Your body relies on an adequate amount of several nutrients for proper functioning and good overall health. When your levels dip and you become deficient, you may notice that your health is less than optimal. While nutrient deficiencies aren’t always of concern in America, there are some people who may suffer from low levels. In fact, there are several that Americans aren’t getting enough of.
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1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C plays several roles in your body. According to Kelly Plowe, M.S., RD, CSSD, this nutrient facilitates collagen production, which aids in healthy skin. It also helps your body absorb iron from the foods you eat. Vitamin C is also vital for keeping your immune system healthy and humming along and helping to prevent illnesses and diseases. In some research studies, vitamin C has also been linked to a lower risk of cancer, age-related vision problems and heart disease. Citrus fruits are foods that are quite high in vitamin C, but you can also get it from melon, kiwis, strawberries and bell peppers.
2. Vitamin D
With the rise in sun safety awareness, many people are experiencing a dip in vitamin D levels. Because sunshine is one of the best ways to get enough vitamin D, wearing sunscreen lowers your body’s absorption. Vitamin D plays a role in strong bones, and the experts at WebMD encourage you to include salmon, rockfish and tuna in your regular meal plan. Fortified milk and orange juice are other great ways to meet your daily quota.
There are many reasons why getting enough fiber is important. According to Plowe, fiber aids in healthy digestion and blood sugar control. Because fiber bulks up in your digestive system, it also produces satiety, which can help in weight control. It also helps remove cholesterol from your bloodstream, helping lower the risk of developing heart disease. Many American are deficient in fiber because it is present in foods that some people don’t eat very often. Your best sources of fiber are whole grains, fruits and vegetables. That means that a diet heavy on fast food or junk food is very likely too low in fiber.
Many people don’t give much thought to potassium, but it plays an important role in regulating your blood pressure. In fact, a severe potassium deficiency can lead to a heart attack. According to experts, not getting enough potassium can also lead to osteoporosis and kidney stones. Current data shows that about 97% of Americans don’t get enough potassium, says WebMD. Potassium is found abundantly in bananas and potatoes, but also tomatoes, spinach, beans, peas, yogurt and fish.
Studies show that magnesium can help you live longer, provided you are getting enough on a daily basis. It plays a role in healthy bones as well as regulating blood sugar, controlling nerve function and blood pressure regulation. By including more nuts, fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet, you can easily reach the daily intake recommendations for magnesium.
6. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is one nutrient that you may need more of, but that can be detrimental, even dangerous, if you consume too much. You need vitamin A because it protects your immune system and your eyesight. However, too much can be toxic, so it’s important to make sure you are meeting your needs without going overboard. You can find vitamin A in leafy green veggies, sweet potatoes, squash and carrots.
7. Vitamin E
When you get enough vitamin E, your skin will thank you. In addition, Plowe says that vitamin E is considered an antioxidant, which means it helps to fight free radical damage, which protects you from oxidation that can lead to a whole host of health issues, including cancer and heart disease. Seeds, cereal and olive oil are great sources of the vitamin, but you can find smaller amounts in avocados, spinach and mangoes.
8. Vitamin K
Essential for healthy blood clotting, vitamin K is one that you probably don’t hear too much about. New research also indicates that vitamin K may play a role in keeping your bones healthy and strong. A lack of vitamin K can lead to bone disorders, bruising and bleeding. You can find it abundantly in dark green, leafy vegetables, including spinach, collard greens, kale and brussel sprouts.
Many Americans are lacking in their iron consumption, which can be problematic in many regards. Its main role in your body is carrying oxygen from your lungs throughout your body to your internal organs. Without enough iron, you run the risk of developing anemia, which can cause fatigue and weakness. Plowe says that young women are most at risk from iron deficiency, which can cause issues with pregnancy and fetal development should a woman become pregnant. Red meat is a prime source of iron, but if you prefer not to consume it, you can also get adequate amounts from chicken, fish, eggs, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts.
Many people have never even heard of choline, which can be problematic as it’s important for many aspects of your health. It plays a role in building muscles and nerves by helping your body produce the cells necessary to do such functions. Eggs are your best source of choline, but you must eat the yolk to reap the full reward. Dried beans and peas also contain smaller amounts of choline.
Folate is one of the B vitamins and is especially vital for women in their childbearing years. It helps to protect against neural tube birth defects, which can develop before a woman knows she’s pregnant. This is why women should always be vigilant about folate intake. Folate also plays a role in the development of DNA and red blood cells. It’s available in oranges, melons, leafy green vegetables, grains, beans and nuts. Folate is also called folic acid, and most pregnant women must take a supplement to ensure that they are getting enough to support a healthy baby.
Your body needs plenty of calcium for healthy bones and teeth. WebMD also says that it’s important for heart health and protection against breast cancer. Many Americans, a larger percentage of them being women, aren’t getting enough calcium. Dairy foods, such as cheese, milk and yogurt are the best choices, but calcium can also be found in fortified orange juice and fortified cereal.
13. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Found in many kinds of fish, omega-3 fatty acids protect your heart and have also been linked to a lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis, depression, asthma and dementia, according to Plowe. To reach the recommended amount of omega-3s, you should be eating two servings of fish per week, with salmon being one of the top choices. Walnuts and flax are other great sources of omega-3s.
If you worry that you aren’t getting enough of any of these nutrients, be sure to talk to your doctor about a supplement to help fill in any gaps in your intake. Eating a variety of foods from each food group is always a good way to get enough of all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.