Vitamins are so crucial for your well-being. They help you feel energetic and to have that positive pep in your step. You can eat healthy all of the time, most of the time, but chances are, you may still have some deficiencies or insufficiencies in your nutrient needs, especially in micronutrients such as vitamins.
There are many reasons why deficiencies can occur including conditions such as leaky gut, chronic illnesses such as IBS, and Crohn’s. Conditions such as menopause, and pregnancy, can also influence how well you absorb these nutrients.
Making sure your body meets its requirements of vitamins and minerals every day can boost energy, focus, and weight loss. Vitamins and minerals can also determine how well you sleep, the health status of your mind, and your immune health. That is really your whole health.
Some of these vitamins are important participants in the process in which energy production takes place in the human body.
In order for the energy molecule, ATP, to be produced to make energy, guess what every energy molecule requires? Some vitamins, especially the B vitamins.
Some vitamins such as B vitamins, Vitamin A, D, and vitamin C play a key role in our immune health as well.
For a thriving vitality, therefore, we all need to optimize these vitamins and minerals making sure we meet our daily requirements.
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If you have been feeling sluggish and slow, tired, fatigued, perhaps not sleeping, (which only makes things worse), well, you may be deficient in the following vitamins, minerals.
Vitamin D3 is synthesized in the skin from 7 dehydrocholesterol and this depends on the exposure to sunlight, specifically ultraviolet B radiation.
Vitamin D, like vitamin A, is important because of its metabolites 1, 25 dihydroxy. Vitamin D3 acts as a hormone and Vitamin A metabolites that act as a hormone is retinoic acid.
Due to its extensive use in many body functions, vitamin D is found in cells throughout the body, states the National Institute of Health
However, vitamin D deficiency is common and especially so in the northern hemisphere where winters are long and modernization dictates people spend so many hours at the office or indoors away from the sun.
In a perfect world, you are supposed to have sun exposure for at least 15 minutes a day to get your vitamin D. But we don’t in reality, get to do that most of the time, especially in the winter time.
And even when we are out in the sun, we wear sunscreen which prevents vitamin D production.
Being healthy can be a struggle. You need the sunscreen, so you don’t burn to a crisp and get skin cancer, but then no vitamin D!
The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the US is 41.6% and, the highest rate is seen in black people. A whopping 82.1% of black people in the US are deficient of vitamin D, followed by Hispanics at 69.2% deficiency, states an article by Nutrition Research in Science Direct.
Black people and people with dark skin tones don’t make vitamin D as efficiently. It is difficult for them to absorb enough of vitamin D because the skin acts as a barrier due to melanin.
Vitamin D deficiency can also occur in older people as well, in some cases, when the Kidneys no longer work well to convert Vitamin D to its active metabolite.
Other people at risk of vitamin D deficiency are people who suffer from conditions such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and IBS.
Being overweight can also lead to vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is fat-soluble. When there is too much fat it leads to a lot of vitamin D binding to fat cells and not easily transported in the blood, states the National Institute of Health.
The Role of Vitamin D in the body
Vitamin D is required for the following:
- strong bones, and teeth
- calcium metabolism
- for the formation of sex hormones such as estrogen.
- the functioning of muscles
- nerve function
- Immune health. It modulates both innate and adaptive immune health as research shows.
Because of the many roles that vitamin D plays in health, deficiency can cause health issues beyond strong bones and teeth for which it is traditionally known for.
There is evidence in research suggesting that just like a folate deficiency can cause spina bifida, a deficiency in vitamin D, which is very common in pregnant women, can cause mental illness and cause brain changes in the offspring, leading to autism, schizophrenia and mental problems in adult life.
Per research published in, The Journal of Nutrition Health and Aging, a deficiency in vitamin D can also lead or contribute to depression.
And according to MEDLINE Plus, Vitamin D deficiency can lead to many diseases including the following:
- back pain
- bone and hair loss
- rickets in the young children
- high blood pressure
- cancer autoimmune conditions such as MS
Considering that vitamin D deficiency is associated with some chronic diseases many people are suffering needlessly from chronic illnesses that can otherwise be prevented.
