Medically Approved

Common signs you are deficient in vitamins and minerals


Optum Perks Author

By Optum Perks Author

Vitamins and minerals are essential to human health. But how do you know if you are getting an adequate amount of them in your diet? Recent reports show that eating healthy and popping a multi-vitamin may not be enough to sustain an ideal level of nutrition. Many adults are deficient in vitamins and minerals that are crucial to their health and upping their intake of a few of those could drastically improve their lives.

Here are the most common vitamin/mineral deficiencies and some tips on how to get an extra boost of them.

1) Iron

Why it’s important: recently reported that Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the United States, with women being among those at the greatest risk. Iron is crucial for helping the body to produce hemoglobin, which assists red blood cells in delivering oxygen throughout the body. If you are severely deficient in it, you could be at danger of developing all sorts of conditions, such as anemia.


Signs you may be lacking it: Exhaustion, heavy menstrual cycles, pale skin, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats, restless leg syndrome, irregular headaches, a craving for clay, dirt, and ice, unexplained anxiety, hair loss, under-active thyroid, brittle nails, cold hands and feet

How to increase your intake: Eat more red meat, poultry, iron-enriched cereals, oysters, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, beans, lentils, and spinach.

2) Vitamin B12  

Why it’s important: B12 is vital in the formation of red blood cells. It also helps the nerve tissue to function properly. It’s essential for brain function, energy level, and mental health as well. “When our bodies are under stress, the first mineral to leave is magnesium,” says Holistic Health Consultant, Susan Davis, ThM. And, according to a recent article in The New York Times, as humans age, their ability to properly absorb B12 from food declines, as does the consumption of foods rich in the vitamin.


Signs you may be lacking it: weakness/lightheadedness, pale skin, constipation or diarrhea, number, tingling, or weak muscles, vision loss, depression, memory loss, behavioral changes, heart palpitations, shortness of breath  

How to increase your intake: Increase your intake of clams, liver, mackerel, crab, fortified soy products, like Tofu, fortified cereal, red meat, dairy products and, eggs. Since many sources of B12 are from animal products, vegans are often deficient and should consider taking a supplement.

3) Magnesium

Why it’s important: According to Donna Gates, author of The Body Ecology Diet, “Magnesium is the most versatile mineral in your body and participates in over 300 hormone reactions.” Among it’s many functions, Magnesium prevents osteoporosis, regulates blood pressure, eliminates muscle cramps and spasms, decreases insulin resistance, enhances circulation, promotes restful sleep, gives rigidity and flexibility to bones, prevents stroke, lowers cholesterol.


Signs you may be lacking it: Insomnia, high blood pressure, body aches, muscle twitches, cramps, and spasms, constipation, anxiety and restlessness, extreme fatigue, chest tightness, back aches, and difficulty swallowing.

How to increase your intake: According to Lisa Werner-Gray, author of Amazon best seller, The Earth Diet, “magnesium is best absorbed through the skin, the largest organ in the body.” To get an adequate dose, she recommends adding 1-2 cups of Epsom salts to a hot bath and soaking daily for at least 15 minutes. Another option is to purchase the mineral in a spray form, such as Pure Magnesium Oil by Life-flo. Additional ways to up your intake include eating a handful of raw Brazil nuts daily and incorporating raw chocolate or cacao powder into your diet. “You can also make a delicious chocolate avocado face mask and absorb magnesium through your face,” says Werner-Grey. “Mash 1 avocado with 1 tablespoon of cacao powder and apply it on the face for 15 minutes. It’s incredibly stimulating.”

4) Calcium

Why it’s important: Calcium is found in 99% of the body. It aids in the development of bones and teeth but it also helps regulate a variety of bodily functions such as the heart, nervous system, and muscles.


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Signs you may be lacking it: Poor bone density, tooth decay, brittle nails, muscle cramps, insomnia, coarse hair, fatigue, muscle weakness, cataracts, seizures, difficulty swallowing, fainting.

How to increase your intake: Eating more dairy products is an easy way to up your Calcium intake. But if you are lactose intolerant, you can still absorb a strong amount of Calcium via foods such as dark leafy greens, fish, bone broth, beans, almonds, oysters, sesame seeds, tofu, Chinese cabbage.

5) Vitamin D

Why it’s important: Vitamin D helps your body to ward off a variety of ailments like heart disease, cancer, memory loss, and depression. A lack of Vitamin D is also linked to weight gain. It’s also important in bone health and the prevention of autoimmune diseases.


Signs you may be lacking it: Feeling an unusual amount of sadness or depression, muscle weakness, greater pain sensitivity, stress fractures, high blood pressure, lethargy, decreased endurance, and exhaustion.

How to increase your intake: To safely absorb more Vitamin D, Werner-Gray suggests adding more salmon, tuna, eggs, mushrooms, and orange juice to your diet. Werner-Gray also suggests getting outside more to expose yourself to natural levels of vitamin D. And contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be in direct sunlight to reap the benefits. “Even if you are outside in the shade, you are still absorbing rays from the sunshine,” she adds.

6) Omega-3 Fats

Why it’s important: Omega-3 fatty acids are a “good” dietary fat that perform a variety of important functions in the body. Web MD stresses that two crucial forms of Omega-3’s that you should make sure to get enough of are EPA and DHA, which are commonly found in fish. ALA (alpha-linoleic acid) is another important form that is found in nuts and seeds. These supplements help to lower elevated triglyceride levels, therefore significantly decreasing your risk of heart disease. Omega-3’s can also reduce stiffness and joint pain and act as anti-inflammatory agents in the body. They can help ward off dementia, asthma, and are crucial for visual and neurological development in infants.


Signs you may be lacking it: Dry and brittle hair, dandruff, rough or dry skin, brittle or peeling nails, restless sleep, mood swings, anxiety, depression, becoming easily distracted, and poor concentration, intense menstrual cramps, poor circulation, dry eyes, excessive earwax buildup.

How to increase your intake: Foods that are rich in healthy Omegas like EPA and DHA are fatty varieties of fish like sardines, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and salmon. If you are worried about the mercury content in fish, you can also consume fish oil supplements. Additional sources include flaxseed and flaxseed oil, walnuts, chia seeds, soybeans, spinach.

7) Potassium

Why it’s important: Potassium is a very vital body mineral responsible for proper heart function. Your muscles can’t contract without a proper dose of Potassium in your body. It also plays a key role in functions such as digestion, and kidney function. Studies show that 98% of Americans do not get the recommended minimum amount of daily recommended Potassium.


Signs you may be lacking it: Muscle cramps, weakness, tiredness, tingling or numbness, nausea or vomiting, abdominal cramping/bloating, constipation, frequent urination/excessive thirst, abnormal heart rhythms.

How to increase your intake: The best way to get enough Potassium in your diet is by eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. It can also be found in certain dairy products, whole grains, meat, and fish. To increase your Potassium levels, eat more dark leafy greens, white beans, potatoes, acorn squash, yogurt, dried fruits like raisins, dates, prunes, and apricots, tomatoes, salmon, avocados, white mushrooms, orange juice, and bananas.

To check your vitamin and mineral levels, talk to your doctor about ordering a few simple blood tests.