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You Might be Missing Out on These Important Vitamins and Minerals

Have you ever noticed that you are feeling “off?” It’s not anything you can put your finger on, but perhaps you’re a little more tired than usual or have some dark circles under your eyes. Maybe your nails have begun to flake or feel brittle, or your skin seems slightly dull and lifeless.

It’s not all in your head. Sometimes we get off track with our nutrition, and we think, “maybe I just need to start eating better again.” However, the root problem probably doesn’t have much to do with what you’re eating as much as what’s missing from your daily nutrition.

Micronutrients, the vitamins and minerals required in various amounts to sustain critical cellular processes, are just as important as the macronutrients we typically think more about. Unfortunately, when we start slacking on the fresh fruits and veggies and rely heavier on ready-to-eat processed foods, those micronutrients are the things we start to miss out on. However, leaving out these tiny vitamins and minerals can have big consequences.

Why do Vitamins and Minerals Matter?

Micronutrients are comprised of vitamins and minerals. They’re substances that the body cannot produce independently but are required to carry out its normal functions. Therefore, we must consume these vitamins and minerals in our diets. 

Vitamins

Different vitamins on wooden spoons

Vitamins are organic molecules, meaning they’re comprised of carbon atoms that are bonded with other elements. They naturally occur in tiny amounts in food items and are typically classified as fat-soluble or water-soluble.

The water-soluble vitamins are:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin B1
  • vitamin B2
  • vitamin B3
  • vitamin B5
  • vitamin B6
  • vitamin B7
  • vitamin B9
  • vitamin B12 

Fat-soluble vitamins dissolve in fat and accumulate in stored fat within the body. On the other hand, water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water, which means after the body uses what it needs, the excess is expelled through the urine.

The fat-soluble vitamins are: 

  • vitamin A
  • vitamin D
  • vitamin E
  • vitamin K

Minerals

Minerals are inorganic molecules, meaning their chemical compound lacks carbon, which is found in soil and water. Plants and animals absorb or consume these compounds in small amounts. Minerals are usually categorized by amounts required, the major minerals, and the trace minerals.

Major minerals are not more important than trace minerals, but they’re needed in greater amounts than trace minerals, which are required in very small amounts.

Foods high in vitamins and minerals

The major minerals are:

  • calcium
  • chloride
  • phosphorus
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • sulfur
  • sodium

The trace minerals are:

  • copper
  • chromium
  • iodine
  • iron
  • fluoride
  • manganese
  • selenium
  • molybdenum
  • zinc

Where Can We Get Vitamins and Minerals?

Vitamins and minerals exist in virtually all foods, but the question is which ones, and how much? That’s why the general health advice—eating a balanced diet—is used universally. By eating a broad range of foods every day, you will hopefully get adequate amounts of all the necessary vitamins and minerals. On the other hand, that’s also why it’s not recommended to eat the same foods day in and day out because you might be missing out on those micronutrients that your favourite meals are lacking.

Woman taking multi-vitamin wearing workout clothes

Today, it’s also convenient to include a multivitamin in your daily nutrition, as they typically include all of the vitamins and minerals required in the appropriate amounts for the day.

How to Tell if You’re Missing Vitamins and Minerals

While different vitamin and mineral deficiencies are related to different symptoms, they can sometimes be difficult to nail down. But if you’ve been feeling off lately or more fatigued and can’t pinpoint anything specific that would be causing it, you might want to consider your micronutrients.

These 7 symptoms are common to many deficiencies:

  1. Dry skin and cracked heels.
  2. Changes in or loss of hair.
  3. Oral problems or bleeding gums.
  4. Fatigue.
  5. Brittle nails.
  6. Changes in vision, especially at night.
  7. Restless leg syndrome or muscle cramps or spasms.

Now let’s talk about four common vitamins and minerals that, while not super common, Canadian adults might be falling short on when it comes to getting the ideal amount.

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Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is part of the vitamin B complex, a group of vitamins that was once thought of as a single vitamin. Each B vitamin has a different structure and various jobs within the body.

Vitamin B12 is involved with maintaining the health and function of nerve and blood cells. Vitamin B12 also plays a vital role in DNA formation.

Vitamin B12 occurs naturally in foods like fish, meat, eggs, dairy products, and other animal products. In addition, many foods, like breakfast cereals and nutritional yeasts are fortified with vitamin B12, as this vitamin is one of the few that does not occur naturally in plant-based foods.

Swiss Natural Vitamin B12

This means that vegetarian and vegan individuals may fall short of the necessary vitamin B12 to support healthy nerve, blood function, and DNA production, if they’re not careful.

Daily Recommended Value of Vitamin B12

Experts recommend that healthy adults get 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 every day, while pregnant or nursing adults require slightly more.

Failing to meet the requirements can cause a vitamin B12 deficiency, taking years to surface. Symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency include feeling fatigued, weakness, and anemia. A resulting decrease in nerve health and function can lead to the hands and feet feeling numb and tingly. Paleness, heart problems, infertility, weight loss, balance issues, depression, memory, and mouth and gum health can also be symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency.

In Canada, vitamin B12 deficiencies are rare, but the people that are most at risk are those in the following categories:

  • vegetarians and vegans
  • those with a family history of vitamin B12 deficiency
  • those with autoimmune diseases or Crohn’s disease
  • those with HIV
  • older adults above the age of 60

How to Get Enough Vitamin B12

Increasing your consumption of foods that are fortified with or naturally contain vitamin B12 is always the best way to ensure you’re getting the appropriate amount. However, if you fall into any of the at-risk categories, you might be interested in supplementing with vitamin B12.

