You don’t necessarily need a multivitamin or supplements to stay healthy — in an ideal world, you would be getting all the nutrients you need from your diet. But it’s hard to know exactly what your body needs and when without the input of a nutritionist or a doctor.
Nutrient deficiencies can happen when you don’t get enough of the vitamins and minerals you need over a long period of time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Second Nutrition Report, less than 10 percent of the U.S. population has deficiencies of most major vitamins and minerals. However, specific populations, such as pregnant women, infants, or the elderly, are still at heightened risk for such deficiencies, and a nutrient imbalance may lead to serious medical conditions.
Just because you may be susceptible to a vitamin or mineral deficiency at some point doesn’t mean you need to run out to your local Vitamin World or GNC and pick up a tub of multivitamins or individual high-dose tablets or capsules. Dietary supplements come with their own set of risks; they may contain undisclosed additives or active ingredients that can have strong side effects, even sometimes interacting dangerously with prescription drugs.
The best way to approach a vitamin or mineral deficiency is to first identify whether you have one by consulting a doctor. The next steps should include either incorporating a supplement option or adding certain foods to your diet to address the specific deficiencies.
Watch for these 10 signs of a deficiency if you’re concerned you might be missing something from your diet.
Michael Serrur and Holly Van Hare contributed to this roundup.