Luckily, since we are not able to get as much sunlight as we require to produce enough vitamin D, we can still acquire it from a diet consisting of food sources as the following:
- Fatty fish
- Fortified milk orange juice and cereal
- Egg yolks
However, it is still possible to be deficient or not quite have a sufficient amount because of all the factors mentioned formerly. So a vitamin D supplement may be our recourse.
It is important to check with your doctor first and if very low your doctor will give you a supplement for a specified time period. Usually, after then, you can take a regular vitamin D.
The B Vitamins
There are several B vitamins and they do sometimes come in a combination form as B vitamin complex.
B vitamin contributes a lot to proper body functions, and deficiency is detrimental to health.
Vitamin B levels can be low in teenagers, those who abuse alcohol, pregnant women, obese people and people with gastrointestinal diseases such as celiac disease, IBS and colitis that make it hard to absorb nutrients from food.
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine is an important coenzyme involved in over 100 enzyme reactions in the body according to an article published in NIH. Many of these reactions mostly involve protein metabolism required for many functions in the body.
Vitamin B6 is also involved in energy production, immune function, and is crucial in nerve function, amino acids production as well as the production of neurotransmitters such as Gaba, serotonin, and dopamine.
Additionally, vitamin B6 is required for cognitive development through the biosynthesis of neurotransmitters. Vitamin B6 is needed as well for maintaining normal levels of homocysteine in the blood ( NIH).
Deficiency can occur in people suffering from liver, kidney, digestive problems, smokers, obese people and people with autoimmune conditions and or alcoholics and pregnant women.
One research even found that anemia in pregnancy can be related to a deficiency in vitamin B 6.
- B6 deficiency can lead to symptoms such as:
- microcytic anemia
- dermatitis with scaling
- cracking of lips and corners of the mouth
- a smooth tongue.
Research is also revealing that a deficiency can also lead to depression, and a weak immune function ( source)
Foods rich in vitamin B 6 include:
- red meat
- organ meat
- starchy vegetables such as potatoes
- some fruits such as oranges
B12 deficiency is pretty widespread. About 2/5 of Us population have a marginal B12 deficiency, according to research done on 3000 men and women ranging from 26-83 year old in Framingham Mass. In this research, 39 percent of the population had plasma B12 in the low normal range.
While the usual deficiency level begins at 148 picomoles per liter, the study leader, Catherine Tucker an epidemiologist nutritionist stated that some people showed neurological symptoms in the higher range of insufficiency.
A deficiency in B12 can cause the following problems:
- type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia, which is characterized by fewer malformed large red blood cells.
- Problems with balance when walking
- loss of vibration sensation
- dementia in advanced stages
- Vitamin B12 is required for the making of the protective coating around nerves called when inadequate the nerves are exposed and lead to damage as happens in MS cases. ( note: I note stating B12 leads to MS
In the research mentioned, the younger people had as much deficiency as those in their 60 and up. Normally it is expected that older people would be deficient due to an insufficient Gi absorption related to decreased stomach acid production.
Vitamin B 12 is responsible for keeping nerves and blood cells healthy. B12 also assists in DNA synthesis.
According to Catherine Tucker, a nutritional epidemiologist, ” there is a lot of undetected vitamin B12 deficiency out there.”
Vitamin B Sources
Vitamin B12 is mostly found in animal-based food sources so vegans and vegetarians can be deficient.
Vitamin B 12 sources include the following:
- fortified cereals
Research is showing that deficiency in vitamin B12 and folate can lead to depression.
and low levels of both vitamin B12 and folate have been found in people suffering from depression. Per research, this association there is a strong association between people with depression and deficiency in both vitamin B12 and folate, both of which are involved in metabolizing homocysteine.
Homocysteine is a metabolic byproduct that needs to be recycled through the actions of B12 and folate. Many people with elevated homocysteine also in many cases have depression as well.
