Not everybody knows every last detail about what she or he is eating, or cares. While some people have mastered the pseudoscience of eyeballing a piece of chicken and identifying how many calories it contains, others couldn't care less. Even those who may have a general idea of the calories in their foods may be blind to their vitamin and mineral content. We seem to care a lot about macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat), but don’t spend too much time focusing on micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
A general lack of nutritional knowledge doesn’t inherently result in poor health. Just by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, for instance, you are ensuring that you'll get a wide variety of invaluable nutrients and thus putting yourself in a better position than those who do not. Fruits and vegetables aren’t always enough, though. Certain minerals aren’t found in as wide of a variety of common foods as others. Widely promoted vitamin C, for instance, is available in all those tomatoes, bell peppers, dark leafy greens, berries, citrus fruits, and vitamin C powders or pills people swallow; iodine, on the other hand, is found mostly in sea vegetables, far less widely eaten. (Luckily, the advent of iodized salt has rendered iodine deficiency a non-issue.)
No matter what you eat, knowing the details about your food is the best health tool you can acquire. We’ve gone to experts and done research to help identify what the most common nutrient deficiencies are, how symptoms of someone who is nutrient deficient can manifest, and ways in which a person can proactively combat a deficiency by eating certain foods.
Heather Mangieri, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN, gave us some of her insight on nutrient deficiencies. She is a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the owner of Nutrition CheckUp in Pittsburgh. Mangieri specializes in sports nutrition, weight management, and disordered eating.
Dr. Michael Hall is board-certified in family medicine and head of The Hall Longevity Clinic in Miami Beach. Dr. Hall’s clinic believes in educating its patients in both old and new medicinal practices, and the clinic includes experts in helping patients lead long, youthfully vital lives.
Joy Dubost, PhD, RD, CSSD, is also a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Dr. Dubost has over 15 years of experience in food science and nutrition topics such as clinical nutrition, nutrition education, and public policy. She advises that, in general, “people are not receiving enough of [the following] nutrients in their diet which can lead [to] less than ideal conditions in health over time but may not necessarily lead to a full out deficiency. Inadequate intake produces no usual symptoms in the short term.”
With that in mind, being aware of what you eat only increases in importance. If symptoms usually appear only after a long period of deficiency, then it’s critical to not let yourself get to such a state. Read ahead in order to arm yourself against common nutrient deficiencies.