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Symptoms and Side Effects of Mineral Deficiency

healthy superfoods boost immune system with minerals|symptoms and side effects of mineral deficiency

When you’re lacking a certain nutrient or mineral in your diet, it can result in a mineral deficiency. A mineral deficiency can lead to many health problems and eventually severe consequences. According to the CDC, at least half of children worldwide suffer from one or more micronutrient deficiencies with more than two billion people affected globally.

Mineral deficiencies like zinc, iron, and calcium are some of the most common types. By knowing how to spot the symptoms and side effects of different mineral deficiencies, you can proactively keep an eye on your diet and up your intake of certain foods or supplements if needed.

20 Mineral Deficiencies and Side Effects of:

  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Phosphorus
  • Sulfur
  • Selenium
  • Chlorine
  • Zinc
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Nickel
  • Chromium
  • Germanium
  • Vanadium
  • Molybdenum
  • Lithium
  • Silicon
  • Iodine

Vitamins, Minerals and the Body

superfood good health wooden spoons nuts and seeds vitamins and minerals and the body

Our bodies are designed to work with the natural elements found in our food. Plants create vitamins and pull minerals from the soil to serve specific functions, like protection from disease or energy production. We then repurpose these nutrients after we consume them.

Minerals are an interesting case. They are inorganic elements found in the earth’s crust, but these often must be combined with organic molecules to become usable by the human body. Many are toxic in the forms found in soil but absolutely essential in the forms created for us by nature in order for us to survive.

Our modern diet includes many minerals, but many are lacking as processing, high heat, and oxidation destroy what our bodies need. On top of this, modern agricultural practices strip the soil of minerals through overuse and pesticides that kill beneficial microbes.

Related: Vitamins & Minerals: Do You Get Enough?

We enrich foods, but many of these enriched foods contain synthetic forms, not the organic compounds our bodies recognize from food. The best way to get the minerals we need is to turn back to the plant foods that have been nurtured by rich soil.

Symptoms and Side Effects of 20 Mineral Deficiencies

healthy foods containing magnesium|symptoms and isde effects of mineral deficiencies


Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the body. It promotes the absorption and metabolizing of other minerals, including sodium, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium. This means magnesium is crucial for proper hydration, acid-alkaline balance, and muscle contractions, including the heart.

Related: The Benefits of Magnesium; Why 80% of Americans Are Deficient

Magnesium is involved in the creation of enzymes that control the metabolism of carbohydrates and amino acids. It is also important for bone growth and even helps in the absorption of vitamin C and the B complex vitamins.

Deficiency symptoms:
  • Excitability or irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Cramps
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Tremors
  • Calcification of tissues
Foods high in magnesium:

Spinach, Seeds (like pumpkin and squash), Lima Beans, Brown Rice, Almonds and Dark Chocolate.


Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, most of which is found within the bones and teeth. Calcium does much more than ensure strong bones and healthy teeth. It also regulates heartbeat, controls the acid-alkaline balance of blood, is a part of blood clotting, aids the function of neurotransmitters, helps build muscle, and plays a role in the creation of some hormones.

Deficiency symptoms:
  • Arthritis
  • Muscle or bone pain, especially in back and neck
  • Brittle nails
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Numbness
  • Kidney stones
  • Cramps
  • Spasms
  • Nervousness
  • Tooth decay
  • Osteoporosis
Foods high in calcium:

Seeds like chia, poppy and sesame. Almond, leafy greens, rhubarb and soybeans or tofu.


Iron is vital to the movement of oxygen throughout the body via the bloodstream. Iron forms the very important, oxygen-carrying part of the protein hemoglobin, but is also a key element of other proteins, mainly enzymes, that aid in digestion and help along with other bodily functions. Iron deficiency is the most common deficiency in the world.

Deficiency symptoms:
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Anemia
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Foggy memory
  • Lowered immune function
  • Sore tongue
  • Ice eating
Foods that are iron-rich:

Leafy greens, split-peas, raisins, dried apricots, beans and lentils.

healthy foods containing potassium


Potassium is an essential mineral, found in every cell of the body. As an electrolyte, potassium is vital to water balance, proper hydration, and controlled blood pressure. Potassium is also involved in muscle and nerve function, plays a role in metabolism, and helps transfer oxygen to the brain.

Deficiency symptoms:
  • Muscle weakness
  • Spasms and cramps
  • Muscle aches and stiffness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Numbness or paralysis
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Fatigue
Foods high in potassium:

Bananas, papaya, mangoes, russet potato and sweet potato, mushrooms, avocado.