Prescription vitamin B12 injections and nasal sprays are typically used in the event of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Others can turn to a multivitamin or a stand-alone vitamin B12 supplement.

Vitamin C

Naturally Canadian Vitamin C

Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid. It’s well known to the public for its powerful antioxidant properties, which protect cells from harmful oxidation caused by free radicals. Unfortunately, free radicals are abundant and result from normal, healthy cellular processes in the body and harmful environmental factors alike.

Vitamin C is involved in collagen production, which is paramount for healing wounds. Vitamin C also assists in iron’s functions, as vitamin C helps the body absorb the nutrient. However, one of the most known vitamin C functions is its role in immune function.

Vitamin C occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, the best sources being citruses like lemons, oranges, and grapefruits. Some foods, like breakfast cereals, are fortified with vitamin C; however, consumers should be aware that prolonged shelf-life can reduce the content.

Daily Recommended Value of Vitamin C

Health experts suggest healthy adult men require 90 mg of vitamin C daily, while healthy women need 75 mg. As with vitamin B12 above, pregnant and nursing people require slightly more vitamin C to keep healthy.

In Canada, vitamin C deficiencies are rare, but scurvy (the disease resulting from a vitamin C deficiency) can occur after several weeks of failing to consume enough. Scurvy causes fatigue, mouth and gum problems, joint pain, slow healing, and small purple or red spots on the skin.

While a vitamin C deficiency is rare, people in the following categories are more at risk:

  • smokers and those exposed to secondhand smoke
  • medical conditions like malabsorption, cancer, or kidney disease

How to Get Enough Vitamin C

Eating a varied diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables is the best way to ensure you’re getting adequate vitamin C.

Luckily, many fruits containing vitamin C are enjoyed raw because, as with shelf life, heating can destroy vitamin C.

Naturally Canadian Vitamin D3

If you fail to eat a varied diet, supplements can be a good way to meet your vitamin C needs. Most multivitamins contain vitamin C, and you can also find stand-alone supplements.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a nutrient that’s commonly known as calcium’s helper. While it’s true that vitamin D is essential for helping the body absorb and utilize calcium for strong teeth and bones, vitamin D is overlooked for its essential role in immune function.

Beyond bone health and immune function, vitamin D is also involved in nerve and muscle health. Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin because when sunlight combines with cholesterol in your skin, it creates vitamin D. However, most people do not live in climates appropriate to rely on sunshine alone to support their body’s vitamin D needs.

Vitamin D is plentiful in fatty fish and occurs in small amounts in egg yolks, cheese, and mushrooms. In addition, many foods like cow’s milk, milk alternatives, and breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin D. 

Daily Recommended Value of Vitamin D

Adults between 18 and 70 require about 15 mcg of vitamin D a day, while older adults require about 20 mcg. Pregnant and nursing people require the usual 15 mcg.

Vitamin D is one of the vitamins that many people are not consuming enough of. While most have not reached the level of a severe vitamin D deficiency known as rickets or osteomalacia, levels are low enough to lead to some unpleasant symptoms and an increased risk of osteoporosis. 

People in these categories are more likely to have low vitamin D levels:

  • breastfed infants
  • adults over age 70
  • people who cover their skin entirely from the sun or who use excessive sunscreen
  • individuals with darker skin
  • certain diseases like Crohn’s or celiac
  • those who fall under the obese category on the BMI scale

How to Get Enough Vitamin D

Getting out in the sunshine and eating more fatty fish are two of the best ways to increase vitamin D blood levels.

Animal Pak Multivitamin by Universal Nutrition

However, these things aren’t possible for many people. So, including a vitamin D supplement, whether stand-alone or in a multivitamin, might be the best way to ensure you’re getting adequate amounts.

Because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it is one in which you need to be careful not to take too much, as too much can make you sick.

Vitamin K

Lastly, vitamin K is an essential vitamin necessary for blood and bone health. The body requires vitamin K to produce prothrombin, which is responsible for clotting the blood in the event of injury. Prothrombin from vitamin K is also involved in creating new bone and regulating calcium levels in the blood.

Vitamin K occurs naturally in many vegetables like spinach, kale, other green leafy vegetables, and broccoli. It’s also plentiful in vegetable oils, and some fruits like blueberries and figs contain vitamin K. In addition, soybeans, eggs, cheese, and meat contain vitamin K.

Daily Recommended Value of Vitamin K

Health adult males require about 120 mcg of vitamin K, while adult women require around 90 mcg of vitamin K per day. As with vitamin D, pregnant and nursing individuals require the same amount.

It is very rare to be completely deficient in vitamin K, but less than optimal amounts are fairly common.

People in these categories are especially likely to have less than optimal vitamin K levels:

Pure Lab Vitamins Vitamin K2 Supplement
  • newborns who do not get a vitamin K injection
  • conditions like celiac, ulcerative colitis, or cystic fibrosis
  • people who have had weight loss surgery

How to Get Enough Vitamin K

Increasing the variety of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet is a great way to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin K. Because vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, like vitamin D, it’s less important that you’re eating it every day than consuming it regularly every few days.

If your diet is very limited, a multivitamin is a great way to ensure you get adequate amounts of vitamin K without getting too much. 

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Vitamins and minerals are essential to your health and well-being. While deficiencies are serious health conditions, simply consuming less than optimal amounts can lead to symptoms that keep you from feeling your best. Ensuring you’re getting enough vitamin K, vitamin D, vitamin C, and vitamin B12 can make a big difference in your health. The best way to ensure you’re meeting your body’s needs is to eat a varied diet rich in fruits and vegetables. However, multivitamins are a convenient source for when you feel you can’t maintain that ideal varied diet.

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