When it comes to eating well, it can seem like there are a million components to think about, from how food affects our bodies to how it tastes. With so much to consider, it can be hard to tell if you're getting all the nutrients you need, but there may be some telltale signs you aren't eating a balanced diet. Whether it's in your physical appearance, your mood, or your overall energy levels, your body has ways of telling you it's missing something important.
"Many people have trouble eating a balanced diet because we are creatures of habit," says Maggie Michalczyk, RD over email. " Trendy diets often exclude major food groups too, making it even harder not to be deficient of a vitamin, mineral or even worse, a macronutrient like protein, fat or carbohydrates."
A study from the University of Illinois found that most Americans don't get enough necessary nutrients, especially vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, and iron, but they get too much of saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
"Listening to what your body craves can be the biggest SOS for times when we think we're getting everything we need but our bodies start showing subtle signs that something is missing," says Michalczyk.
If you think you aren't getting enough of the right nutrients, look out for these six signs you aren't eating a balanced diet.
"Fatigue is often due to iron deficiency due to lack of good dietary sources," says Arielle Levitan MD, co-founder of Vous Vitamin LLC, over email. "Iron in plant-based sources is not as well absorbed as that from red meat. Women especially fall short because of a lifetime of periods and childbearing." A diet low in complex carbohydrates can also cause fatigue, according to a study in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition.
2. Thinning Hair
"Thinning hair is often caused by certain vitamin deficiencies, such as iron, vitamin D and biotin," says Levitan. If your hair is drastically thinning or breaking easily, you also may not be getting enough protein or you may be consuming too much vitamin A, according to SFGate.com.
3. Mental Fog
"We've all had those moments of zoning out, but it you feel like you're blanking for more than five seconds multiple times throughout the day, your B12 is not where it should be," says Michalczyk. "B12 energizes the cells and helps the cells in the brain metabolize glucose. Not enough of it, and all of the sudden, we don't feel as sharp when we should be."
"The littlest things bring on irritability: a delayed subway, a slow-loading document on your computer, too many people in front of you in line — these shouldn't irk you for more than a minute," says Michalczyk. "If they do it may be a sign you're not getting enough vitamin B6." Vitamin B6 is responsible for making serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter that helps regulate your moods.
5. Brittle Nails
"Protein is the building block for our hair nails and skin," says Michalczyk. "Not enough of it will show itself in these places first." Brittle or weak nails can also signify deficiencies in fatty acids or biotin, which means you should incorporate more whole fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein into your diet.
6. Feeling Cold
"Tired all the time and cold to the bone? You may not be getting enough iodine," says Michalczyk. "This mineral is crucial for thyroid function. If just the thought of going outside makes you want to shiver, and your energy levels are down the toilet, it may be a sign your iodine levels are low or a greater underlying problem that your thyroid is not functioning properly."
"Having a routine blood test can help you look into what you may be lacking in your diet and can help to prevent major implications from happening when full blown vitamin and mineral deficiencies set in," says Michalczyk.
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