Sodium works with potassium to regulate water balance and equalize the acid-alkaline properties of blood. It is also found in every cell of the body. Sodium is prevalent in our modern diets and usually over-consumed as we lean on more processed foods that use forms of sodium as preservatives and flavoring.

Too much sodium leads to high blood pressure and other concerns, but there are circumstances where someone can become deficient. An extended low sodium diet, the use of diuretics, or excessive sweating can result in a deficiency.

Deficiency symptoms:
  • Gas
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Disorientation
  • Cramps
  • Headaches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Heart palpitations
  • Seizures


Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body and, like potassium and sodium, is found in every cell. Phosphorus must be balanced with calcium for either one to be fully effective. Phosphorus plays a role in almost every chemical reaction within the body, including metabolism, energy production, muscle contractions, cellular division, and the use of B vitamins.

Deficiency symptoms:
  • Weak bones or teeth
  • Joint pain or stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Less appetite
  • Hair loss
  • Numbness
  • Anemia
Foods high in phosphorus include:

Rice bran, nuts and seeds, wheat germ, oat bran, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower and dried fruit.


Sulfur is found in every living cell, though at much lower concentrations than the previous minerals. This doesn’t make sulfur any less important though, as it is a major component of many proteins. It is a part of enzymes, connective tissue, joints, skin, hair, nails, and more. Sulfur also plays a part in regulating insulin, carbohydrate metabolism, and cellular respiration.

Deficiency symptoms:
  • Acne, eczema, or itchy skin or scalp
  • Brittle hair or nails
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Depression
  • Convulsions
  • Memory loss
  • Slow healing
  • Sore throat
  • Hay fever
  • Lowered immune function
Foods high in sulphur:

Edamame, peas, spinach, broccoli, mustard greens, cauliflower, bamboo shoots, cabbage, kale, avocado, kiwi and bananas.


Selenium is a mineral that acts as an antioxidant, protecting the body from damaging free radicals. Selenium helps in the prevention of premature aging, cancer, arteriosclerosis, cirrhosis, arthritis, and stroke. It preserves the elasticity of tissues that can be lost as we age. Deficiency is rare.

Deficiency symptoms:
  • Fatigue
  • Lowered thyroid function
  • Mental impairment
  • Reproductive disorders
  • Age spots
  • Cataracts
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Lowered immune function
Foods high in Selenium:

Brazil nuts, tofu, whole wheat pasta and shiitake mushrooms


The mineral chlorine must not be confused with the toxic yellow gas used to treat water. Chlorine in the form of chloride, found in salt, is an essential electrolyte. Chlorine works with potassium and sodium to control pressure and water balance in the blood.

It also helps regulate the pH, acid-alkaline properties within the body. Chlorine is also used by the body to create the stomach acid necessary for digestion. Heavy sweating, diarrhea, and vomiting can lead to deficiencies.

Deficiency symptoms:
  • Muscle weakness and cramping
  • Fatigue or apathy
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
healthy foods containing zinc, nuts and seeds mineral defeciency


Zinc is a trace mineral found in the body in fairly large amounts. Zinc protects the immune system, fights disease, protects eyesight, and plays a part in male sex drive.

Related: Zinc Deficiency Risks and Causes]

Deficiency symptoms:
  • Loss of appetite
  • Acne
  • Hair loss
  • Anorexia
  • Body odors
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Eczema
  • Brittle nails or white spots
  • Impaired healing
  • Memory loss or cognitive impairment
  • Diarrhea
Food high in Zinc:

Legumes, nuts and seeds seeds, whole grains and dark chocolate.


Manganese is a part of many enzymes and it stimulates or activates many other enzymes. It also acts as an antioxidant to protect against cellular aging. It plays a role in many of the chemical processes within the body, helping with amino acid and protein digestion.

Deficiency symptoms:
  • Joint pain
  • Arthritis
  • Hearing loss or tinnitus
  • Infertility
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Dizziness
Foods high in manganese:

Dried apricots, pineapple, spinach, wheat germ, chickpeas and quinoa.


Copper is a vital antioxidant, protecting fatty acids like those found in cell membranes. Copper is important in maintaining hair color, in growth and development, in assisting the formation of red blood cells, and in the use of iron.

Related: The Essential Mineral Copper

Deficiency symptoms:

  • Hair loss, brittle hair, or gray/white hair
  • Arthritis
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • High cholesterol
  • Impaired thyroid function
  • Nervous ticks
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Varicose veins
Foods high in copper:

Shiitake mushrooms, tofu, sesame seeds, sweet potatoes, cashews and dark chocolate

dark chocolate for mineral deficiency

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