Vitamin, and mineral deficiencies are more common than most may realize, and it’s not just the ones that everyone has been talking about like vitamin D, omega-3 fish oils or fiber. What you may not realize, is there are other deficiencies that are just as common and can have quite a negative affect on your health, especially your immune functioning, your ability to sleep soundly or metabolize your food. Five big ones include magnesium, zinc, iron, selenium and B12.
For example, low magnesium has been linked to problems with asthma, constipation, poor sleep, migraines, restless leg syndrome and muscle pain. While selenium deficiency can show up with muscle soreness, low iron can be associated with profound fatigue, poor sleep, tongue soreness, anxiety and depression, heartburn and muscle pain. Deficiency in B12 can also lead to fatigue, anxiety and depression, memory loss, and neuropathies. Symptoms of zinc deficiency can be poor wound healing, persistent sores in the mouth, rashes, mental fatigue, and night blindness.
Four reasons you could be at risk and what you can do about it:
- You eat too many refined foods and sugars which not only lack these nutrients but also contain products that can prevent there absorption and metabolism.
Rx: Cut out refined foods and sugars. Eat more vegetables and fruits (especially dark leafy greens), fatty fish, nuts and seeds, grass-fed beef, and grains like quinoa or amaranth.
- You eat too many grains that though may give you fiber, actually prevent nutrient absorption when eaten in high consumption and too many nuts, seed or legumes can have the same effect.
Rx: Minimize your grains to gluten-free grains and keep your portions to no bigger than the palm of your hand once a day. Alternate your carbohydrate intake of grains and legumes, so that you are not eating both on the same day. Try to stick to a small handful of nuts or seeds when eating them.
- You lack a healthy microbiome or naturally occurring bacteria that normally live in your gut helping you digest and absorb nutrients while helping eliminate the products that don’t serve you. Instead, you have an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria that can lead to GI complaints and prevent adequate absorption of nutrients.
Rx: Replenish the microbiome by adding foods that have probiotic and prebiotic qualities or taking a probiotic supplement. These fermented foods include kefir, miso, kimchi, or sauerkraut for example.
- You eat fruits and vegetables that are lacking in nutrients because they are grown in nutrient deficient soil.
Rx: Try to eat more organic foods, hopefully grown by your local farmers who will tend to work with richer soils.
What are the best food sources of these nutrients?
- Magnesium: Dark leafy greens (especially spinach), fish (like mackerel or halibut), dark chocolate, pumpkin or squash seeds, brown rice, beans and lentils
- Selenium: Salmon, brazil nuts, turkey, shitake mushrooms, lamb, seafood (shrimp, halibut, cod), sunflower seeds and egg yolks. Iron: (iron better absorbed when eaten with vitamin C—so good to eat with fruit like oranges): egg yolks, fatty fish/seafood (sardines, tuna, muscles), grass-fed beef, liver, kidney or heart, lamb, nuts (cashews, brazil nuts, walnuts), dark leafy greens (spinach), lentils, beans, figs and dates.
- B12: Grass-fed beef, liver, and salmon
- Zinc: Pumpkin or squash seeds, dark chocolate, garlic, and sesame seeds