For many reasons, many of us have low levels of important nutrients. Sometimes, it may even qualify as a deficiency that needs treatment with significant dietary changes and supplements.

“Nutrient deficiencies alter bodily functions and processes at the most basic cellular level,” said Tricia L. Psota, a registered dietitian nutritionist at George Washington University. Here are five possible deficiencies you should know about.

1. Calcium

As revealed in a 2013 report, certain groups — including older adults, adolescents, and overweight individuals — are more likely to have low levels of calcium.

Dietitians say you should aim for three servings of calcium-rich foods on a daily basis. Dairy products, of course, are a popular source but you may also consider broccoli, tofu, seeds, canned salmon, and calcium-fortified products among others. 

2. Vitamin B12

Only animal foods contain B12 which means that people on a strictly plant-based diet have a higher risk of deficiency. Studies have shown that the prevalence of the deficiency largely varies by age group, found particularly among the elderly.

Beef, eggs, chicken, and seafood are some of the common dietary sources of the vitamin. But if you suspect you have a deficiency, speak to a doctor about whether you need supplements. In some cases, patients may even need to take high-dose vitamin B12 shots.

3. Iron

As one of the most prevalent deficiencies among women and children, estimates suggest more than half of all pregnant women around the world are not getting enough iron. Fatigue aside, some possible indicators of this deficiency include a weakened immune system (which means you may be prone to frequent bouts of infections), loss of hair, and unusual cravings for substances like ice. 

Meat is a good source of iron and is also absorbed more easily by the body compared to plant sources. Nevertheless, vegetarians and vegans can meet requirements with a well-planned intake of beans, seeds, dark-green leafy vege­tables, fortified breakfast cereals, tofu, and more.

4. Magnesium

Natalie Brady, a registered nutritionist based in New Zealand, states there are many ways by which our magnesium supply is depleted. These include regular consumption of processed foods, drinking too much alcohol or coffee, being under stress, certain pharmaceutical drugs, etc.

“It’s a very common mineral to be deficient in, yet most people have no idea about this magnificent and vital mineral,” she wrote. Bananas, legumes, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens are considered good dietary sources. 

5. Vitamin D

According to estimates, this deficiency may affect up to 42 percent of the population in the United States. Our vitamin D levels determine how well our bodies absorb calcium, which means the nutrient plays an important role when it comes to our bone health.

This deficiency can lead to conditions like rickets and osteomalacia, both of which weaken the bones and raise the risk of fractures. Spending time under the sun and consuming certain foods are the best ways to meet the recommended intake.  

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