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How Your Diet Can Fix a Mineral or Vitamin Deficiency

Last Updated on December 8, 2022 by Chris Weatherall

How Your Diet Can Fix a Mineral or Vitamin Deficiency

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Michael Loes MD

Responsible for hundreds of critical roles in your body, vitamins and minerals are some of the most important nutrients you can consume. Your diet has an enormous impact on the levels of these essential nutrients you absorb. As a result, if you don’t eat a balanced diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, you’re likely not getting enough vitamins and minerals.

Over time, not getting enough of a particular vitamin or mineral can lead to a nutrient deficiency, and some serious health issues.1

The World Health Organization estimates that two billion people globally are at risk of nutrient deficiencies,2 and that 821 million people are undernourished, putting them at risk of macronutrient and micronutrient deficiencies in the future.

What Is a Vitamin or Mineral Deficiency?

Simply put, a vitamin or mineral deficiency occurs when you lack sufficient levels of that particular nutrient in your body over the long term. Some nutrient deficiencies are known as secondary deficiencies, because they occur under disease conditions or because the body has a malabsorption issue. Most, however, occur because the diet does not contain a sufficient amount of the nutrient to sustain normal functions.

People with secondary deficiencies must address the root cause of the deficiency first. For example, people with alcohol use disorder have higher vitamin needs than other people, and may be deficient in one or more B vitamins.3 It is important in this case to address alcohol consumption, its contribution to vitamin B deficiency, and the other tolls this toxin can take on the body in addition to consuming more B vitamins. However, for primary mineral and vitamin deficiencies, you can address your levels with a balanced diet and selected supplements. By pinpointing these deficiencies, you can better tailor your diet to include all the minerals and vitamins you need. This way, you can sustain your natural mental and physical health.

Signs You May Have a Nutrient Deficiency

While each nutrient deficiency comes with its own distinct symptoms, there are several general signs you may be experiencing low levels of one or more nutrients.

Hair Loss or Brittle Hair

Though some daily hair loss is expected, losing chunks or clumps of hair likely points to an iron deficiency. Because iron is involved in DNA synthesis, low levels may cause hair loss or prevent hair from growing. You could also be low in zinc, vitamin B3, or vitamin B7


Your muscles have many vitamin D receptors, and rely on the nutrient to function normally. If you’re fatigued and have eliminated the possibility of illness, insomnia, or stress, you may have a vitamin D deficiency.

Signs You May Have a Nutrient Deficiency

Dry Skin

When your skin is dry, scaly, and cracking, you may be low on vitamin A. This essential nutrient is responsible for both the generation and repair of skin cells, so skin issues can often be attributed to a vitamin A deficiency.

Bumps on Your Skin

Goosebump-like growths on the skin point to a condition called keratosis pilaris. Like other skin issues, this condition may point to a vitamin A deficiency. If the follicles are producing too much keratin, vitamin C deficiency may be the culprit.

Burning Mouth

If your gums, lips, or roof of your mouth feel like they’re burning, or your mouth is dry or numb, you likely have a shortage of B vitamins, particularly B6 and B12. This symptom can also be caused by a vitamin D deficiency.

Spoon Nails/ Brittle Nails/ Weak Nails

When your fingernails bend away from your fingers into a concave spoon shape, you may need more iron. Conversely, brittle nails can point to a condition that makes your body absorb too much iron, hemochromatosis. Deficiencies in vitamins B, C, and calcium can also contribute to weak, brittle nails.

Cracking in the Corner of Your Mouth

If you have lesions or ulcers in and your mouth—particularly at the creases—you may have low levels of iron. Deficiencies in B-group vitamins could also be the culprit.

Swollen Tongue

Also called glossitis, a swollen or inflamed tongue can indicate low levels of iron and vitamin B. Vitamin B12 deficiencies in particular may lead to glossitis.

Bleeding Gums and Mouth

Bleeding gums with no identified dental cause can mean your diet is lacking vitamin C. Without adequate levels of this essential vitamin, gum tissue can grow weak and susceptible to tearing or bleeding.


Collagen is key in keeping your skin firm and resilient. Unexplained bruises may point to a lack of vitamin C, which stimulates collagen production.

Poor Vision

Poor vision could be the result of low levels of vitamin A. Without vitamin A, the eyes can grow dry, eventually developing a condition known as xerophthalmia, signified by white growths. Over time, the condition can permanently affect the cornea and cause blindness.


Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis are both skin conditions that affect the scalp and other oil and hair producing areas. Low levels of zinc and vitamins B3, B2, and B6 can cause flaky scalp, dandruff, and seborrheic dermatitis, as these oil-producing areas are not getting the antioxidants and fatty acids they need to function properly.

