Nutrient Functions and Deficiency Symptoms

A nutrient is a chemical organisms need to live and grow and must be obtained from its environment. Nutrients include carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water. Essential nutrients are those that an organism requires but cannot synthesize, and thus must be taken from an external source.

These nutrients can be obtained from animal products, vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy products and in supplement form. The essential nutrients covered are only some of those that are neede to lead a healthy life daily - minerals and vitamins, and not all of them; it is an exhaustive list if it were all of them. The functions and some of the sources of these nutrients are covered here, as well as some of the symptoms caused by a deficiency of these nutrients.

Nutrient Functions, Deficiency Symptoms, Sources


  • Involved in the formation and health of bones and teeth
  • Nerve impulse transmission
  • Cellular adhesion (e.g. the binding of cells to another cell)\
  • Muscle tissue contraction, movement
  • Blood coagulation (formation of blood clots)

Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency
muscle spasms, rickets, osteoporosis

Best if taken with magnesium, phosphorus, vitamins A, C, D, folic acid, iron, zinc
Daily Dosage: 1000-1500 mg

Sources: milk, yogurt, kale, cheeses, collard greens, canned salmon, sardines with bones, broccoli, figs, oats, asparagus, prunes, sesame seeds, soybeans, tofu, whey, coconut, almonds, cabbage, turnips, parsnips


  • Works with insulin to control blood sugar
  • Factor in creation of anti-oxidant glutathione (a tripeptide that helps protect cells from reactive oxygen species such as free radicals and peroxides; and helps regulate cellular carbohydrates)

Symptoms of Chromium Deficiency
(rarely occurs) alterations in fat, carbohydrate, protein and amino acid metabolism

Daily Dosage: 200-600 mcg

Sources: brewer's yeast, broccoli, ham, grape, brown rice, cheese, whole grains, dried beans, chicken, corn, corn oil, dairy products, eggs, potatoes, mushrooms, wine, beer

Some foods and the nutrients they contain

Grains are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals including B vitamins and vitamin E, and folates.
Grains are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals including B vitamins and vitamin E, and folates.
Eggs contain chromium, iron, vitamin C and D, and omega-3s.
Eggs contain chromium, iron, vitamin C and D, and omega-3s.
Citrus fruits contain high amounts of vitamin C, and also manganese.
Citrus fruits contain high amounts of vitamin C, and also manganese.
Peaches contain iron, and almonds, part of the peach family are rich in calcium.
Peaches contain iron, and almonds, part of the peach family are rich in calcium.
Cheeses are rich in calcium and vitamin B-12.
Cheeses are rich in calcium and vitamin B-12.


  • Functions in the creation of hemoglobin and helps hemoglobin hold oxygen in the blood
  • With Vitamin B12 and folate, creates red blood cells*
  • Involved in physical and brain development*

*why it is important for pregnant women, or those trying to become pregnant, and breastfeeding women to take iron and folate

Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
anemia, dry coarse hair, dizziness, fatigue, hair loss, cracked lips, nervousness, slowed mental response

Best if taken with Vitamin C
Daily Dosage: (men) 15-25 mg, (women) 18-30 mg

Sources: iron fortified cereals, beef, baked potatoes, clams, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, eggs, fish, liver, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, avocados, beets, brewer's yeast, dates, peaches, pears, lentils, dried prunes, raisins, sesame seeds, pistachios, peanuts, spinach, fava beans, peas, beets


  • One of the components that make up bones
  • Helps lower blood pressure
  • Prevents arythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • Helps maintain cell bodies in nerves and muscles

Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
sleep disturbances, irritability, rapod heart beat, muscle spasms, stomach upset

Best if taken with calcium, phosphorus, vitamins B6, C, D
Daily Dosage: 500-750 mg

Sources: brown rice, avocados, spinach, haddock, oatmeal, navy beans, lima beans, broccoli, yogurt, bananas, baked potatoes, apples apricots, brewer's yeast, tofu, cantalopes, grapefruit, green leafy vegetables, lemons, nuts, salmon, sesame seeds, wheat, coconut


  • Activates enzymes
  • Metabolism

*can help those attempting to lose weight in a healthy way

Symptoms of Manganese Deficiency
(rarely occurs) tremors, elevated cholesterol levels, impaired vision & hearing, irritability, increased blood pressure, sweating, increased heart rate

Best if taken with calcium, iron, vitamin B complex, E
Daily Dosage: 15-30 mg

Sources: canned pineapple juice, wheat bran, whole grain seeds, nuts, cocoa, shellfish, tea, dairy products, apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, brewer's yeast, cantaloupe, grapefruit, green leafy vegetables, peaches, figs, salmon, soybeans, tofu, nuts


  • Important for bone mineralization (the process through which an organic substance becomes impregnated by inorganic substances)
  • Collagen (the protein of connective tissue) formation
  • ATP (energy) production
  • Acid-base balance in blood plasma (the yellow liquid in which blood cells are suspended), phospholipids (main component of cell membranes), DNA & enzymes

Symptoms of Phosphorus Deficiency
fatigue, irritability, weakness, decreased appetite

Best if taken with calcium, iron, manganese, sodium, vitamin B6
Daily Dosage: 1200 mg

