Are You Getting Enough Of These 3 Essential Nutrients?

by Dr. Jonathan D'souza

When it comes to calories, we’re very particular of what we eat. But sadly, what many people fail to understand is that the nutrient content of a particular food (and not just fats and calories) is more important for optimal health.

Talking about nutrients, we all know that they play a vital role in overall health and well-being. But though we can obtain essential nutrients from a balanced, real food-based diet, the typical modern diet is devoid of them.

In this article, we talk about three such nutrient deficiencies and the possible foods you can consume to beat them.

1) Iodine Deficiency
Iodine is a mineral that is essential for the production of the thyroid hormones and normal thyroid functioning.[1] Thyroid hormones play a vital role in many processes in the body such as brain development, growth, and bone maintenance. They also control the metabolism.

Iodine deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies globally and affects about one-third of the world’s population.[2,3,4] A common symptom of iodine deficiency is an enlarged thyroid gland, also called as a goiter. It can cause an increase in heart rate, weight gain and shortness of breath. Severe iodine deficiency can lead to mental retardation and developmental abnormalities.[1]

Good Dietary Sources Of Iodine

  1. Dairy: A cup of plain yogurt provides about 50 percent of the RDI (recommended daily intake).
  2. Whole Eggs: One large egg provides 16 percent of the RDI.
  3. Seaweed: 1 g of kelp contains 460–1000 percent of the RDI.
  4. Fish: 3 ounces (85 g) of baked cod provide 66 percent of the RDI.

2) Iron Deficiency
Iron forms the main component of red blood cells and binds with hemoglobin to transport oxygen to other cells. The two types of dietary iron are

Non-Heme Iron: This form of iron is found in both plant and animal foods. But it isn’t absorbed as easily as heme iron.

Heme Iron: This form of iron is very well absorbed and is only found in animal foods, particularly in red meat.

Affecting more than 25 percent worldwide, iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies.[5,6] About 47 percent of preschool children could have iron deficiency. Thirty percent of menstruating women can have iron deficiency due to blood loss.

Vegans and vegetarians are at an increased risk of deficiency as they consume only non-heme iron, which isn’t as well absorbed as much as heme iron.[7,8]

Iron deficiency can lead to anemia. This results in the reduction in the number of red blood cells and decreases the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen throughout the body. People with an iron deficiency may feel weak, tired, have decreased immunity and an impaired brain function.[9,10]

Good Dietary Sources Of Iodine

  1. Shellfish such as mussels, clams, and oysters: 3 ounces (85g) of cooked oysters provide roughly 50 percent of the RDI.
  2. Canned sardines: A 3.75 ounce can (106g) provides 34 percent of the RDI.
  3. Red meat: 3 ounces (85g) of ground beef contains about 30 percent of the RDI.
  4. Organ meat: One slice of a liver (81g) contains more than 50 percent of the RDI.

3) Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that functions like a steroid hormone in the body. It circulates through the bloodstream and into cells, instructing them to turn genes on or off. Almost every cell in the body has vitamin D receptors.

Vitamin D is made out of cholesterol in the skin following exposure to sunlight. People who live away from the equator are likely to be deficient since they have less sun exposure.[11,12]

About 42 percent of people in the US may be vitamin D deficient. Of this, about 74 percent in the elderly and 82 percent in people with dark skin are deficient, since their skin produces less vitamin D on exposure to sunlight.[13,14]

The symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are subtle and can develop over years or even decades.[15,16] Adults deficient in vitamin D may experience bone loss, muscle weakness, and increased risk of fractures. In children, it can cause soft bones (rickets) and growth delays.[15,17,18]

Good Dietary Sources Of Vitamin D

  1. Egg Yolks: A large egg yolk contains 7 percent of the RDI.
  2. Cod Liver Oil: A tablespoon contains 227 percent of the RDI.
  3. Fatty fish, such as mackerel, sardines, salmon, or trout: A small, 3-ounce serving of cooked salmon (85g) contains 75 percent of the RDI.

People who have a severe deficiency of vitamin D may want to take a supplement or increase their sun exposure. It is difficult to get sufficient amounts through diet alone.

For more interesting stories, visit our Health page. Read more about Diseases & Conditions here.