Depression and Apathy

Poor nutrition affects more than your body—it can affect your mental health, as well. If you’re feeling apathetic, forgetful, or even depressed, you may be low on magnesium, B vitamins, iron, zinc, or vitamin D.

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How Do You Fix a Vitamin Deficiency?

Now that you know some of the effects nutrient deficiencies can have on your brain and body, you may be wondering: how do you correct a mineral imbalance? How can you address a vitamin deficiency? There are many changes you can make to ensure your body has the proper balance of nutrients.

Improved dietary diversity is the most ideal fix for vitamin and mineral deficiencies. By including the proper foods and food groups needed by your body daily, you can improve your mental and physical health. If you’ve adjusted your diet and are still struggling to achieve balance, try a supplement.

What Foods Help Mineral Deficiency?

Healthy daily eating patterns of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains are incredibly important for your health, and are linked with a much lower risk of cancer, heart disease, and strokes. That’s why there’s really no answer to the question regarding which food has all vitamins and minerals—you must consume a wide variety of foods to get all the necessary nutrients you need to maintain proper health.

Generally speaking, a healthy, nutrient-rich diet provides a solid foundation for health.. Supplements can also be helpful for filling in the gaps, which can be determined with testing.

How Can I Get Vitamins and Minerals Daily?

By understanding the major vitamins and minerals,4 their functions in your body, and the foods that contain them, you can be well on your way to a balanced diet.

Vitamin A

The purpose of vitamin A is to boost the effectiveness of the immune system, keep skin healthy, improve vision, and support reproduction and growth. Vitamin A is best known for its connection with your vision, as it is needed to produce rhodopsin, found in the retinas to help you see in the dark.

In most developed countries vitamin A deficiency is uncommon but where a deficiency is diagnosed, supplementation can remedy the situation. Testing is recommended if there is any question about adding supplements to your daily regimen.5

Good food sources of vitamin A include:
  • Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, like carrots, mangoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, cantaloupes, red capsicum, and apricots.
  • Dark leafy green vegetables, like spinach, peas, kale, and broccoli
  • Organ meats, like liver
  • Eggs
  • Dairy, like some fortified milk products
  • Fish

Vitamin A rich foods

Vitamin B

There are a number of B-group vitamins, and they largely help the body use energy nutrients for fuel, and some help in DNA synthesis. Many of them cannot be stored by the body, and must instead be eaten regularly.

A B vitamin-rich diet includes a range of lean meats,(both red and white, preferably organic) whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, and legumes. Organic beef consumption provides high nutritional value found in the intramuscular fats including niacin and other B vitamins, plus trace elements such as zinc and copper.6 7

The eight B-group vitamins include B1, or thiamin; B2, or riboflavin; B3, or niacin; B5, or pantothenic acid; B6, or pyridoxine; B7, or biotin; B9, or folate; and B12, or cyanocobalamin.

Foods providing B vitamins include:
  • B2 – eggs, lean meats, milk, and green vegetables
  • B3 – lean meats, fish, legumes, whole grains, dairy, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens
  • B6 – beans, bananas, spinach, and fortified cereals
  • B7 – egg yolks, organ meats, meat, fish, dairy, nuts, seeds, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, yeast, and bananas.
  • B9 – fortified cereal, chickpeas, asparagus, and spinach
  • B12 – fish, meat, milk, eggs, and cereal

Vitamin B9 rich foods

Vitamin C

Despite its massive role in human health,Vitamin C cannot be made in the human body, and is therefore very important in a healthy diet. It is key in collagen formation, which strengthens skin, blood vessels, and bone, and is vital in repairing wounds. It’s also key in the metabolism of oxygen, iron absorption, and the fighting of infections. Scurvy is one of the results of a vitamin C deficiency, and can cause fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and diarrhea, fever, joint pain, and bleeding in hair follicles.

Important food sources of vitamin C include:
  • Fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, tomatoes, mangoes, kiwis, and strawberries.
  • Vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, lettuce, and potatoes.

Vitamin D

This vitamin is important for strong bones and muscles, and production is primarily stimulated by the sun. However, since sun exposure can also cause sunburn and other issues, you should also get vitamin D in your diet.

Foods to help with vitamin D levels include:
  • Margarine and some milks
  • Eggs
  • Margarine and some milks
  • Fortified foods like orange juice and cereal.

Vitamin D rich foods

Vitamin E

This vitamin is an antioxidant, and also helps vision, skin, and immune function.

Some non-processed foods that contain vitamin E include:
  • Egg yolks
  • Meats
  • Leafy green vegetables like spinach and broccoli
  • Nuts and seeds like almonds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and hazelnuts
  • Healthy oils like extra virgin, sunflower, or soybean oils
  • Unprocessed whole grains

Vitamin E rich foods

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is needed for healthy bones, blood clotting, and wound healing.

