If you are in hurry and want the answer now, I’ll be nice and let you cheat. The answer is more than likely a resounding yes, you are deficient in one or more key nutrients which is keeping your body from running as well as it could. All lives we’ve been told ‘Just eat a balanced diet’ and we will be OK. But what is a balanced diet? To a mom it’s everything she puts on your plate, to a dietitian it is a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol. To you coach (if you do any type of training) it’s probably a diet high in protein. However, as we can see from the chart below our diets are anything but balanced, leaving us with a myriad of deficiencies.
So, what are the most important nutrient deficiencies affecting us today and what should we do to fix them? Below are the top eight:
Vitamin D is produced by the skin when we are exposed to sunlight. While it may seem like this is one of the easiest nutrients to not be deficient in, surprisingly approximately 70% of Americans are lacking in Vitamin D. With the decline of farming and more individuals living in the cities, plus easy indoor entertainment (computers, NetFlix, etc) many people find little or no reason to venture outside to the extent needed to get a good dose of sunshine. Vitamin D is important for building and maintaining our bones as well as its anti-depressive benefits. Dr. Mercola has a good article for determining the signs and symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency.
How much do you need: How much Vitamin D we need is a subject of debate. The daily recommended dosage (RDA) of Vitamin D is set at 400 IU (international units). This level of Vitamin D is considered by many experts to be the absolute minimum the body needs. Several studies have shown, depending on your age, diet and where you live, 2000 – 4000 IUs of Vitamin D are necessary.
We all know that calcium is essential for healthy bones. But it is also essential for healthy heart, muscle and respiratory functions. Almost 73% of Americans fall short in their daily allowance of Calcium. One reason is the need for Vitamin D in the body to help absorb and utilize the calcium. Based on so many individuals being deficient in vitamin D, it’s quite possible that correcting that issue would resolve the calcium deficiency. Dr. Weil goes into more detail in his article here.
How much do you need: Women 19 to 50 should get 1,000 milligrams of dietary calcium per day. Women 51 and older should get 1,200 milligrams. It is recommended men get 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day and 1,200 milligrams a day after age 70.
Potassium is important for a person’s muscles to work effectively, including the heart. Potassium also has a role in regulating blood pressure. Low potassium levels (hypokalaemia) can cause weakness as cellular processes are affected.
How much do you need: Adults should get for 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day. A recent study shows that an over 95% of Americans don’t hit the mark
Vitamin A plays an important role in your vision. To see the full spectrum of light, your eye needs to produce certain pigments for the photo receptor cells in your retina to work properly. Vitamin A deficiency stops the production of these pigments, leading to night blindness. Your eye also needs vitamin A to nourish other parts of your eye, including the cornea, the clear covering on the front of your eye. Without enough vitamin A, your eyes cannot produce enough moisture to keep them properly lubricated.
How much do you need: Adult women need 700 milligrams a day. Men need 900 milligrams.
Vitamin C is necessary for normal growth and development. Since the vitamin is water-soluble (dissolves in water) any excess will leave the body thru the urine. This means you need to continuous supply in your diet to avoid a deficiency. Eating Well has a great write up on some whole food sources of vitamin C as well as well as a nice breakdown on dosages broken down from birth thru adulthood.
How much do you need: Men need 90 milligrams a day and Women need 75 milligrams a day.
Vitamin K is essential for normal blood clotting. It also appears to play crucial roles in bone mineralization and cell growth. Falling short may cause bruising, nosebleeds, and brittle bones, among other problems. For more information check out 4 signs you might have a vitamin K deficiency.
How much do you need: Women need 90 micrograms a day. Men need 120 micrograms a day.
Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant. Severe vitamin E deficiencies can cause nerve damage. Because many Americans don’t get enough nuts and unsaturated oils, they may be in danger of falling short on this crucial nutrient.
How much do you need: 15 milligrams a day.
Magnesium is essential for over 300 enzyme body functions. It also helps regulate blood pressure, maintains bone strength, and ensures a healthy immune system. Mark’s Daily Apple has an exhaustive list of causes of magnesium deficiency, symptoms, and whole food sources.
How much do you need: Women between the ages of 19 and 30 need 310 milligrams a day. After age 31, 320 milligrams. Men between the ages of 19 and 30 need 400 milligrams. Then the requirement rises to 420 milligrams.
If you think you might be suffering from a nutrient deficiency there is an awesome resource at Precision Nutrition which lists many common physical ailments and gives the probable deficiency that is causing the problem. They also provide a list of the most common medications and illnesses and list the more common nutrient deficiencies related to those issues. A top-notch resource you shouldn’t miss.