First, don’t freak out! The deficiencies most people have below are caused by a poor diet, which may be incredibly common in Western culture. They can be easily fixed by incorporating some healthy food or lifestyle change.
Iron is a mineral. It is essential to our bodies and it helps to make hemoglobin — the proteins in red blood cells that carry oxygen to our lungs and all other parts of the body — as well as myoglobin which helps to provide oxygen in the muscles. According to Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, RDN, there are two types of iron deficiencies we need to look out for (regarding our own nutrition):
- Heme iron: This type of iron is very well absorbed. It’s only found in animal foods, with red meat containing particularly high amounts.
- Non-heme iron: This type, found in both animal and plant foods, is more common. It is not absorbed as easily as heme iron.
Iron deficiencies are incredibly common that 25% of people have it worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
If you menstruate, you may also be iron deficient. According to Irondisorders.org, “blood loss and pregnancy or lack of meat in the diet are the leading causes of iron deficiency in women.” This also means that those who choose to follow the vegetarian or vegan diet may also have an increased risk of an iron deficiency if they are not careful enough.
Where can you get heme iron? Red meat, organ meat (think liver), shellfish, and canned sardines offer a lot of heme iron if you are low.
Where can I get non-heme iron? Non-heme iron can be found in beans, seeds, and dark leafy greens.
Some amounts of iodine are needed in the body for proper thyroid function. The thyroid gland is responsible for creating hormones that regulate metabolism in the body. These hormones also are involved in “growth, brain development, and bone maintenance.,” according to Bjarnadottir. According to the American Thyroid Organization, approximately 30% of the world’s population remains at risk for iodine deficiency.
Not having enough iodine in the system can be detrimental to the body. Severe iodine deficiency is linked to weight gain, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and may also cause mental retardation in children.
Where can you get some iodine? You can find iodine in certain foods such as seaweed, fish, dairy, and eggs.
Vitamin D deficiency
Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is essential for the body. This vitamin helps to regulate phosphate and calcium in the body — the minerals responsible for good bone, teeth, and muscle health. According to Canto Mercy.org, a site for Mercy Medical Center, 42 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient. However, note that this statistic was published in 2018.
Where can you get vitamin D? You can get some vitamin D by simply going outside and soaking in the sun. As for where you can eat vitamin D, a few good sources include cod liver oil, fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and trout, as well as egg yolks.
You can also take a vitamin D supplement if you are deficient.
Surprised you here, didn’t I? Sleep deprivation is a common issue in adults. According to Dr. Alex Dimitriu of SleepFoundation.org, sleep deprivation affects around one-third of American adults and has worsened in recent years.
Sleep is incredibly important to our mental, physical, and emotional health. Not getting enough sleep can affect our mood and our ability to function properly. Adults need to sleep around seven to nine hours a night and any less than that is referred to as sleep deprivation.
There are three types of sleep deprivation: acute, chronic sleep deprivation, and chronic sleep deficiency/insufficient sleep. Not getting enough sleep may lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, immunodeficiency, among many others.
So, what can you do to combat sleep deficiency? Make sleep a priority. Dr. Dimitriu suggests having a consistent sleep schedule (sleeping at the same time every day — yes, that includes weekends!), set boundaries with your work and social life, as well as having a set bedtime routine.
Make your bedroom the optimal place to sleep with a good sleep mattress and pillows, adequate lighting, and keeping electronic devices to a minimum.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 helps to keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and makes DNA, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Not having enough of this vitamin may lead to anemia — which means you may not have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. You may feel weak or tired.
B12 can be found in animal foods which implies that vegetarians and vegans may be at risk of B12 deficiency.
Where can you find B12? You can find the vitamin hidden in shellfish like clams and oysters, organ meat, meat (in general), eggs, and whole milk.
Calcium is a mineral that helps with bone and tooth strength. The body also needs calcium to move muscles and nerves. Not having enough calcium in the body may lead to conditions such as osteoporosis, a condition where the bones are soft and fragile.
Where can you get calcium? You can find calcium in boned fish, dairy products, and dark green vegetables like kale, spinach, bok choy, and broccoli.
Vitamin A Deficiency
Just like calcium helps to maintain strong bones and teeth, vitamin A does the same thing. Vitamin A “helps form and maintain healthy skin, teeth, bones, and cell membranes. Furthermore, it produces eye pigments, which are necessary for vision.”
There are two types of vitamin A found in food :
Preformed Vitamin A- It can be found in meats, fish, poultry and dairy.
Pro-vitamin A can be found in fruits and vegetables. Beta carotene, which can be commonly found in carrots, is also technically a source of vitamin A. The body is able to take beta carotene and turn it into healthy vitamin A for the body.
A note here: Western diets have a fair amount of vitamin A. However, in poor and developing countries, vitamin A deficiencies are rather common.
Vitamin A deficiency may lead to vision loss and may suppress immune function in children and breastfeeding women.