I often find myself looking up the nutrient profiles of the foods I eat. I try to do it on a regular basis, just to see where my diet is lacking. What I usually discover, is that I’m deficient in one nutrient or another. You really need to eat a lot of really high quality foods to take in the vitamins and minerals that are recommended by the FDA. And even when you pull that off, it’s still isn’t necessarily enough. The daily recommended values that you see printed on the sides of most food packages, often reflect the minimum nutrients you need, rather than the most optimum nutrient intake.
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And I know that I’m not alone. Despite the fact that people living in the United States have access to more food than anyone else in the world, or throughout human history for that matter, millions of Americans are still deficient in many different kinds of nutrients. The most common of which include:
Studies have shown that vitamin D deficiencies are skyrocketing in the US. Because we receive most of our vitamin D from sun exposure, the most likely reasons for this trend include our sedentary lifestyles, and increasing sunscreen usage. Symptoms of a deficiency include fatigue, reduced mental faculties, and bone fractures. Though sea foods and dairy provide the most vitamin D in our diets, exposing your skin to the sun is the most efficient way to receive enough of this nutrient.
Because magnesium is present in every cell in your body, it would be impossible to list every symptom of a deficiency. Magnesium effects every bodily function, which makes it one of the most important nutrients. Though estimates vary between different studies, they all suggest that a majority of the population isn’t consuming enough magnesium. The best sources of magnesium include leafy greens, fish, beans, and nuts.
This is one of the most important nutrients for reducing inflammation, and when you don’t eat enough of it, you may suffer from severe cognitive decline, skin problems, and high blood pressure. Plus, the amount of omega-3 fatty acids that you consume needs to be in balance with the amount omega-6 in your diet, if you want to reap the benefits of this nutrient.
Though estimates vary, you should probably be consuming 1 mg of omega-3 for every 4 mg of omega-6. Unfortunately, for most people that ratio is closer to 1/12 or worse, due to the highly processed nature of our diets. So skip junk foods that are loaded with vegetable fats, and eat more fish products like salmon, sardines, and cod liver oil.
You wouldn’t think that this deficiency would be a problem in America when you consider how meat-rich our diets are. However, it’s fairly common among infants, children, and women who are pregnant or menstruating. The symptoms include fatigue, headaches, chest pains, pale skin, and shortness of breath. To receive enough iron in your diet, you need to eat plenty of meat (especially liver), seafood, seeds and nuts.
Potassium is a crucial nutrient for hydration, so when you don’t consume enough, it can cause a wide variety of problems including nausea, heart palpitations, delirium, cramps, and muscle weakness. Unfortunately, it’s fairly difficult to consume enough potassium every day. There isn’t just one food you can eat to alleviate a deficiency (contrary to popular opinion, bananas only have a moderate amount of potassium).
You need to incorporate a wide variety of plant foods into every meal to receive enough potassium. That can include beans, squash, potatoes, leafy greens, tomato sauce, and avocados.