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Are There Holes in Your Diet?

Even the healthiest of eaters can wind up with nutrient gaps—fill them with these easy tips.

If you’ve ever seen the stat that nine out of 10 Americans may not get enough of their daily required vitamins and minerals from food, you may have thought: That’s not me. After all, you eat healthy. You (usually) get your five a day. You steer clear of the processed stuff.

But even fit foodies may be missing nutrients: After all, an active, on-the-go lifestyle can cause stress, changing the way your body absorbs food. And along with mindful meal planning can come real holes in your diet (looking at you, vegans). 

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If you’re not sure whether you’re getting enough of all the nutrients you need, a multivitamin can be a good “insurance policy,” per experts. After all, it is a confirmed way of knowing that you’re getting 100 percent of the vitamins and minerals you need for a solid healthy foundation every day. 

Keep reading to find out four situations that warrant extra consideration when it comes to getting all the vitamins you need. If you relate to one (or more), find out how to make sure you fill those nutritional holes so you can look and feel your best.

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If you’re an indoor athlete...

You could benefit from: Vitamin D. 

Why: “In general, if you’re a young, fit adult who eats well and gets outside, you’re not going to be D deficient,” says Thomas Sherman, Ph.D., an associate professor of pharmacology and physiology at Georgetown’s Medical Center. But if you don’t get adequate sunlight and are missing D from your diet, you should know that muscle coordination and how much of the vitamin you have can go hand in hand, Sherman notes. Some research in the elderly even suggests that vitamin D can help with calcium absorption and decrease the risk of falling. Other data shows that vitamin D levels are associated with neuromuscular performance, VO2 max, and speed. “Given that relationship, it’s fair to say athletes would benefit from vitamin D supplementation,” Sherman says.

Fill up with: A multivitamin—especially if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, since most D food sources come from fish. (Need a place to start? Find the right multivitamin for you.)

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If you’re vegan . . .

You could benefit from: Vitamin B12

Why: Because mostly all of the food sources of B12 come from meat and dairy. “A vegan has some challenges that an omnivore or carnivore doesn’t, and you can definitely make a case that a vegan should at least be aware of getting enough B12,” says Sherman. Not only is it important physiologically (it keeps your nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA), but it’s also involved in metabolism and maintaining good strength and fitness, says Sherman, who adds that vitamin B6 is also critical. One thing to note: If you’ve recently converted to veganism, you can usually rely on a liver store of B12 that can last years, says Sherman. Children of vegans or longtime vegans, on the other hand, may not have an adequate liver store.

Fill up with: Besides a multivitamin, consider yeast and some vegan tofus that have B12 added in, suggests Sherman.

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If you’re cholesterol-concerned . . .

You could benefit from: Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Why: Unless you’re on a corn-only diet, you’re likely not going to be B3 deficient, but making sure you get enough of this vitamin—that helps you metabolize fat and protein—could help with another health issue. “If you eat a healthy diet, but you feel like your cholesterol is high, taking a supplement with niacin can help that in a way that statins don’t,” says Sherman. “It’s a natural remedy for controlling your lipid profile—increasing “good” HDL levels and decreasing “bad” LDL levels.”
Fill up with: A supplement (most multivitamins include B3) or foods like yeast, meat, fish, milk, eggs, green vegetables, beans, and cereal grains—which are all niacin-rich. Just know that if you opt for supplement form, some people react strongly with a histamine response that can flush your skin, says Sherman.

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If you’re fit but have a fervor for fast food...

You could benefit from: Magnesium

Why: The foods that are highest in magnesium—dark, leafy greens; nuts and seeds; beans and lentils; and fish—are easy to miss when you’re on the road. Even more: Research shows that when you sweat, you lose magnesium, so athletes (even despite a healthy diet) can be extra susceptible to deficiencies. Plus, considering magnesium is involved in over 300 essential reactions involving metabolism, it’s important to keep your levels in check.

Fill up with: You could pop a supplement (again, most multivitamin have magnesium, but check the label to be sure.) Just remember the tolerable upper intake level of magnesium is 350 milligrams a day, but you can also apply magnesium to your skin—which is a win-win because your body will absorb it, and it could also soothe sore muscles. Otherwise, stock up on legumes, seeds, and nuts, and make sure your calcium levels are good—the mineral can help with absorption.

*This article was sponsored by GNC.

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