Sources: halibut, yogurt, salmon, milk, chicken breast, ground beef, oatmeal, lima beans, broccoli, asparagus, corn, dairy products, eggs, dried fruits, highly carbonated beverages, legumes, nuts, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, coconut, mung bean sprouts


  • Necessary for muscle strength and contraction
  • Maintains osmotic pressure in cells
  • Maintains blood pressure

Symptoms of Potassium Deficiency
dry skin, acne, diarhea, impaired cognitive (thought process) function, muscle spasms, edema, decreased reflex response, thirst, growth retardation, insomnia, elevated cholesterol, decreased blood pressure

Daily Dosage: 3500 mg

Sources: dried apricots, baked potatoes, bananas, mung bean sprouts

Vitamin A

  • Promotes healthy eyes, skin, hair, teeth & gums
  • Helps in cancer prevention
  • Involved in healing infections

Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency
poor night vision, increased risk of cataracts, dry skin, nerve damage (for taste, smell & hearing)

Best if taken with vitamins C, D, E, zinc
Daily Dosage: 5000-50000 IU

Sources: raw & juiced carrots, pumpkins, yams, tuna, cantaloupe, mangoes, turnips, butternut squash, spinach, fish, eggs, cauliflower

Vitamin B-12

  • Fatty acid catabolism (breakdown)
  • Nervous system myelination (myelin covers nerves)
  • Reduction of glutathione (oxidized glutathione reduced to glutathione)

Symptoms of Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
unsteady gait (movement), fatigue, constipation, depression, dizziness, drowsiness, liver enlargement, headaches, inflammation of the tongue, irritability, mood swings

Daily Dosage: 25-500 mg

Sources: clams, ham, cooked oysters, king crab, herring, salmon, tuna, lean beef, liver, blue cheese, camembert, gorgonzola cheese

Vitamin C

  • Acts as an anti-oxidant (when with vitamin E)
  • Formation of collagen
  • Healing of wounds
  • Involved in blood vessel health

Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency
(mild) poor wound healing, bleeding gums, bruising, nosebleeds, joint pain, susceptibility to infection; (severe) scurvy (formation of spots on the skin, spongy gums, and bleeding from the mucous membranes)

Best if taken with calcium, magnesium
Daily Dosage: 60-5000 mg

Sources: broccoli, cantaloupe, kiwis, oranges, pineapples, peppers, pink grapefruit, strawberries, asparagus, avocados, collard grees, dandelion greens, kale, lemons, mangos, onions, radishes, watercress, litchi, rambutan, mung bean sprouts, cauliflower

Vitamin D

  • Maintenance of calcium levels in blood
  • Facilitates absorption and transport of calcium in the intestines
  • If calcium is insufficient in diet, Vitamin D takes calcium from bones

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
(in children) rickets, delayed tooth development, weak muscles, soft skulls in infants, irreversible bone deformities; (in adults) osteoporosis, hypocalcemia

Best if taken with calcium, vitamins A, C, phosphorus
Daily Dosage: 400-800 IU

Sources: sun exposure, sardines, salmon, mushrooms, eggs, fortified milk, fortified cereals, herring, liver, tuna, cod liver oil


  • Involved in cell growth
  • Sexual maturation
  • Night vision
  • Mobilizes Vitamin A stored in liver, converting it to retinol (most usuable form of Vitamin A) and then retinoic acid (oxidized for of Vitamin A)
  • Aids in vision

Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency
nails become thin and peel, acne, delayed sexual maturation, hair loss, elevated cholesterol, impaired night vision, impotence, growth retardation, increased susceptibility to infection

Best if taken with calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B6
Daily Dosage: 23-50 mg

Sources: cooked oysters, beef, lamb, eggs, whole grains, nuts, yogurt, fish legumes, lima beans, liver, mushrooms, pecans, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, sardines, soybeans, poultry, nuts

 Consuming foods containing each nutrient can be an easy task if your diet consists of a variety of fruits, vegetables, meat products or alternatives, dairies, grains and water. As you can see, consuming only proteins (like in an all-protein diet) will not provide you with all the essential nutrients you need daily. You can always supplement your diet if you do these types of diets, but you actually only obtain some of the amounts of the supplements you take (ie. taking a supplement of 1000mg of vitamin C, does not necessarily mean you absorb all 1000 mg; you may only consume 300 mg depending on the potency.) So the best thing to do for a healthy diet is consuming a variety of foods daily in order to obtain the recommended daily dosages of essential nutrients.

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Comments 2 comments

DebtFreedom profile image

DebtFreedom 6 years ago Author

Thanks for the info artour. Are you a dietitian? It would be great if there was a thing/machine/test/whatever that you could do at home that's inexpensive to see if you are deficient, etc., so that you don't have to go to the doctor to do it every so often.

proton66 profile image

proton66 4 years ago from Southern California

I'm glad you addressed this because for a long time I've always wondered why people have a deficient if they are already eating right.

So, is it age-related or lack of money to eat right? If money is not an issue then people's deficiency of vitamins and minerals comes from your system robbing them to keep up in its fight against free radicals per Dr Daniel Royal's research. He mentioned about doing a SpectraCell MicroNutrient Test, and a dietary supplement (neither a vitamin nor a mineral) that is amazingly fixing people with deficiencies.

If Dr Royal's research makes sense then we should all consider this approach.

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