Vitamin B3 or NIacin
B3 has two components.
It occurs as nicotinic acid and as Niacinamide.
Niacin helps convert food into energy and is important for cellular metabolism. Niacin acts as an antioxidant and is important in cell signaling, and DNA repair.
That is an important role because anything that can interfere with DNA can lead to many and varied health issues.
Vitamin B1 or Thiamine
Thiamine enables the body to use carbohydrates. Also, thiamine plays a role in nerve, muscle and heart function.
Thiamine is found in the outer layers and germ of cereal, in yeast, pork, beef, whole grains, pulses, cauliflower, oranges, eggs, potatoes, and kale states article in Medical News Today
As such deficiency is rare.
It is possible to get the recommended amount through diet from fortified cereals and foods mentioned above.
Deficiency can lead to beriberi but this condition is not common in the developed industrialized world where deficiency is not common.
A characteristic sign of deficiency is the four Ds of dermatitis, diarrhea, and dementia or pellagra and death.
The benefits of niacin, apart from, obviously avoiding these nasty problems listed above include lowering LDL cholesterol. As Such, B3 is sometimes used for this purpose on people who cannot take a statin drug.
One side effect of taking niacin in supplement form is a flushing effect.
Folate is one of the most important nutrients for health.
A few years ago, no one knew what caused Spina bifida. Now we know it is due to a deficiency in folate during pregnancy.
According to research published by The New England Journal of Medicine, it is important to have optimal folate levels within the first few months after conception. That means one must have optimal levels of folate before conception.
So being in the habit of ensuring optimal overall nutrition is important as a lifestyle is especially crucial for any woman of childbearing age.
The reason is that folate is needed during those critical early weeks after conception. It can be too late by the time one starts to supplement after discovering they are pregnant. So it is necessary to have optimal folate way before.
So young women and those of childbearing age should take a supplement.
Folate may also help protect one from Alzheimers diseases by improving blood flow to the brain. Improved blood flow also helps prevent heart disease.
But apart from the healthy development of a fetus, folate is important for so much more. Such as fighting depression, and healthy skin and nails.
A study published in The Journal of Pharmacology found that low levels of folate were found in people suffering from mood disorders treated by lithium. Usually, lithium is a medication used to treat bipolar disorder.
The researchers also noted that people with low blood folate had a poor response to antidepressant treatments.
And the same goes to vitamin 12, which has been found to improve outcomes for depression treatment. According to the research referenced, folate and B 12 are crucial in a methylation process that essential for neurological function.
An increased level of homocysteine, an oxidation metabolic by-product in the brain is a marker of a B12 and folate deficiency, the study says. And it has been found that increased homocysteine levels have been found in people with depression.
And additionally, a mutation in the MTHFR C677R gene Is found in many people with depression. The MTHFR C677R makes it hard to metabolize homocysteine.
It turns out having at least the required amount of folate, 400 MCG a day is not that easy to get from food, and so some foods such as bread and cereal are fortified to decrease deficiencies in folate.
Researchers recommend 800mcg of folate and 1 mg of vitamin B 12. daily to improve depression outcomes.
Food sources of folate:
- leafy green
- citrus fruits
Some people are not able to fully metabolize folate as well. This is due to the problem of methylation This is because some people, have a partial or full gene mutation in the methylation gene.
They are therefore not able to reduce folate to its methyl form. This prevents them from fully utilizing folate from food or supplements. These people have a defect in the MTHFR gene.
The problem of methylation can also cause many other chronic health conditions. Learn more about MTHFR here
This means that when they eat folate-rich foods, folate is not metabolized to Methyl Folate. This step is important for the formation of neurotransmitter serotonin which we need for mental health and prevention of depression.
The lack of folate methylation leads to accumulation of homocysteine in the brain a byproduct of oxidation and metabolic actions in the brain. A simple blood test can check for this mutation.
A lot of people have this mutation. Having this mutation can lead to many health conditions including cancer, depression, and anxiety and many other conditions. A simple blood test can let you know so you can take measures such as taking a Methylfolate and methyl B12. These are already methylated and is for the body to use.
