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Six Common Nutrient Thieves


Thieves may be robbing you of key nutrients

Thieves may be robbing you of key nutrients. Despite your efforts to exercise regularly and eat a healthful diet, certain lifestyle factors steal away important nutrients that your body needs.

Cigarette Smoke

More than increased risk of cancer and heart disease lurks in cigarette smoke. Numerous studies have found that smokers have 30 percent less vitamin C than nonsmokers. Therefore, individuals exposed to smoke need extra vitamin C daily. Your diet should include daily servings of vegetables and fruits such as broccoli, spinach, strawberries and oranges all excellent sources of vitamin C. Other important nutrients for smokers include vitamin E, which is found in nuts and oils, and folic acid, which is abundant in orange juice, beets and dark leafy greens.


Heavy drinking (more than two drinks daily) increases the risk of cirrhosis of the liver and cancers of the mouth and esophagus. Alcohol is a diuretic, causing the loss of water-soluble vitamins B complex and C. Foods that contain the B vitamins include whole grains, nutritional yeast and green leafy vegetables. Alcohol is also a gastric irritant and can lessen appetite, making it difficult for heavy drinkers to obtain other important nutrients.

Over-the-Counter Medications

A number of medications affect the absorption of certain nutrients. Antacids can prevent the absorption of calcium, iron and vitamin A. Laxatives containing mineral oil can lead to a loss of vitamins A, D and E. Certain diuretics and painkillers (Aspirin) can lead to potassium loss. Individuals taking these drugs regularly should eat more potassium-rich foods such as oranges, bananas and potatoes and take a potassium supplement.

Prescription Drugs

Antibiotics, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, anti-diabetics, anti-inflammatories, blood pressure- and cholesterol-lowering drugs, chemotherapy, oral contraceptives, estrogen replacement medications, tranquilizers and ulcer drugs are known nutrient thieves. In fact, many drug side-effects are often caused by nutrient depletions. Taking nutritional supplements to compensate for drug-induced nutrient depletions may increase the effectiveness of a drug as well as reduce or prevent side-effects.


Heavy exercise promotes iron loss a particular concern to premenstrual women, who have an increased need for this mineral. Eating foods rich in iron such as whole grains, green leafy vegetables and dried fruits can combat this problem. Avid exercise enthusiasts have an increased need for riboflavin (vitamin B2), which is necessary for energy. Riboflavin sources include dairy products, eggs, nutritional yeast and sprouts.


Certain nutrients deplete with age, often due to reduced absorption. The body needs fewer calories as you age, so getting enough nutrients from food alone can be challenging. The nutrients that require boosting in senior years include calcium, vitamin D (your requirements of D triple after age 70), zinc, fibre, protein, water and vitamin B12. It's the opposite with iron: men and post- menopausal women often need to cut back because excess iron is linked with cancer.

Finally, erratic eating habits (such as skipping meals) and stress are common thieves in today's hectic lifestyle. Poor digestion inhibits nutrient absorption, while stress uses up essential nutrients more quickly than usual. It's important to recognize the effect your lifestyle has on your nutritional health and cut back on the culprits and compensate with the right foods and supplements.

Common Culprits

  • Cigarette smoke depletes vitamin C.
  • Alcohol depletes vitamins B complex and C. It also lowers appetite.
  • Over-the-counter medications: Antacids prevent absorption of calcium, iron and vitamin A. Laxatives deplete vitamins A, D and E. Diuretics and Aspirin deplete potassium.
  • Prescription drugs cause nutrient deficiencies.
  • Too much exercise depletes iron and riboflavin.
  • Aging reduces levels of calcium, vitamin D, zinc, fibre, protein, water and vitamin B12.
  • Poor digestion reduces nutrient absorption.
  • Stress uses up nutrients more quickly than normal.


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