Food and Nutrition

I’m a RD, and This Is the Most Common Nutritional Deficiency I See—and How To Correct It

Emily Laurence

Photo: Stocksy/Leah Flores
Even if you're an all-star healthy eater, making green smoothies and filling your grocery cart with lots of plants, a nutritional deficiency isn't all that uncommon (especially if you have the same handful of meals on rotation).

The best way to truly know what nutrients your body may not be getting enough of is to book an appointment with your doctor, who can run some simple tests. A registered dietitian can also be helpful as they are familiar with common nutritional holes in various popular eating plans—and many have started meeting with clients virtually. Registered dietitians can also give tips on how to get your nutrients through food instead of supplements, as diet is the best way to give your body what it needs.

Vitamin D deficiency pops up again and again, particularly among her female clients, says Hillary Cecere, RD. Dr. Svetlana Kogan, MD, a holistic and integrative physician says she sees the same issue with many of her patients, even going so far as to call vitamin D deficiency an epidemic. “Out of 100 patients, I’d say 80 are significantly deficient,” she says.

This is especially worrisome given the connection between vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19, as indicated by a study published earlier this year in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. While the NIH still doesn’t explicitly recommend (or warn against) vitamin D supplementation to protect against COVID-19, infectious disease specialists Purvi Parikh, MD and Rishi Desai, MD both previously told Well+Good that prioritizing getting enough vitamin D could be a beneficial precautionary measure.

Watch the video below to get more straight facts about COVID-19:

Even when there's not a pandemic going on, Vitamin D deficiency is linked to a whole slew of health issues, ranging from bloating to breast cancer. According to the U.S. Institute of Medicine, the average person should aim to get between 400 and 800 IU or 10 to 20 micrograms of vitamin D a day. "Vitamin D does not occur naturally in a lot of foods," Cecere says, as to one reason why many people don't reach the needed amount. It's why she suggests a solution that actually doesn't have to do with diet at all: going outside. "Sensible sun exposure, about 15 minutes, is important for vitamin D absorption," she says. (Yes, you should still wear sunscreen.)

That said, there are foods that will help you reach your vitamin D goals. Cecere says mushrooms, egg yolks, and fatty fish like salmon all have vitamin D. Many dairy, dairy alternative products, fruit juices, and grain-based products are often fortified with vitamin D, so check the nutritional panel when buying these types of products to up your intake.

This is one deficiency where it's definitely possible to fill the gap without supplements. Spend some time in the sun, add more of the aforementioned food sources to your plate, and you're well on your way to giving your body a boost.

Check out the video below to see how to use food to boost your energy levels:

Originally published January 2, 2020. Updated December 22, 2020.

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