“I eat healthy food, I don’t need a vitamin!” Uhm, nope. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 out of 10 women in their 20s to 40s don’t hit their daily vitamins and mineral requirements.
Why “healthy” women have vitamin deficiency
How you prep your meals
A lot of nutrients are lost when you cook food on high heat. So, that vegetable saute may have more oil than vitamins – and if you freeze and then reheat it in the microwave, more of its goodness is lost.
You work out a lot
“Vigorous workouts raise your body’s vitamin and mineral requirements, so it’s practically guaranteed that you won’t get enough nutrients from food,” says sports nutritionist Dawn Weatherwax-Fall, a sports nutritionist and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Sports Nutrition.
You’re on a special diet
Some popular weightloss programs like the Ketogenic diet can also increase your risk for vitamin deficiency. “You are restricting food groups and even certain fruits and vegetables. That makes it harder to get all the nutrients you need,” says nutritionist Eve Beckham.
Here are some signs that your body is telling you that you need to take a multivitamin or supplement.
Dry, flaky scalp
This can be a sign that you’re not getting enough healthy fatty acids. This nutrient’s really important for healthy scalp, so any itching or thinning hair can be a red flag. Get it from fish (eat two fish meals a week), avocado, nuts or a fish oil supplement. One study found that taking mackerel oil can promote hair growth. You can also check out our list of beauty supplements for better skin, hair and nails.
Thin and weak hair
Is your hair more brittle and prone to split ends? Do you notice unusual hair fall? Or maybe you’re looking for a way to make your hair grow longer and faster?
You need Vitamin B. Most people get it from enriched grains like bread, cereal and white rice. If you’re on a low-carbohydrate diet, you need to find ways to get this nutrient elsewhere. Try leafy vegetables like spinach, beans and legumes, and eggs.
Look for a multivitamin that contains Vitamin B complex. That means it has all 8 different kinds of vitamin B (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, etc.) which all play different roles in your body’s growth and health.
Your nails are one of the best signs of a vitamin deficiency. Do you see white or yellowish streaks? Are there ridges or indentations? Are they curved like a spoon? You may be low in protein, calcium, iron, zinc, or vitamin A.
Cracked lips or sores in your mouth
This is a sign that you’re running low on Vitamin C, or Vitamin B12. While it’s easy to get Vitamin C naturally – it’s in many fruits and vegetables, as well as root crops like white and sweet potatoes — it’s also easy to lose Vitamin C. This vitamin is very heat-sensitive, so much of it is lost in cooking. And unlike many other nutrients, your body doesn’t store it. You have to get it daily, either through smoothies or a Vitamin C supplement.
Weird red bumps
Check your arms if you have little red bumps that don’t feel itchy. They’re usually found on the arms, thighs, cheeks or buttocks. Dermatologists call this condition keratosis pilaris, and while it’s harmless it can be a sign that you’re running low on Zinc and Vitamin A.
Low energy and mood
Do you feel tired all the time? You may not be getting quality sleep, or running now on Vitamin D. Research shows a real link between Vitamin D and energy levels. “It enhances the activity of the mitochondria, the batteries of your cells.” It’s also important for concentration and memory, and even mood. Since Vitamin B also regulates brain chemicals, low levels can make you feel more stressed or even increase your risk for depression.
You can get Vitamin D from sunlight, but studies show that 70% adults show signs of deficiency – probably because they spend most of the day indoors!
If you get a big bruise just from bumping into something (or if it takes long for a simple wound to heal) then you need more Vitamin C. Your body uses this nutrient to build healthy tissues and strengthen the walls of your blood vessels. Weak capillaries = tendency to bruise and bleed more. That’s why Vitamin C deficiency can also cause nosebleeds!