The 6 most common nutrient deficiencies – and how to deal with them

February 14 2018

From iron to calcium, magnesium and more, these are the most common nutrients Aussies aren’t getting enough of right now.

Whilst caring about our health seems to be on the rise, there are a number of nutrients that continue to be at risk in the Australian diet. Given that less than 10% of Australians meet their daily vegetable requirements on a regular basis, it is unsurprising that there are numerous common deficiencies across the population. See below for some of the most common deficiencies, and how to best correct them.


The most recent survey done by the ABS about usual nutrient intakes showed that only one in four females meet daily calcium requirements on a daily basis, whilst only one in two men met their needs. Calcium is important for a number of reasons but is best known for its role in bone health. Long-term under consumption can contribute to the development of osteoporosis. Why are calcium intakes so low? Many plant-based milk alternatives are not rich in calcium, and dairy is also often thought of as being a contributor to weight gain.

How to fix? Aim for three serves of calcium-rich food per day; for example 1 cup of milk, 200g of yoghurt and 40g of cheese. If you are dairy free or are reducing intake for some reason, choose calcium-fortified alternatives, such as soy, almond or rice milk. Other rich sources include fish with the bones (such as sardines), almonds and broccoli.


Low iron consumption can lead to fatigue, tiredness and decreased immunity. Cereal products and meat are the primary dietary sources of iron in Australia; with the increasing rates of vegetarian and veganism, along with adherence to low-carb diets, it is unsurprising iron levels are slightly low for so many. The same survey by the ABS showed one in four females had inadequate iron intakes compared to only one in thirty males.

How to fix? Aim for 8mg per day for men and women over 50, whilst women under 50 require 18mg/day. Plant-based iron-rich foods include cashews, pepitas, tofu, black beans, red beans, nori and molasses, to name a few. Include rich vitamin C sources, such as kiwi, oranges and capsicum to assist with absorption.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays an important role in immune function and promotes bone growth, working together with calcium. Inadequate vitamin D is associated with everything from osteoporosis to depression, obesity and muscle weakness.

How to fix? The best source of vitamin D is the sun on your skin. Spend 10 minutes per day, out of peak UV times in the sun for your daily dose. Other foods rich in vitamin D include fatty fish, egg yolk, mushrooms that have been in the sun, organ meats and cheese.

Omega 3

Omega 3s are a type of fatty acid which are not able to be made by the body. They play a critical role in brain function, cellular health and are key for reducing inflammation in the body. Signs of deficiency include dry or itchy skin, dry eyes, poor immunity and poor wound healing. Whilst more people are including fish, it is not always the omega 3 rich kind, and nut and seed intake often incorporate a mix of nuts, not just those rich in omega 3.

How to fix? Include oily fish three times per week. This includes sardines, mackerel, tuna, salmon and swordfish. Plant-based options include flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts and spirulina.


Data from the ABS shows one in three people over two years of age are deficient in their consumption of magnesium. Magnesium is important for muscle and nerve function, immune functioning and bone health. Muscle cramping, fatigue, hot flushes, anxiety and high blood pressure are all signs of magnesium.

How to fix: Nuts and seeds, leafy greens, lentils and legumes, whole grains, avocado, banana and dairy products are all good sources of magnesium, so needs should be met through a varied diet. If you choose to supplement, it is best to take the supplement before bed, as it may help improve your sleep as well.


Iodine is needed to make thyroid hormones. These hormones help control metabolism, growth and development (including growth and development of the brain). Since 2009, most bread have had the requirement of using iodised salt in their baking, due to a frequency of iodine deficiency across the population.

How to fix? Choose iodised salt as your salt of choice as an easy way to up your iodine intake.


Sourced from My Body+Soul.