Feeling Tired? Your Diet Might Lack Important Minerals

Do you find yourself always reaching for that extra cup of coffee in the morning just to make it through? Are you getting eight hours of sleep but still feel tired? There could be a reason for your constant exhaustion.

We talk about the importance of vitamins a lot. Vitamins are essential to your overall health. Although we talk about the need for minerals, they are often pushed aside in favor of “flashier” nutrients. But it just might be a mineral deficiency that is making you tired.

According to Dr. Anthony Komaroff, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, constant fatigue can be a warning sign. He suggests not ignoring that sleepy feeling; if you think you are getting enough sleep, your fatigue could be a sign of a vitamin or mineral deficiency. Dr. Komaroff states that five common deficiencies cause fatigue:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Folic acid (folate or B9)
  • Iron

It is easy to test for these deficiencies at your doctor’s office, but it doesn’t hurt to increase your intake before testing. Zinc and vitamin D are also potential culprits when it comes to fatigue.

Many Americans are deficient in one or more of these vitamins and minerals. For some it is because of an unhealthy gut or genetic defect that causes an inability to absorb these nutrients properly. For many others it is simply because our everyday diet is lacking in these nutrients. 

Signs of deficiency

Ignoring the warning signs of mineral deficiency can lead to a wide range of problems, according to Dr. Komaroff, including brittle bones, brain damage, memory issues, spinal cord injuries, anemia, and heart problems.

Signs of deficiency include the following:

  • Headaches
  • Constant fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Brain fog
  • Anemia
  • Extended muscle fatigue after exercise

Check your diet for deficiencies

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, many health-conscious individuals may be lacking in these specific nutrients due to restricted diets.

In particular, low-carb diets can increase risk for mineral deficiency since most of the minerals in the modern Western diet come through fortified bread products (that is, breads with supplements added). Many of the foods that are naturally extremely high in these nutrients (liver, lentils, shellfish) are not commonly eaten in our modern diets.

Where to find missing minerals

If you are feeling the side effects of mineral deficiency, you can take supplements to temporarily boost mineral levels. Consider investing in the most absorbable form of the nutrient for best effect. A good form of vitamin B12 is methylcobalamin, of folate is calcium L-5-MTHF, and of magnesium is bisglycinate.

Iron is well absorbed from lactoferrin making it an appropriate non-constipating choice for supplementing iron. Long-term supplement use is not advisable, particularly for iron, which can have serious side effects if taken in large quantities.

For the long term, consider underlying conditions that may have caused your deficiency (gut health, MTHFR gene mutation) and then look for natural sources of these minerals and vitamins. Try to add 3–5 servings of each of the nutrient-rich foods weekly to keep your fatigue at bay.

Women in particular should ensure they get enough magnesium and iron, as these two minerals are lost through menstruation. Men may also need additional iron and magnesium, but as a general rule are less likely to need as much.

Vitamin B12

  • Shrimp
  • Clams
  • Mackerel
  • Beef liver
  • Crab
  • Beef
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Egg yolk

Potassium

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • White beans
  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Clams
  • Prunes
  • Carrots

Magnesium

  • Almonds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Bananas
  • Cashews
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Milk

Folic acid (folate or B9)

  • Lentils
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli

Iron

  • Oysters
  • Beef liver
  • Chicken liver
  • Beef
  • Sardines
  • Turkey
  • Clams

By adding these foods to your diet on a regular basis, you can boost your nutrient intake. Investigate with your health-care provider the underlying causes for your particular deficiencies to determine if diet changes will be sufficient to remedy the problem.

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