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5 nutrients your diet is probably lacking

Lana Bandoim's picture

The Standard American Diet (SAD) is true to its acronym. Unfortunately, the average American does not get enough vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients. The popularity of empty-calorie fast food and imbalanced meals instead of home cooked and whole food has left the average American with several deficiencies in the diet.


These deficiencies contribute to a lack of energy and can lead to major health problems such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. However, education about nutrient deficiencies can make a difference. These are some of the most common nutrients that the average diet lacks.

1. Fiber

One of the most common nutrient deficiencies is fiber. Less than three percent of all Americans reach their recommended daily fiber intake, according to the Journal of Nutrition. The recommended intake is approximately 38 grams per day for men, and 25 grams per day for women. The most common reason for the deficiency is the lack of fiber in processed and refined grains, which is what most average Americans eat. Fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate that is essential for digestion, and those who do not have enough fiber will generally experience constipation and higher cholesterol levels.

To get the proper amount of fiber, you may want to focus on your daily intake of fruits and vegetables. However, some people get their daily dose of fiber through fiber bars and cereal fiber. “In a number of studies conducted throughout the years, people who ate higher amounts of cereal fiber had a lower risk of premature death from all causes,” according to the experts at NugoFiber. “This includes a 34% lower rate of death from diabetes, and a 15% lower rate of death from cancer.”

2. Potassium

Potassium is another essential nutrient with frequent deficiencies, but this is a nutrient the human body requires to function properly. It is necessary for keeping your heart beating and regulating blood flow. People with a potassium deficiency may notice a decrease in nerve and muscle function, including muscle cramps, constipation and fatigue.

Bananas, potatoes (with the skin), spinach and beets are all great sources of potassium. Similar to fiber, if you are focusing on getting your daily recommended intake of vegetables and fruits, then you are probably getting enough potassium.

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3. Calcium

Surprisingly, 75 percent of men and women reach the recommended dose of 1,000 mg a day of calcium. However, young adults and those over the age of 50 require a much higher dose, and many of them do not get it. Calcium is important for strong bones, teeth, nails, blood circulation and clotting. A deficiency in this mineral increases the brittleness of bones and the risk for osteoporosis.

One of the easiest ways to get calcium is through dairy products, but people who are lactose intolerant have other options. “Leafy greens, seafood, legumes, and fruit also contain calcium and many foods and drinks are fortified with the mineral,” according to Laura Schwecherl, contributor for Greatist.com. Schwecherl also recommends pairing calcium-rich foods with vitamin D for better absorption.

4. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is unique because the human body can absorb it by consuming it through food or get it from sunlight to reach the daily dose. Although eating the right foods and spending enough time outside helps, less than 30 percent of Americans get enough vitamin D.

Vitamin D is essential for regulating cell growth, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, reducing blood pressure and keeping away the winter blues. Vitamin D is best obtained through tuna, vitamin D enriched milk, fortified orange juice and fish.

5. Iron

Iron deficiency, both in the form of anemia and poor diet, affects more than 3 million Americans each year. It is particularly common in women because men need 8 mg of iron per day while women need 18 mg of iron. This is related to the extra nutrients women need, between the ages of 18 and 50, while they are in their childbearing years.

Iron is best absorbed through meat, and studies have shown that red meat has some of the highest absorption factors. However, there are other options for vegetarians and vegans such as edamame, lentils, broccoli, nuts and apricots. Vegetarians and vegans may need to pay attention to the amount of iron in their diet to make sure they are getting enough from nonmeat sources.