Read More:
The Sunshine Vitamin: 6 Health Benefits Of Vitamin D That You Should Know Of

1. Kapil U. Health consequences of iodine deficiency. Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 2007 Dec;7(3):267-72. PubMed PMID: 21748117; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3074887.

2. Pearce EN, Andersson M, Zimmermann MB. Global iodine nutrition: Where do we stand in 2013? Thyroid. 2013 May;23(5):523-8. doi: 10.1089/thy.2013.0128. Epub 2013 Apr 18. Review. PubMed PMID: 23472655.

3. Gür E, Ercan O, Can G, Akkuş S, Güzelöz S, Ciftcili S, Arvas A, Iltera O. Prevalence and risk factors of iodine deficiency among schoolchildren. J Trop Pediatr. 2003 Jun;49(3):168-71. PubMed PMID: 12848208.

4. Zimmermann MB, Andersson M. Update on iodine status worldwide. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2012 Oct;19(5):382-7. doi: 10.1097/MED.0b013e328357271a. Review. PubMed PMID: 22892867.

5. McLean E, Cogswell M, Egli I, Wojdyla D, de Benoist B. Worldwide prevalence of anaemia, WHO Vitamin and Mineral Nutrition Information System, 1993-2005. Public Health Nutr. 2009 Apr;12(4):444-54. doi:10.1017/S1368980008002401. Epub 2008 May 23. PubMed PMID: 18498676.

6. World Health Organization.

7.  Waldmann A, Koschizke JW, Leitzmann C, Hahn A. Dietary iron intake and iron status of German female vegans: results of the German vegan study. Ann Nutr Metab. 2004;48(2):103-8. Epub 2004 Feb 25. PubMed PMID: 14988640.

8. Carpenter CE, Mahoney AW. Contributions of heme and nonheme iron to human nutrition. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1992;31(4):333-67. Review. PubMed PMID: 1581009.

9. Clark SF. Iron deficiency anemia. Nutr Clin Pract. 2008 Apr-May;23(2):128-41. doi: 10.1177/0884533608314536. Review. PubMed PMID: 18390780.

10. Phillips, F. (2005), Vegetarian nutrition. Nutrition Bulletin, 30: 132–167. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-3010.2005.00467.x

11. Gozdzik A, Barta JL, Weir A, Cole DE, Vieth R, Whiting SJ, Parra EJ. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations fluctuate seasonally in young adults of diverse ancestry living in Toronto. J Nutr. 2010 Dec;140(12):2213-20. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.126284. Epub 2010 Oct 27. PubMed PMID: 20980651.

12. Holick MF. Vitamin D: A millenium perspective. J Cell Biochem. 2003 Feb 1;88(2):296-307. Review. PubMed PMID: 12520530.

13. Dawodu A, Davidson B, Woo JG, Peng YM, Ruiz-Palacios GM, de Lourdes Guerrero M, Morrow AL. Sun exposure and vitamin D supplementation in relation to vitamin D status of breastfeeding mothers and infants in the global exploration of human milk study. Nutrients. 2015 Feb 5;7(2):1081-93. doi: 10.3390/nu7021081. PubMed PMID: 25665158; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4344576.

14. Linnebur SA, Vondracek SF, Vande Griend JP, Ruscin JM, McDermott MT. Prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in elderly ambulatory outpatients in Denver, Colorado. Am J Geriatr Pharmacother. 2007 Mar;5(1):1-8. PubMed PMID:

15. Holick MF, Chen TC. Vitamin D deficiency: a worldwide problem with health consequences. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Apr;87(4):1080S-6S. Review. PubMed PMID:18400738.

16. Strange RC, Shipman KE, Ramachandran S. Metabolic syndrome: A review of the role of vitamin D in mediating susceptibility and outcome. World J Diabetes. 2015 Jul 10;6(7):896-911. doi: 10.4239/wjd.v6.i7.896. Review. PubMed PMID: 26185598; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4499524.

17. Pedersen JI. Vitamin D requirement and setting recommendation levels – current Nordic view. Nutr Rev. 2008 Oct;66(10 Suppl 2):S165-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2008.00101.x. Review. PubMed PMID: 18844844.

18. Saliba W, Barnett O, Rennert HS, Lavi I, Rennert G. The relationship between serum 25(OH)D and parathyroid hormone levels. Am J Med. 2011 Dec;124(12):1165-70. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2011.07.009. PubMed PMID: 22114830.

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