It comes almost solely from your diet, and can be found in:
  • Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale
  • Fruits like kiwifruits and avocados
  • Some vegetable-based oils like soybean oil


This mineral is important for strong bones, and also regulates muscle and heart function, blood clotting, and enzyme functions.

Good food sources of calcium include:
  • Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Almonds
  • Vegetables like kale, parsley, broccoli, and watercress

Calcium rich foods


This mineral is needed for oxygen transport and immune system function.

Some iron-rich foods include:
  • Red meat and offal
  • Fish
  • Poultry and eggs
  • Legumes and beans
  • Whole grains and certain cereals
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Dark leafy greens
Calcium rich foods


Zinc is a mineral essential for growth, development, and immune system function.

It can be found in many protein rich foods and some plant foods, such as:
  • Red meat
  • Seafood, particularly shellfish
  • Poultry
  • Dairy, such as milk and cheese
  • Whole grains and certain cereals
  • Legumes
  • Nuts

Zinc rich foods


This mineral is necessary for maintaining bone health and utilizing glucose. Magnesium also supports immune system function and regulates blood pressure.

Sources of magnesium-rich food include:
  • Nuts, especially cashews
  • Legumes
  • Dark green vegetables
  • Seafood
  • Whole grains
  • Chocolate and cocoa

Magnesium rich foods


Potassium is needed for nerve, muscle, and heart function.

It can be found in unprocessed foods like:
  • Bananas and apricots
  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Nuts and seeds

Potassium rich foods


Iodine helps to create thyroid hormones, which control metabolism.

Food sources include:
  • Dairy products
  • Seafood and seaweed
  • Eggs
  • Some vegetables
  • Iodized salt


A small amount of sodium is needed to help the body circulate blood and tissue fluids. Salt is the main source, and it is primarily used as seasoning.

Salt can also be found naturally in many foods, like:
  • Whole grains
  • Meat
  • Dairy products

Address Nutrient Deficiencies With a Healthy Diet

Women, adolescents, and children are all at disproportionate risk for a lack of vitamins and minerals. Individuals experiencing poor diet stemming from a mental health disorder or substance use disorder are also at elevated risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. While it is crucial to identify the root cause of any deficiency, eating a balanced diet will have a positive effect on your nutrient levels.

Where possible, organic food products in their least processed form are the best source for nutrients and micronutrients to avoid neurotoxic and genotoxic chemicals and residues that may tend to accumulate in the body over time.8

Eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of nutrients can improve your immune system, metabolisms, physical and mental development, and optimize recovery from substance use disorder. That’s why Alternative to Meds Center prioritizes nutrition. For more information about how to stay healthy during recovery, contact us today.

1. Ward E. (2014). Addressing nutritional gaps with multivitamin and mineral supplements. Nutrition journal, 13, 72.

2. Darnton-Hill I. (2019). Public Health Aspects in the Prevention and Control of Vitamin Deficiencies. Current developments in nutrition, 3(9), nzz075.

3. Leach, J. M. (2017). Should GPs prescribe vitamin B compound strong tablets to alcoholics?. British Journal of General Practice, 67(656), 134-135. Retrieved August 5, 2022, from

4. USDA. (2022). Food sources of select nutrients. 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines and Online Materials: US Department of Agriculture; Health and Human Services. Retrieved August 5, 2022, from

5. Sklan D. Vitamin A in human nutrition. Prog Food Nutr Sci. 1987;11(1):39-55. PMID: 3303134. [cited 2022 Sept 7]

6. Pestana JM, Costa AS, Martins SV, Alfaia CM, Alves SP, Lopes PA, Bessa RJ, Prates JA. Effect of slaughter season and muscle type on the fatty acid composition, including conjugated linoleic acid isomers, and nutritional value of intramuscular fat in organic beef. J Sci Food Agric. 2012 Sep;92(12):2428-35. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.5648. Epub 2012 Apr 3. PMID: 22473659.[cited 2022 Sept 7]

7. Lombardi-Boccia G, Lanzi S, Lucarini M, Di Lullo G. Meat and meat products consumption in Italy: contribution to trace elements, heme iron and selected B vitamins supply. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2004 Jul;74(4):247-51. doi: 10.1024/0300-9831.74.4.247. PMID: 15580806.[cited 2022 Sept 7]

8. Eskola M, Elliott CT, Hajšlová J, Steiner D, Krska R. Towards a dietary-exposome assessment of chemicals in food: An update on the chronic health risks for the European consumer. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020;60(11):1890-1911. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2019.1612320. Epub 2019 May 16. PMID: 31094210.[cited 2022 Sept 7]

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Medical Disclaimer:
Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.

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