You can read more about vitamin B deficiency here B 6 deficiency can be found here
Okay. This is a direct quote. ” It took over 75 years to realize that zinc is also an essential trace element for rats, and an additional 30 years went by before it was recognized that this also true for humans”, per article published on Wiley Online Library. Also per same said article, zinc is one of the most important trace elements in human nutrition and lifestyle.
Zinc is an important trace mineral essential for immunity, growth, and development. It is also important in gene expression and DNA stabilization.
Zinc is important for healing, is antimicrobial and is used in wound healing.
Zinc, a vital element for all physiologic systems, was used as a curative drug since the 14th century. This article also mentions that zinc alleviates Gi, liver and bacterial and microbial ailments, and has some benefits in diabetes as well.
The surprising thing to me is that it turns out that if you are under stress, you are likely to be deficient in zinc. Wow. Who among us is not stressed?
You are also at risk of a deficiency if you are older. And I get it. You are not older today, but in some years in the future, you will be.
So it is good to know this now so you can start making sure you are not deficient. Then hopefully you can jump whoops or whatever and surprise all those people who don’t know this. Aha!
Fortunately, foods that have high levels of protein are also rich in zinc.
So to get enough zinc to eat the following:
Deficiency is most common in the elderly in the developed world and common in young children in developing countries per research.
A deficiency in zinc can lead to
- brain dysfunction
- slow or impaired wound healing
- loss of appetite
- chronic inflammation
- liver disease
- neuropsychological changes such as emotional instability such as depression, and irritability per review published in the American Psychological Society
I cannot emphasize enough the great role magnesium plays in our health. Research states that magnesium is a component of over 300 biosynthesis functions in our bodies. So that is a whole lot of functions that can go wrong if you are not having enough or are deficient.
Many health practitioners will tell you to make sure you have enough calcium for bone health. Well, they should be including Magnesium in that list as well, for without sufficient magnesium strong bone s will not be formed Medline Plus states that magnesium supports these important bodily functions:
Magnesium is essential for the following areas of health among others:
Without sufficient magnesium, one may suffer from conditions such as the following for example:
- Sore muscles
- diabetes, and
- heart disease.
- Some research also associates magnesium deficiency and some psychological illnesses.
While some disease processes can make one deficient, the widespread deficiency is because many people are not eating the right foods:
The prevalence of magnesium deficiency is more related to people not eating the right foods, and the foods sometimes lacking these nutrients due to soil depletion as explained here
Magnesium-rich foods include:
Leaf green vegetables, such as spinach, legumes eg. beans, nuts such as almonds seeds such as pu\mkin seeds, like sunflower seeds and whole grains.
In this day and age in the western world especially one would not expect a calcium deficiency. But for women, we start to lose bone mass early and so it is quite important to make sure we are getting enough of this mineral to keep our bones strong.
Fortunately, it is quite easy to get enough calcium from our diet if they include the following foods:
- Leafy greens like kale, spinach, collards, turnips leaves
- Legumes such as beans and lentils
- Fortified cereals
Everyone needs oxygen to all their organs to be healthy. Iron is necessary for healthy red blood cells and oxygen transport. A deficiency leads to anemia. If suffering from anemia, one is tired and fatigued all the time.
They are moody and have brain fog. A deficiency can occur if one doesn’t eat red meat and is not eating enough of foods such as green leafy vegetables, or beans. It can also occur if a person experiences heavy menstrual periods, or has some bleed elsewhere such as Gi bleeding.
People who are vegetarians or vegans may need to supplement iron.
Iron supplements come in various forms. such as ferrous gluconate, ferric citrate, and ferrous sulfate. Check with your doctor to see if you have a deficiency and for recommendations.
It is best to take Iron with vitamin C for best absorption. Drink plenty of water and include fiber as iron can cause constipation. Too much iron can be toxic, so make sure to get the best recommendation from your health practitioner.
