of B12 come from animals, period. Vegans will require fortified foods, supplementation, or B12 shots.
Vitamin D is actually a hormone that your skin produces after its been exposed to direct sunlight. According to Dr. Mercola, vitamin D can slash cancer risk by as much as 60%, and reduce the risk of other health conditions, such as type-2 diabetes, Alzheimer's, chronic low-grade inflammation and depression that stems from seasonal affective disorder. Vitamin D is also important for bone health and preventing osteoporosis.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include achy bones, feeling depressed, poor immune function, and head sweating.
If you have darker skin that can't easily absorb sunlight or are a heavy user of sunscreen lotions, this has a negative impact on your vitamin D levels.
The best source of vitamin D is the sun! However, that is not always possible or practical, so supplementation is the only true method for maintaining adequate vitamin D levels. However, please note that vitamin D toxicity is directly related to a deficiency in vitamin K. Many supplements exist that combine the two together for this very reason.
Whole food sources of vitamin D are extremely limited in nature, but include fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel. It's also found in egg yolks.
Vitamin K is known the "forgotten vitamin," but it's critical to maintaining good health!
Whole Foods Come First
Nature has conveniently and neatly packed all the vitamins and minerals that are meant to work synergistically together into each little apple or head of broccoli. This is the main reason why whole foods work much better than synthetic, isolated supplements in supporting and maintaining health!