We don’t always eat a perfectly balanced diet, so there may actually be holes in your nutrition.  And if you don’t eat fortified foods (many of use that limit processed foods don’t) these holes may not be getting filled through the food we eat.  But the good news is that we can develop a healthy habit to fill these nutritional holes with vitamins and fish oil supplements.

Taking a daily vitamins and fish oil supplement can fill nutritional holes.
Taking vitamins and fish oil can help fill nutritional holes in our daily nutrition.

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Vitamins

We all know that vitamins are important and many of us remember taking those little dino shaped fruit flavored ones as kids.  You’ve possibly even taken vitamins while pregnant.

But let’s be honest, if we don’t have a specific reason to be doing it we forget.

I know that I’ve let this healthy habit slip for way longer than I should have.

While many of us try to have healthy and well balanced nutrition we still may not be meeting all of our micronutrient (aka vitamins) needs.

Think about this for a minute.  What fruits and vegetables do you eat on a consistent basis?  Is it only a handful with variety thrown in once and a while or can you say that you eat the rainbow every day?

How about your protein consumption, do you eat red meat regularly?  Do you eat 8 oz of cold water, fatty fish every week?  Maybe, but maybe you’re missing out on some key nutrients.

Chart from DailyBurn showing vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in chart form.
A quick, useful guide to vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

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Common Vitamin Deficiencies

So what are the most common vitamin deficiencies and where do you find them in natural sources?

According to the Centers for Disease Control NHANES report the most common vitamin deficiencies are:

Vitamin B6

  • 10.5% of the US population is deficient in Vitamin B6
  • What it does:
    • Involved in making serotonin and norepinephrine.
    • Involved in formation of myelin sheath (around nerve cells).
    • B vitamins as whole reduce homocysteine levels in the blood (may reduce risk of heart disease).
  • Symptoms of deficiency:
    • Affects the nerves, skin, and mucus membranes of throughout the body.
  • Where to get it:
    • Sources include cereal grains, legumes, carrots, peas, spinach, potatoes, milk, cheese, eggs, liver, meat, and flour.

Iron

  • 9.5% of women ages 12-49 in the US are deficient
  • What it does:
    • Part of hemoglobin (red blood cells).
    • Helps muscles store and use oxygen.
  • Symptoms of deficiency:
    • Anemia- paleness, fatigue, shortness of breath during exercise, unusual food cravings (ice), fast heartbeat, cold hands and feet, brittle nails and hair loss, headaches, and dizziness
  • Where to get it:
    • Heme iron (more easily absorbed) red meat, poultry, and fish
    • Non-heme iron (less easily absorbed) egg yolks, leafy greens, beans, fortified cereal, tofu, dried fruit, and supplements
      • Make it easier to absorb by combining with Vitamin C
      • Iron supplement can cause constipation, be sure to increase water and fiber intake.

Vitamin D

  • 8.1% of the US population is deficient in Vitamin D
  • What it does:
    • Promotes calcium absorption
    • Maintains blood calcium levels
    • May reduce cancer risk
    • May reduce cardiovascular disease risk
    • May reduce risk of infection
    • May reduce depression through regulation of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and dopamine production
  • Symptoms of deficiency:
    • Fatigue
    • General aches and pains
    • Most have no symptoms
  • Where to get it:
    • Mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines
    • Fortified dairy products
    • Sunshine (daisies…turn this stupid fat rat yellow, sorry couldn’t help it)

Vitamin C

  • 6% of the US population is deficient in Vitamin C
  • What it does:
    • May have a role in protecting against infection, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, stress, stroke, and wrinkles.
    • Aids in iron absorption.
    • Plays a role in collagen, carnitine, hormone, and amino acid formation.
    • Aids in wound and burn healing.
  • Symptoms of deficiency:
    • Weakness, fatigue, irritability, unexplained weight loss, gingivitis, poor healing, muscle and joint pain.
  • Where to get it:
    • Best: citrus fruits, green peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, white potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
    • Moderate: dark leafy greens, cantaloupe, papaya, mango, watermelon, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, red peppers, raspberries, blueberries, winter squash, and pineapples.
    • Recommended: Supplements due to the fact that it takes a lot of food to get the daily recommended amount 500 mg per day.

Vitamin B12

  • 2% of the US population is deficient in Vitamin B12
  • What it does:
    • Involved in blood cell formation
    • Aids in production of DNA
    • Involved in brain and nerve function
  • Symptoms of deficiency:
    • Anemia
    • Loss of balance, shaky movements, stiff and rigid muscles
    • Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
    • Weakness, fatigue, sleep disturbances for some
    • Mood disturbances, may affect mental clarity
  • Where to get it:
    • Animal protein.

Vitamins A, E, & B6 tie at less than 1% deficient in the US population.

So now you know what the major deficient vitamins in the US are, but what do you do about it?

Well, the simplest answer is to just take a multivitamin ever day.  And of course common advice for those that may become pregnant, are pregnant, or nursing is to take a prenatal vitamin.  Just be sure to check with your doctor personally.

But what happens if you’re not deficient?  Umm…these vitamins specifically are water soluble, so whatever you don’t use comes out in your urine.  This is where the term expensive pee came from.  Only take the recommended dosage.

For fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K you can have too much of a good thing since these can be stored in your fat cells.

Fish Oil

The recommendation is because most Americans don’t eat enough cold water fatty fish to get the recommended amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 are made up of 2 parts, DHA and EPA.

Food supplementation is typically only DHA, but you need EPA too.

The easiest way to make sure that you are getting the recommended amounts is to take a pill.

Have you ever taken fish oil and had those nasty fishy burps?  Krill oil has the same stuff without the fishy after effects.

I know that I’ve definitely back slid on taking my daily vitamins.  How about you?  Do you remember to take your vitamins everyday?  Share below in the comments.

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