Mineral deficiencies can create or exacerbate chronic health conditions.
Deficiency: Long-term inadequate intake can result in low bone mineral density, rickets, osteomalacia and osteoporosis.
Toxicity: Will cause nausea, vomiting, constipation, dry mouth, thirst, increased urination, kidney stones and soft tissue calcification.
Sources: Dairy, green leafy vegetables, legumes, tofu, molasses, sardines, okra, perch, trout, Chinese cabbage, rhubarb, sesame seeds
Deficiency: Very rare. Those at risk include premature infants, those who use antacids, alcoholics, uncontrolled diabetes mellitus and refeeding syndrome.
Toxicity: Very rare. May result in soft tissue calcification.
Sources: Legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, eggs, fish, buckwheat, seafood, corn, wild rice
Deficiency: Not a result of insufficient dietary intake. Caused by protein wasting conditions. Diuretics can also cause excessive loss of potassium in the urine. Low blood potassium can result in cardiac arrest.
Toxicity: Occurs when the intake of potassium exceeds the kidneys capacity for elimination. Found with kidney failure and potassium sparing diuretics. Oral doses greater than 18 grams can lead to toxicity. Symptoms include tingling of extremities and muscle weakness. High dose potassium supplements may cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Sources: Sweet potato, tomato, green leafy vegetables, carrots, prunes, beans, molasses, squash, fish, bananas, peaches, apricots, melon, potatoes, dates, raisins, mushrooms
Deficiency: Very rare due to abundance of magnesium in foods. Those with gastrointestinal disorders, kidney disorders, and alcoholism are at risk.
Toxicity: None identified from foods. Excessive consumption of magnesium containing supplements may result in diarrhea (magnesium is a known laxative), impaired kidney function, low blood pressure, muscle weakness, and cardiac arrest.
Sources: Legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits, avocado
Salt (sodium chloride)
Deficiency: Does not result from low dietary intake. Low blood sodium typically results from increased fluid retention. One may notice nausea, vomiting, headache, cramps, fatigue, and disorientation.
Toxicity: Excessive intake can lean to increased fluid volume, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. High blood sodium usually results from excessive water loss.
Sources: Any processed foods, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables
Consume iron rich foods with vitamin C rich foods to enhance absorption.Iron
Deficiency: Anemia with small and pale red blood cells. In children it is associated with behavioral abnormalities.
Toxicity: Common cause of poisoning in children. May increase the risk of chronic disease. Excessive intake of supplemental iron is an emergency room situation. Cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases are associated with iron excess.
Sources: Almonds, apricots, baked beans, dates, lima beans, kidney beans, raisins, brown rice, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, tuna, flounder, chicken meat, pork
Zinc deficiency results in decreased immunity and increases the susceptibility to infection. Supplementation of zinc has been shown to reduce the incidence of infection as well as cellular damage from increased oxidative stress. Zinc deficiency has also been implicated in diarrheal disease, supplementation might be effective in the prophylaxis and treatment of acute diarrhea.
Deficiency: Symptoms include growth retardation, lowered immune statue, skeletal abnormalities, delay in sexual maturation, poor wound healing, taste changes, night blindness and hair loss. Those at risk for deficiency include the elderly, alcoholics, those with malabsorption, vegans, and those with severe diarrhea.
Toxicity: Symptoms that result are abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Long-term consumption of excessive zinc can result in copper deficiency.
Sources: Mushrooms, spinach, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, green peas, baked beans, cashews, peas, whole grains, flounder, oats, oysters, chicken meat
Deficiency: Relatively uncommon. Clinical sign is hypochromic anemia unresponsive to iron therapy. Neutropenia and leucopenia may also result. Hypopigmentation of skin and hair is also noticed. Those at risk for deficiency include premature infants, infants fed only cow’s milk formula, those with malabsorption syndromes, excessive zinc consumption and antacid use.
Toxicity: Rare. Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Long-term exposure to lower doses of copper can result in liver damage.
