Are You Getting the Nutrients You Need?

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If you are eating a whole-food diet and running regularly for exercise, you’re well on your way to leading a healthy lifestyle. The thing is, many of us don’t realize how easy it is to develop deficiencies in certain nutrients. Not getting enough of the right vitamins and minerals can lead to a variety of health issues, from poor night vision to brittle nails and cracked lips to brain fog.

While most of these health issues are very minor in the beginning, they can become more serious if the deficiencies continue over time. Here’s how to know if you are getting the nutrients you need and how to combat any deficiencies.

Common Signs of Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies

While most of us make every effort to eat a healthy diet, there will always be those days when you don’t eat as you should. Not only that, but your nutritional needs change due to stress, strenuous exercise (such as running), and a variety of other lifestyle factors. Here are the most common signs of vitamin and mineral deficiencies to look out for.

Mouth Sores and Cracked Lips

Mouth sores and cracked lips are very common signs of nutrient deficiencies. For example, vitamin B and iron deficiencies are linked to painful canker sores. And, cracked lips may be a symptom of a condition called angular cheilitis. Sometimes it’s caused by dehydration, but it may also be a sign of B vitamin deficiency. If you are dealing with mouth sores or cracked lips regularly, try increasing your intake of B vitamins and iron to see if the symptoms resolve. The most abundant dietary sources of B vitamins and iron are meat, fish, poultry, leafy green vegetables, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and legumes.

Vision Problems, Especially Poor Night Vision

Vision problems, and especially poor night vision, are common symptoms of nutritional deficiencies. Vitamin A is crucial for good eyesight because your body uses it to produce the pigment called rhodopsin, which is found in the retina and helps the eye see when it’s dark. Unfortunately, night blindness is one of those conditions that get worse if it’s left untreated. It can develop into a condition called xerophthalmia. In the worst-case scenario, it could even lead to blindness. If you are experiencing poor night vision and other eyesight issues, increasing your intake of vitamin A may help to alleviate the symptoms and potentially reverse the condition. Yellow and orange vegetables, eggs, organ meats, and leafy green vegetables are all excellent sources of vitamin A.

Thinning Hair and Hair Loss

Although hair loss and thinning hair often come with age, they can also be related to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. For example, consistent iron deficiency can cause your hair to thin or stop growing because iron is needed to synthesize the DNA found in hair follicles. Zinc is also important for hair growth because it is used for protein synthesis and cell division. Linoleic (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) are two fatty acids that are crucial for maintaining and growing healthy hair. And finally, biotin (B7) and niacin (B3) deficiencies have also been linked to hair loss. If you are experiencing thinning hair and unexplained hair loss, skip the expensive potions and try changing your diet instead. Seeds, nuts, whole grains, fish, dairy, meat, and leafy green vegetables are all grain sources of the most essential nutrients for healthy hair.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Restless Leg Syndrome, or RLS, is a condition that affects the nerves. It causes uncomfortable numbness in the legs accompanied by an irresistible urge to move them, especially when you’re laying down or trying to fall asleep. Although this condition most commonly affects women, men can experience it, too. RLS symptoms are often the most severe in people who are deficient in iron. Increasing your iron intake by eating more meat, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens may help. Vitamin C also supports iron absorption, so you may want to increase your intake of vitamin C rich veggies and fruits. Low magnesium levels could also be a contributing factor.

Brittle Hair and Nails

Many things can contribute to brittle hair and nails, but one of the most common is a deficiency in biotin (B7). If you also experience tingling in your hands and feet, muscle cramps and muscle pain, and chronic fatigue, you should increase your biotin intake. Smoking, heavy drinking, Crohn's disease, and other digestive issues, as well as pregnancy, can all lead to biotin deficiency. Egg yolks, bananas, nuts, seeds, meat, and fish are all great sources of this key nutrient.

Bleeding Gums

Vitamin C deficiency is one of the most common causes of bleeding gums. Vitamin C is also an essential nutrient for wound healing and immune system health. Not only that, but vitamin C is a very beneficial antioxidant for protecting against cellular damage. The human body is not capable of producing vitamin C, so you can only get it through diet or supplements. Slow wound healing, dry scaly skin, nosebleeds, bruising easily, and tooth loss are also indicators of vitamin D deficiency. In order to get enough vitamin C through your diet alone, you should eat three to four servings of vegetables and at least two servings of fruit per day. Most of us don’t come anywhere close to that.

How to Prevent and Combat Nutritional Deficiencies

  • Start by eating a whole food diet and including a wide variety of nutritious foods. Eating a greater variety of foods ensures that you’re getting a range of key nutrients. The bulk of your diet should be made up of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, lean protein, and some complex carbohydrates from whole grains.
  • No matter how conscientious you are about your diet, it’s very difficult to get all of your nutrients through diet alone, and that’s where taking a daily multivitamin comes in. Choose an organic multivitamin formula that’s appropriate for your age and gender because nutritional needs are different for women and men, and they change quite a bit as you age. If you are pregnant, consider choosing organic prenatal gummy vitamins like these to meet the additional nutritional needs that are specific to pregnancy.
  • You should also consider increasing your probiotic intake. Probiotics are essential for a healthy gut and proper digestion, which is crucial for proper nutrient absorption.

FAQ About Nutrients and Vitamins

Which nutrients does your body need daily?

In addition to vitamins, minerals, and fats, your body needs protein, carbohydrates, and water every single day for optimum health. As a runner, protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats are especially important for energy and muscle repair, while vitamins and minerals are necessary for long term health. Eating a wide variety of whole foods and take a high-quality multivitamin ensures that your body gets the nutrients it needs daily.

What are the seven essential nutrients?

There are seven different types of essential nutrients, and you should try to include some of each in your diet daily. The seven essential nutrients everyone needs are water, vitamins, minerals, proteins, dietary fiber, fats, and carbohydrates. For optimum health, steer clear of fad diets that eliminate certain nutrients and focus on eating a wide variety of foods instead.

What is the most important nutrient?

The most important nutrient for human health is water. You can only survive for a few days without drinking water. The human body is made mostly of water, and every single cell in your body needs water to function properly. Allowing yourself to become even slightly dehydrated can cause issues like headaches, inability to focus, and physical impairment.

Wrap Up

Nutritional needs can vary greatly according to your diet and lifestyle, so preventing vitamin and mineral deficiencies is important. Running is fantastic exercise, but it’s also physically demanding, which increases your need for certain nutrients even further. Eating a varied, whole-food diet and taking a daily multivitamin is the best way to prevent nutritional deficiencies in your diet. Written by: Donna Maurer
Why you can trust Sabrina Wieser
Runningbrina is committed to bringing you unbiased ratings and information. Her editorial content is not influenced by advertisers. Sabrina uses data-driven methodologies to evaluate all products, so all brands are measured equally.
  • Most featured running blog, past 6 years
  • USATF certified running coach
  • Experienced endurance athlete
  • 7 marathons

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