The 4 Most Common Micronutrient Deficiencies (and how to handle them)

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Whether you’re someone who is just now entering the world of nutrition or you’re a seasoned pro who counts every single calorie, chances are you should be paying more attention to nutrient deficiencies.

Often times in the fitness and nutrition community, everyone talks about protein, carbs, and fats while completely ignoring micronutrients. In reality, this just goes to show how much misinformation there is out there. Because once you realize how vital certain nutrients are to the proper functioning of your body, you just have to make them a priority.

And while getting the adequate amount of nutrition is possible from a balanced diet, the modern-day Western diet is especially low in a few key nutrients.

Today, we’re going to talk about the five most common nutrients deficiencies that people all over the world are suffering from – and of course, we’re going to talk about how to handle them.

Let’s get started with, by far, the most common nutrient deficiency in the world.

#1 – Iron Deficiency

Iron is an essential mineral that’s a vital part of red blood cells, in which it serves the purpose of binding and transporting oxygen to the cells.

Iron deficiency is extremely common, especially in young women, children, and those following a vegetarian/vegan diet. It affects more than a quarter of all people worldwide. It’s one of the causes of anemia, chronic fatigue, a weak immune system, and even impaired brain function.

There are two types of dietary iron:

Heme iron:
Heme iron is very well absorbed by the body, and it’s found in many animal foods – particularly red meat.

Non-heme iron:
This type of iron is more common since it’s found in both animal and plant foods. That being said, it’s not as easily absorbed as heme iron.

One of the biggest problems with iron deficiencies is that they’re really common in kids – almost half of preschool children suffer (mostly unknowingly) from a lack of iron in their diet. Unless their diets are focused toward more iron-rich and iron-fortified foods, most children are very likely to lack iron.

Another more common cause of the iron deficiency is found in young women – especially during pregnancy. And of course, vegetarians and vegans risk this deficiency because they only consume non-heme iron.

Here are some of the best sources of dietary iron:

Heme iron:

  1.  Red meat. 100 grams of ground beef can amount of almost 40 percent of your required daily intake.
  2. Oysters, shellfish, clams, mussels, sardines. Most fish products.

Non-heme iron:

  1. Dark and leafy greens! Broccoli, spinach, kale – all rich in iron.
  2. Seeds. Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, squad seeds.
  3. Beans. 100 grams of cooked beans equates to a third of your daily iron requirements.

Fact: You shouldn’t supplement with iron if you’re getting enough. But if you’re not, supplementing is an easier option. Keep in mind that vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron. Oranges, bell papers, and other vitamin C-rich foods can help you maximize your iron absorption.

#2 – Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D travels through your bloodstream and into your cells, essentially carrying information about whether a gene should turn on or off. Nearly all the cells in your body have a receptor for this vitamin.

Vitamin D’s most famous source is the sun! Most specifically, it’s produced when cholesterol (in your skin) is exposed to sunlight. Studies have shown that people who live far from the equator are likely to be deficient in vitamin D and therefore, have to make an extra effort to include more of it in their diet.

In the US, over 40 percent of people are deficient in vitamin D. Even more so in older adults and people with darker skin, because their skin produces less vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.

A major issue with this deficiency is that people often don’t realize they have it – the symptoms are super subtle, and actually develop over the course of months and years. The more time you spend deficient in vitamin D, the more likely you are to experience muscle weakness, impaired immune system function, and a higher risk of bone fractures.

In reality, not a lot of foods contain significant amounts of vitamin D.

Here are some of the few that do:

  1. Egg yolks. One egg yolk from a large egg can contain up to 10 percent of your daily vitamin D requirement.
  2. Fatty fish. Sardines, salmon, and mackerel are very rich in vitamin D. They should be your go-to option since 100g of serving of cooked salmon can provide you with all the vitamin D you need for the day.
  3. Cod liver oil. Not famous, but chock-full of vitamin D.

#3 – Iodine Deficiency

Iodine is an absolutely essential mineral when it comes to optimal and productive thyroid function (and the production of thyroid hormones.)

Thyroid hormones play a major role in a variety of bodily processes – such as your physical growth, your brain development, and the regulation of your metabolic rate.

But regardless of how important it is, it’s still one of the most common deficiencies in the world. It affects nearly a third of the world’s population!

The most common symptom of this deficiency is an enlarged thyroid gland. It naturally leads to increases in heart rate, weight gain, and shortness of breath.

Several studies have linked the iodine deficiency to very harmful conditions, especially in children. You have to make sure you’re getting enough iodine to ensure that your basic bodily growth and developmental processes are working normally.

Here are some great sources of dietary iodine:

  1. Fish – 100 grams of fish contains, on average, 50-60 percent of your iodine requirements.
  2. Dairy – best choice is plain yogurt.
  3. Eggs – two eggs a day keep an iodine deficiency away.
  4. Seaweed – kelp has more iodine than you would ever need! 1 gram contains more than 500 percent of your daily requirements.

Keep in mind, iodine is commonly found in soil and ocean water. This means that if the soil is low in iodine, it’s going to produce food that’s low in iodine.

#4 – Magnesium Deficiency

We’ve talked about the importance of Magnesium for athletes many times, but now, I want to stress out how important it is even for the people who don’t actively train.

Magnesium is an essential mineral for healthy bone and teeth structure, and it’s required in more than 300 enzyme reactions throughout the body! That being said, almost half of the American population consumes less than Magnesium than needed.

A low magnesium intake is closely related to many severe conditions such as metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Some studies even find that nearly half of the people who are hospitalized are deficient in Magnesium.

Some of the most common symptoms of this deficiency include – muscle cramps, restless leg syndrome, fatigue, migraines, and abnormal heart rhythm.

But there are more subtle symptoms that have to do with insulin resistance and high blood pressure – both things you don’t want to be dealing with on a long-term basis.

Here are some of the best dietary sources of Magnesium:

  1. Dark and leafy vegetables!
  2. Dark chocolate – 100 grams of dark chocolate provides you with half of your daily Magnesium intake.
  3. Nuts – especially almonds!
  4. Whole grains – one cup (250 grams) a day will give you more than enough Magnesium for one day.

To conclude…

We can say with almost absolute certainty that anyone who is reading this will be suffering from at least one of these deficiencies. Considering the huge amount of people who are deficient in these basic (but vital) minerals, it’s highly likely that we fall into at least one of these categories.

And if you’re a young woman, older adult, vegan, you’re at an even higher risk of more than one micronutrient deficiency.

The best way to handle these deficiencies and get your health on the right track is to focus on a balanced diet that contains whole, nutrient-dense foods. The more attention the fitness and nutrition community pays to macronutrients such as protein and carbs, the less time we have to talk about their micronutrient counterparts.

That being said, they are still there, and they’re still important, so we have to make an effort to consume the right amounts of them if we want to stay healthy and make progress on our fitness journey.

Even though it’s hard for most people to obtain the necessary amount of these nutrients through diet alone, it is possible – if you focus on the right foods. But if you’re one of those people who just doesn’t have the ability to micro-task and make sure they’re getting enough of everything, supplements are also a great option.

Finally, let this post be a reminder that you should check your diet and maybe even go see a professional to learn what type of nutrient deficiencies you have – so you can ultimately handle them and stay safe, healthy, and growing.

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