Sources: Mushrooms, green leafy vegetables, barley, soybeans, tempeh, sunflower seeds, navy beans, garbanzo beans, cashews, molasses, liver
Deficiency: Symptoms include impaired glucose tolerance and elevated circulating insulin
Toxicity: Generally limited to industrial exposure. Long-term supplement use may increase DNA damage. Rare cases of kidney failure have also been documented.
Sources: Lettuce, onions, tomatoes, whole grains, potatoes, mushrooms, oats, prunes, nuts, brewer’s yeast
Deficiency: Increased risk of dental caries.
Toxicity: Children can develop mottled tooth enamel. Swallowing toothpaste with fluoride is typically the cause of this problem. Symptoms include nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting.
Sources: Water, tea, fish
Deficiency: Impairs growth and neurological development. Deficiency can also result in the decreased production of thyroid hormones and hypertrophy of the thyroid.
Toxicity: Rare and occurs in doses of many grams. Symptoms include burning mouth, throat and stomach. Fever and diarrhea can also result.
Sources: Sea vegetables, iodized salt, eggs, strawberries, asparagus, green leafy vegetables
Deficiency: Can cause limited glutathione activity. More severe symptoms are juvenile cardiomyopathy and chondrodystrophy.
Toxicity: Multiple symptoms including dermatologic lesions, hair and nail brittleness, gastrointestinal disturbances, skin rash, fatigue, and nervous system abnormalities.
Sources: Brazil nuts, mushrooms, barley, salmon, whole grains, walnuts, eggs
Deficiency: Not typically observed in humans.
Toxicity: Generally from industrial exposure.
Sources: Green leafy vegetables, berries, pineapple, lettuce, tempeh, oats, soybeans, spelt, brown rice, garbanzo beans
Deficiency: Never been observed in healthy people.
Toxicity: More likely than deficiency. Still very rare.
Sources: Legumes, whole grains
What you should know about vitamins & minerals
Years ago, medical professionals noticed that peculiar disease states were directly related to food intake. These diseases were found in the presence of adequate calorie and protein intake.
Scientists also noticed that these diseases were absent among people who consumed certain foods. For example, sailors who consumed citrus fruits on long sea voyages did not develop scurvy.
Thus, researchers reasoned, there must be other important substances in the foods. Eventually, they discovered that compounds only obtained from foods could prevent and cure these diseases.
Nutrient deficiencies in the general population
Nutrient deficiencies are common, usually from a poor diet overall, or from a reduced calorie intake. 68% of the North American population is deficient in calcium, 90% in chromium, 75% in magnesium, and 80% in vitamin B6.
Nutrient deficiencies are particularly common among populations such as the elderly, athletes (who have a higher requirement for many nutrients), and people with low incomes (who may not consume as many healthy foods).
When someone reduces food intake in an effort to drop body fat, they’re almost assured a nutrient deficiency. Why? Because as food intake goes down, nutrient intake does too.
Vitamin solubility and absorption
Fat soluble vitamins are mostly absorbed passively and must be transported with dietary fat. These vitamins are usually found in the portion of the cell which contains fat, including membranes, lipid droplets, etc.
We tend to excrete fat soluble vitamins via feces, but we can also store them in fatty tissues.
If we don’t eat enough dietary fat, we don’t properly absorb these vitamins. A very low-fat diet can lead to deficiencies of fat-soluble vitamins.
Water soluble vitamins are absorbed by both passive and active mechanisms. Their transport in the body relies on molecular “carriers”.
Water soluble vitamins are not stored in high amounts within the body and are excreted in the urine along with their breakdown products.
Our bodies and the foods we eat contain minerals; we actually absorb them in a charged state (i.e., ionic state). Minerals will be in either a positive or negative state and reside inside or outside or cells.
Molecules found in food can alter our ability to absorb minerals. This includes things like phytates (found in grains), oxalate (found in foods like spinach and rhubarb), both of which inhibit mineral absorption, and acids. Even gastric acidity and stress can influence absorption.