Related: Many People are Deficient in Magnesium: Are You?
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
It turns out not all fat is bad. Indeed, we need some fats to keep some of our organs healthy such as the brain, and the eyes.
For the most part, the body can make its own fats. But Omega 3 is the exception. Omega 3 s are essential fats which means the body can’t make these, and we must on=btain them for food. So guess what happens when we don’t. Our cells then don’t function right. Na that is a health problem.
It is likely that many people are not eating enough of omega 3 rich foods. Women especially, in the modern-day who tend to experience extreme stress need enough omega 3. Research shows omega 3-s do a lot to ease stress and anxiety.
Omega3s are very important in overall health. As we all know, the body is made of cells. All cells have a cell membrane. Omega 3s are essential in protecting the cell membrane sometimes also functioning as cells receptors.
Omega 3s are part of the building blocks of hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction, and relaxation of blood vessels and they are crucial in control of inflammation.
Omega three protect you from inflammation thus protecting you from diseases such as cardiovascular diseases Mental health problems are sometimes associated with inflammation caused by the SAD diet and environmental toxins.
Lowering inflammation has been found to help lower anxiety and supplementing with Omega 3 fatty acids this study found lowered inflammation markers and lowered anxiety as well.
In the ideal case, we should keep a certain ratio between omega 3, and omega 6, but what happens is that we eat too much of the omega 6, and then inflammation and chronic disease happens.
More and more research is showing that omega 3 fatty acids are very important to brain health
And increasing research is showing that omega 3 fatty acids can indeed alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
While still large scale studies are warranted, this study found that people who consumed omega 3 foods especially, the PUFAs had a lower incident of depression.
The recommendation is to get omega 3s from food, but if you need to supplement, some studies have found that EPA does seem to work better than other omega 3s in alleviating depression, and one study even found EPA omega 3 oils had the same anti-depressive effect as Fluoxetine.
Talking of super nutrient, omega 3s also help with healthy brain development during childhood.
Research is showing that getting adequate omega 3s during pregnancy especially, has a lot of developmental benefits for a child leading to better social skills, intelligence, lower risk of mental developmental problems such as autism, and even ADHD.
Additionally, Omega 3 optimization in pregnancy and childhood led to improved problem-solving abilities.
Also according to Harvard School of Nutrition, it is important for pregnant women to eat foods rich in Omega 3 from the third trimester to the second year of life. Because during this time a developing child needs a steady supply of DHA, to form the brain and other parts of the nervous system.
So it is clear, young women and expectant mothers need a sufficient supply of omega 3s fatty acids.
The many roles of Omega 3 s in health
Omega3s and Brain Health:
Omega 3s contain high levels of HDL, the good cholesterol that important for hormone formation and brain functioning.
The role of omega three fatty acids and brain health has been the subject of many studies and reviews. Some have found a significant impact of omegas in the prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Some studies have indicated that including omega 3 in diet can help reduce risks of cognitive decline.
It is suggested that since DHA is a component of cellular membranes in the brain, it can be expected that omega 3s would help maintain brain function by maintaining neuron cells integrity, and research has found that many people with Alzheimer’s have less DHA than those without the disease.
Omegas 3s improve heart health through improvement in triglycerides, blood pressure, reduced inflammation and thus reduced chances of clots. Omega 3s reduce clots by preventing platelets from sticking and forming clots, this research found. This is another reason why fish oil capsules are recommended for a healthy heart.
Consumption of foods high in omega 3s such as fatty fish is associated with lower levels of cardiovascular events, reduced heart failure, and coronary diseases and fatal coronary disease, and indeed, populations that eat more fatty fish have an overall reduction in these diseases.
However, always check with your doctor because that can also thin the blood and if a patient is on a blood thinner then that cause bleeding problems.
Omega 3s and eye health
There is research showing that the fatty acids, EPA and DHA are required for eye health, specifically for proper eye development and development of the retina. There is a lot of DHA concentration in the retina of the eye, which is an indication that it has an important function there.
