nutrient deficiencies salmon on plate

Balancing our complex nutrient needs and avoiding nutrient deficiencies can be challenging these days. It is all too easy to grab quick and convenient foods over the healthier, whole food options that better sustain our energy and brain health.

Kavita Desai, Pharm. D. is a tireless advocate for women’s health and wants more of us to understand the unique impact these health and lifestyle factors can have on our health.

After a decade and a half in a hospital and community-based pharmacy setting,  Desai launched a private integrated clinical pharmacy and medical center in 2006. She is also the founder of female-focused wellness brand, Revivele, an educational platform dedicated to putting women at the forefront of the health conversation when it comes to disease prevention and cognitive health.

Developing nutrient deficiencies from a poor or imbalanced diet can effect our overall health and put us at greater risk for disease. Here are a few of the common deficiencies that many people experience and what you can do about it…

Vitamin D Deficiency

Why Do We Need It?
Vitamin D is, in fact, a hormone not a vitamin! It is essential for many bodily functions such as
immunity, brain function, sleep, mental health and has antioxidant properties. But most
importantly, we need vitamin D to help with proper absorption of calcium.

Symptoms of low vitamin D:
Anxiety and depression, bone pain, impaired wound healing, hair loss, muscle weakness, or
getting sick more frequently.

Where to get vitamin D:
Vitamin D3 (the active form of vitamin D) is converted in our skin with regular, daily exposure to
UV light from the sun. It can also be obtained from foods such as oily fish (such as mackerel
and salmon), egg yolks, beef liver and vitamin D fortified foods. Due to the significant health
benefits of vitamin D, and the difficulty to obtain by diet or UV exposure alone, it is
recommended to supplement daily based on your blood levels.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids Deficiency

Why Do We Need It?
Omega 3 fatty acids can come from plant and fish sources. EPA and DHA are the two most
crucial omega 3’s found in fatty fish. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in plant based foods
such as nuts and seeds.

Your body needs these fatty acids to function such as balancing triglyceride levels, improving joint stiffness and mental health, and newer research is even beginning to show how beneficial EPA and DHA are for brain health preventing cognitive decline.

Symptoms of low Omega 3: 
Irritated and/or dry skin, depression, dry eyes, joint pain, poor memory, and dry/brittle hair.

Where to get omega 3 fatty acids:
For EPA and DHA, the best food source is fatty fish. Due to potentially high mercury content in
larger fish, aim for smaller fish sources such as sardines, and anchovies more often than larger
fish such as salmon. Plant based sources of ALA include chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans.

Iron Deficiency

Why Do We Need It?
Iron is a mineral that aids in the production of hemoglobin, which helps transport oxygen via our
red blood cells throughout our body, and is also involved in the production of some hormones. A
shortage of iron in the body can lead to iron deficiency anemia, which can be quite serious for
overall wellbeing.

Symptoms of low iron:
Fatigue, weakness, low energy, reduced concentration and memory, pale skin, inability to
maintain body temperature, hair loss, spoon shaped nails, poor immunity, and restless leg

Where to get iron:
Animal based sources (heme based) are better absorbed than plant based iron sources
(non-heme based). Therefore vegetarians should be sure to consume far more iron containing
foods than meat eaters. Some great sources of iron include liver, red meat, poultry, seafood,
kidney beans, spinach, pumpkin seeds, and nuts. If blood levels show a significantly low iron
level, iron supplementation may be necessary.

Magnesium Deficiency

Why Do We Need It?
Magnesium can be found in every cell in your body, and is essential for bone health, conversion
of food into usable energy, formation of proteins within the body, repair of DNA and RNA,
muscle contraction and relaxation, and optimal nervous system function.

Symptoms of low magnesium:
Muscle cramps, numbness or weakness, loss of appetite, and nausea or vomiting. More severe
deficiencies can lead to seizures, heart rhythm changes and a range of chronic diseases such
as Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Where to get magnesium:
Foods rich in magnesium include pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, spinach, almonds, edamame,
salmon, halibut, and avocado.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Why Do We Need It?
Vitamin B12 plays an important role in red blood cell formation, nerve function, production of DNA and cell metabolism. Our bodies cannot make it on its own, therefore it is crucial that we obtain it from food sources or supplementation.

Symptoms of low B12:
Extreme fatigue and lack of energy, anemia, a feeling of pins and needles, mouth ulcers,
disturbed vision, mood changes, and nerve damage.

Where to get vitamin B12:
Vitamin B12 is predominantly found in food from animal sources such as organ meats, sardines,
beef, tuna, salmon and eggs. Therefore, fortified foods (cereals or nutritional yeast) or
supplementation is recommended for anyone at risk of a B12 deficiency such as vegans or

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