Unlocking Vitality: Essential Nutrients Missing from Filipino Diets and How to Replenish Them

Achieving optimal health and energy is largely dependent on proper nutrition. This article focuses on identifying the four essential vitamins and minerals typically deficient in Filipino diets and provides helpful guidelines on incorporating them into your meals. Following these tips and guides can unlock your vitality and improve your overall well-being.

What the experts have to say

The World Bank reports that undernutrition has been a persistent problem in the Philippines for over three decades, with one out of every three Filipino children under five experiencing stunted growth (pagkabansot). The country ranks fifth in the East Asia and the Pacific region for having the highest prevalence of stunting. Shockingly, malnutrition is responsible for the deaths of 95 Filipino children every day, and 27 out of 1,000 children do not survive past their fifth birthday, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Maricar Esculto, M.D., Head of the Nutrition and Dietetics Department at Makati Medical Center, has shed light on the issue of micronutrient deficiencies in the Philippines. While poverty is widely believed to be the primary cause of such deficiencies, Dr. Esculto points out that the reliance on rice and the lack of dietary diversity among Filipinos are also major contributing factors. Furthermore, Filipino meals are deficient in the four most common vitamins and minerals: iron, vitamin C, calcium, and iodine which are recommended Philippine dietary reference intakes.

According to science and technology food and nutrition experts, like the World Health Organization, micronutrient intakes cannot be covered by just a few type of foods consumed which is why it is crucial to have a healthy spread of food. This highlights the urgent need for Filipinos to explore ways to include a wider variety of nutrient-rich foods in their diets.

Inadequate Iron Intake

The body requires iron to make hemoglobin to transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, along with myoglobin, which supplies oxygen to the muscles. It helps in the vital functions of the body, including regulating body temperature, maintaining general energy and focus, the immune system, and more. Iron is also essential for building collagen, which gives the skin a healthy and youthful glow. Inadequate intake can lead to iron deficiency anad may result to health issues.

Observed intake distribution for the average adult male, the recommended nutrient intake (RNI) for iron is 12 mg per day. As for menstruating adult women, RNI can be as high as 28 mg.

Iron-rich foods include beef, liver, beans, fortified and enriched bread and cereals, whole grain products, and dark chocolate, so incorporate these into your diet.


Dietary fiber, which is commonly and naturally found in plant foods sources such as fruits and vegetables, grains, seeds, legumes, and nuts, is a vital nutrient for one’s health. Absence of these plant foods in your diet can bring higher risk of chronic diseases. Fiber is absent in animal foods such as meat and dairy.

Another good source of daily energy intake are food with complex carbohydrates which are loaded with fiber and starch like pasta, rice, bread, and potatoes . These high-energy foods also come with essential B vitamins. A great way to kickstart your day is through eating whole-grain cereal and oatmeal.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is famous for being a vital nutrient that strengthens the immune system and helps lower blood pressure. It is also an antioxidant that maintains the bones, cartilage, skin, and blood vessels and may help slow aging.

Since the body cannot make or store its vitamin C, it is essential to our daily diet. The recommended nutrient intake for adult men is 70 mg, whereas the RNI for adult females is 60 mg daily. Vitamin C is abundant in local favorites, including oranges, papaya, guava, Philippine lime (calamansi), pineapple, tomatoes, and moringa (malunggay).


Calcium is a significant part of our bone structure and teeth and keeps the body strong and flexible. It is also responsible for muscle contraction, transporting blood throughout the body, and regulating normal heart rhythms and nerve functions. According to dietary intake data and intake distribution estimation, the average adult, male or female aged 18 to 64, requires 700 mg of calcium a day.

Based on nutritional status, food sources of calcium include milk, cheese, other dairy foods, fortified drinks, and green leafy vegetables such as okra, moringa, and cabbage.


Iodine is essential in producing thyroid hormones necessary for growth and development, healthy brain and nervous system function, average body temperature, and regulating the female reproductive system. As the human body cannot produce iodine, the recommended nutrient intake is 150 mcg per day for most adults, but it is higher for pregnant and lactating women.

Eggs, seaweed, tuna, squid, shrimp, and other animal proteins are rich in iodine. Dairy products, such as yogurt and cottage cheese, are excellent sources of iodine as well. In addition, adding a healthy amount of iodized salt into your meals can help complete your daily iodine intake.

How to incorporate iron, vitamin C, calcium, and iodine into your regular diet

Iron, calcium, vitamin C, and iodine are the four nutrients the body needs to function correctly. Inadequate intakes of any of these nutrients may lead to serious health problems. Incorporating all food groups into your meals can help you get all the necessary vitamins and minerals. For example, avoiding fruits might make you fall short on vitamin C, and avoiding vegetables might make you lack vitamin K.

To get enough vitamins, have a balanced diet containing various fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, dairy or calcium-containing alternatives, and proteins. It is okay to miss one day; you can include the food group you lacked the next day.

To incorporate essential vitamins, it is great to make fantastic, hearty meals that you can easily prepare. Click here for tips, guides, reviews, and recipes to incorporate into your nutrient-filled diet.

However, if there are specific food types or groups that you need to avoid for medical reasons, you can also opt for vitamin supplements. AllDay Rx has all your pharmacy and personal care needs to help you keep your health and wellness in check. 

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