The best way to ensure that you’re getting all the vitamins your body needs to function properly is to eat a healthy and balanced diet. In fact, one of the main reasons many people suffer from deficiencies, according to Mercola.com, is that they don’t eat the way they should. But even if you eat a healthy and balanced diet, the way your food is stored, a lack of freshness and processing can greatly affect the vitamins your body is able to absorb.
The list below describes how certain vitamins are essential to your health, some symptoms you may recognize if you’re suffering from a deficiency and the foods you should eat to get your vitamin levels back on track. There are supplements you can take, but usually the best source is the all-natural way through food.
It’s important to note that you cannot diagnose a vitamin deficiency on your own, so if you recognize any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor. Under your doctor’s guidance and supervision, you can get a deficiency under control in a way that works for you and any of your pre-existing conditions.
1. Vitamin B12
Everyday Health explains that vitamin B12 plays a vital role because it aids the production of DNA and helps make new neurotransmitters in the brain.
Common symptoms include: numbness in the hands, feet or legs; difficulty with walking and balance; anemia; fatigue; weakness; a swollen tongue; memory loss; paranoia and hallucinations.
Doctors say there’s an increase in this deficiency because more people are going vegan and undergoing weight-loss surgery. B12 is commonly found in animal sources, so if you have a deficiency, you should consume more meat, poultry, fish and milk products. If you’re vegan, Everyday Health suggests nondairy milk, meat substitutes and breakfast cereals to help increase your intake.
Mercola.com says magnesium helps detoxify your body of environmental toxins and prevent migraines and cardiovascular diseases. Some studies show it could even reduce the risk of developing diabetes for those who are high risk. But despite its incredible benefits to our bodies, Mercola says 80 percent of us have a magnesium deficiency.
The symptoms of a magnesium deficiency include: decrease in appetite, nausea and vomiting, fatigue and weakness. A severe deficiency can cause numbness, muscle cramps, seizures, abnormal heart rhythms, changes in personality and low levels of potassium or calcium.
To get your magnesium levels back on track, you don’t need to resort to supplements. Instead it’s important to consume dark-green leafy vegetables like seaweed, spinach, or Swiss chard. Some kinds of beans, nuts, and seeds — like pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds — are also great sources of magnesium, as are avocados.
3. Vitamin D
The best way to get vitamin D is to let it soak into your skin from the sun, but the benefits of this vitamin are much deeper than that. Vitamin D is key to bone health, and without it, Everyday Health says it can actually cause osteoporosis.
The symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency include: fatigue and muscle aches or weakness, being over the age of 50, obesity, feeling blue, head sweating and poor immune function.
To get the vitamin D you need, Mercola.com suggests getting out into the sun. You need only enough sunlight to make your skin one shade darker; any more than that is harmful to your body and actually won’t help you produce more vitamin D. Everyday Health says you can also reach for fortified milk and yogurt daily, as well as fatty fish.
Iron is so important to your health because it helps your body make the red blood cells it needs. When your iron levels are too low, your body can’t carry enough oxygen, which can cause serious problems.
The symptoms of low iron, according to Everyday Health, include: fatigue, pale skin and dull, thin, sparse hair.
If you need a boost of iron, opt for some iron-filled foods like beef, oysters, spinach, lentils and beans — such as white beans, chickpeas and kidney beans.
Drink your milk! Everyday Health explains what you probably already know about this essential vitamin: Calcium is crucial for strong bone health. But it also controls muscle and nerve function.
The common symptoms of a calcium deficiency are: fatigue, muscle cramps, abnormal heart rhythms and a poor appetite.
Mercola.com suggests combating low calcium levels by eating raw whole foods that maximize natural minerals, such as leafy greens. Milk, the pith of citrus fruits, carob and wheat grass are also great sources of calcium.
**Do not start a calcium supplement without speaking to your doctor first. Calcium levels are closely tied to vitamin D, K2 and magnesium, and too much could increase your risk for heart attack or stroke, according to Mercola.com. So a proper regimen to maintain all these vitamin levels should be discussed with your doctor.
Also known as folic acid, folate is an extremely important vitamin for pregnant women and any women of childbearing age. Folate keeps cells and red blood cells in check, and a decrease in folate can cause neural tube defects in unborn children.
The symptoms of a folate deficiency include: fatigue, gray hair, ulcers in your mouth, poor growth and tongue swelling.
To combat a folate deficiency, the folks at Everyday Health suggest pregnant women and women of childbearing age take a supplement. You can also get folate from fortified cereals, beans, lentils, leafy greens and oranges.
7. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is essential for maintaining brain health, protecting against aging and supporting normal cholesterol levels.
If you have a vitamin E deficiency, you might recognize the following symptoms, according to UMD Medical Center: muscle weakness, loss of muscle mass, abnormal eye movements, vision problems and unsteady walking.
Mercola.com says you can combat a vitamin E deficiency by taking a natural supplement that is marked as the “d-” form (for example, d-alpha-tocopherol or d-beta-tocopherol). The best source of vitamin E is in your food, though, so opt for nuts — like hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, and pecans — seeds, olive oil, legumes and green vegetables.