More than 90 percent of Americans fall short of meeting estimated average requirements for at least one vitamin or mineral. A big part of the problem?
A diet heavy in nutrient-poor, refined and highly processed foods. Another culprit: modern farming techniques, particularly the practice of planting vegetable and fruit varieties that increase yields but result in less nutrition per bite.
Getting the nutrients you need not only helps you avoid deficiency-related conditions, but also may increase your energy levels, keep your immune system in top shape and ward off chronic diseases. So eat as healthfully as you can, and use supplements to make up for shortfalls. Consider these common MIA nutrients.
Supplement doses are for adults who aren’t pregnant or breast-feeding. Talk to your health care provider about supplements you’re considering and to customize your dose.
Deficiency can weaken your bones, muscles and immune system. Vitamin D may protect against chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer, too. Try the smartphone app at dminder.ontometrics.com to help optimize how much vitamin D your body makes from sunlight, and then supplement as needed.
Tip: Ask your doctor for a vitamin D blood test. The Vitamin D Council recommends a blood level between 40–80 ng/mL.
Daily dose: 1,000−2,000 IU vitamin D3
Signs of deficiency of this fat-soluble vitamin are most common in people who have trouble absorbing fat (such as those with small-intestine bacterial overgrowth or cystic fibrosis). Deficiency may result in nerve damage, vision problems and weakened immunity.
Tip: For the best balance, choose a supplement that contains mixed forms of vitamin E, including alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol.
Daily dose: 100–200 IU mixed tocopherols
Two common forms are K1, found in leafy green vegetables, and a kind of K2 called menaquinone-7 (MK-7), found in fermented foods like cheese and natto (fermented soybeans). Without enough vitamin K, blood can’t clot properly if you’re injured. Preliminary research suggests the MK-7 type may help prevent atherosclerosis and osteoporosis.
Tip: Check with your doctor before increasing vitamin K intake if you’re on an anticlotting medication.
Daily dose: 45–180 mcg MK-7
Shortfalls of this mineral may show up as muscle cramps and twitches, anxiety, fatigue, irritability, poor concentration and headaches, among other symptoms. Long-term use of acid-reflux drugs called proton pump inhibitors may lead to magnesium deficiency.
Tip: If you supplement with calcium, take magnesium, too. Experts suggest a 2:1 calcium-to-magnesium ratio.
Daily dose: 100−600 mg as magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate
Deficiency can decrease night vision and immune function. People can convert beta-carotene from fruits and vegetables to vitamin A, but this ability is reduced in as many as 27–45 percent of people, based on their genetics.
Tip: Unless you eat a lot of liver (a major source of preformed vitamin A) or orange- and green-colored produce, you may need a vitamin A supplement.
Daily dose: 2,500–10,000 IU preformed vitamin A (retinol or palmitate)
Over time, calcium shortfalls can increase risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures. But supplement in moderation. Some evidence suggests excess calcium intake from supplements may harm heart health, possibly by depleting magnesium.
Tip: Calculate your daily calcium intake from major sources, particularly dairy products and fortified foods, before adding a supplement.
Daily dose: Up to 1,000−1,200 mg (in divided doses) for adults
Obvious signs of vitamin C deficiency—swollen, bleeding gums and limb pain—typically don’t appear unless daily intake is very low (below 10 mg) for several weeks. But preliminary research suggests suboptimal intake may contribute to low-back pain because your body needs vitamin C for healthy ligaments, tendons and bones.
Tip: Try a “liposomal” vitamin C supplement to maximize your cells’ uptake of the vitamin. Liposomal supplements use an encapsulation technology that helps your body better absorb easily excreted nutrients.
Daily dose: 200–2,000 mg non-GMO vitamin C
Zinc deficiency may show up as hair loss, white spots on fingernails, poor sense of taste, weakened immunity, wound-healing difficulty and more. In obese people, zinc supplements may improve sensitivity to insulin, a hormone that keeps blood sugar from spiking.
Tip: To avoid stomach upset from zinc supplements, take them with food.
Daily dose: 10–30 mg zinc picolinate or zinc citrate