It is common knowledge that eye health can deteriorate as we age.
Omega3 and heart health
DHA one type of omega 3 is a structural component of the retina. a very important part of your eyes.
Omega 3 and Inflammation
Inflammation is really the main cause of what really ails the modern man and woman. It is a direct result of lifestyle, and poisoned environments. And environments means your house, your cleaning stuff, the bed you sleep on, the soap you use, the ingredients for your food… and the list is long. We can only tackle one thing at a time.
Omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. While Inflammation is necessary for immune health and healing after an injury, too much of inflammation that goes on too long can cause health issues.
Omega 3s prevent skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis-through strengthening cell membranes and, preventing inflammation. These skin condition studies show is associated with low levels of omega 3 oils such as DHA and EPA.
Although studies have shown mixed results, some studies have shown that omega 3 fatty acids can prevent certain cancers such as breast cancer, colorectal cancers, and prostate cancers as well as other types of cancer.
But while the studies are mixed, including omega 3s in your diet is likely to be more helpful as it has many other benefits.
The list of health benefits of omega 3s is long and includes the following:
- muscle health.
- regulating your sleep through melatonin regulation
- control of stress hormones
Sources of omega 3s include the following:
- Fatty Fish such as wild-caught Salmon
- Flax seeds
It is best to get omega 3s from food such as Salmon, or flax seeds.
However, if you need to supplement be careful with your choice because you need to get a superior product that will indeed meet your health needs.
Chose one that has high-quality DHA and EPA and makes sure that the source is 100 percent certified sustainable non-GMO for the highest quality. You want to get one that has not been on the shelf so long that it lost its potency. I have been supplementing with omega 3 and have found that I feel better overall. I sleep better, and my joints feel better too. I really like this one
It turns out the world of gut bacteria, your microbiota is vast and is mysterious perhaps as mysterious as the ocean underworld. Inhabited by 100 trillion different microbes.
As I mentioned in this article, science is only now beginning to delve into the mysteries of the gut microbe underworld and finding that these tiny creatures can influence our health.
Your Gut Microbiome plays a great many roles for your health from maintaining a healthy gut by preventing leaky gut, to manufacturing some neurotransmitters, and keeping bad microbes at bay.
These good microbes defend your body against inflammation, the one cause for so many health issues including heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and even mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, joint pain, and the list goes on.
They also act as your in-house waste disposal clearing toxins and waste for you. ( Isn’t that nice)?
Your gut bacteria are also essential in producing some vitamins such as vitamin K and help in the absorption of others such as vitamin B12. And if you are deficient in these, you may have a leaky gut, which means then your body has a hard time absorbing many nutrients.
As a result of this deficiency, you may end up with complaints such as constant upset stomach, bloat, sensitivities to some foods, and allergies.
You can optimize your probiotic intake by consuming healthy yogurt, not the sugar lade type. Include more fermented foods in your diet. Or can supplement with probiotic capsules.
Sometimes it is just easy to pop a capsule. I don’t always remember to stock these fermented foods and so having a bottle of these supplements really helps.
So there you have it. Do you take any supplements? Let me know what you take and would like to start taking.
I hope you are taking g good care of your health. Let me know below.
And please if you found this post helpful, please share on your social media channels. Thank you!
Wishing you vibrant thriving health!
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Thank you Janie for this great resource. I love that you’ve listed vitamin-rich foods. A post to return to. I look forward to reading more.
Heidi, thank you so much. I am all about making food your medicine and your medicine your food. And Vitamins are a big component of health.
I gotta bookmark this website it seems very beneficial extremely helpful
Laurinda, thank you so much! I am glad you found my site useful.
As a vegan, I take a B12 supplement and make sure to use Omega oils. In the winter, I also take a Vitam D3 supplement and Zinc whenever people around me are sick. It’s better to add supplements during those months just to be sure.
Hi Nina! That’s awesome! I am thrilled to hear you are taking great care of your health. Vitamin D, omega 3 and B12 are crucial to good health especially healing and immunity