While we all pay attention to incorporating vitamins and minerals into our diets, are you getting enough critical nutrients? There are some nutrients that you need to pay special attention to — ones you probably aren’t getting enough of, yet they’re essential to primary cell functions. Here are seven critical nutrients which are depleted in more than 70 percent of diets.
Two billion people may have a zinc deficiency, yet it’s an essential mineral required by the body for maintaining a sense of smell, keeping a healthy immune system, building proteins, triggering enzymes, and creating DNA. Zinc also helps the cells in your body communicate by functioning as a neurotransmitter. A deficiency in zinc can lead to stunted growth, diarrhea, impotence, hair loss, eye and skin lesions, impaired appetite, and depressed immunity.
Available in: Cocao, oysters, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds and peanuts are all excellent sources of zinc.
2. OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Research says that eating more omega-3 fatty acids makes one live longer, look better and feel happier. A deficiency, on the other hand, can cause depression, mood swings and even aggressive behaviour. These fatty acids prevent heart disease, are good for your eyes, help you shed pounds and keep your skin and hair in good condition.
Available in: Oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. However, there are plenty of sources for vegetarians and vegans as well including walnuts, flax, hemp and chia seeds.
3. VITAMIN D
Not only does Vitamin D help your body absorb calcium, but it does wonders for your overall well-being. People who don’t have adequate Vitamin D, have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis, mental illness, heart disease and many cancers. Though the human body is equipped to produce Vitamin D on its own when exposed to sunlight, use of sunscreen or going without sunlight for long periods can cause a deficiency.
Available in: The easiest and best way is to spend at least 20 minutes in the sun daily without slathering on sunblock. Exposing your full torso to the sun for at least 30 minutes is equivalent to approximately 10,000 IU of Vitamin D. Foods, which contain Vitamin D include oily fish and egg yolk. High quality Vitamin D3 supplement drops are a highly recommended alternative, especially during the winter months.
Magnesium plays a more important role than calcium in the body. Itreduces your risk of cancer, and controls the entry of calcium into each and every cell–a physiological event that occurs every time a nerve cell fires! When it comes to building healthy bones, magnesium is as important as calcium and vitamin D are. Without adequate magnesium, too much calcium gets inside the cell. This causes cramping and constrictions in ways you many doctors never consider.
Available in: Dietary sources of magnesium include green, leafy vegetables, starches, grains and nuts, and milk. Earlier dietary surveys show that a large portion of adults do not meet even the RDA for magnesium (320 mg per day for women and 420 mg per day for men) which is below the level necessary for optimal health being 500mg+ per day for both men and women.
One of the most common deficiencies in the world, iron is an important nutrient, integral to many bodily processes. It is especially essential for pre-menopausal and pregnant women, who tend to have this deficiency. If you feel tired, low in energy, suffer from headaches or hair loss, a pale complexion and weak nails, you could be suffering from iron deficiency.
Available in: Go for eggs, spirulina, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, green leafy vegetables, pulses and dried fruit. Cut down consumption of tea and coffee since they contain polyphenols, which makes it tough for your body to absorb iron.
It is an essential mineral found in small amounts in the body. It works as an antioxidant, especially when combined with vitamin E. Antioxidants like selenium help fight damaging particles in the body known as free radicals. Selenium can reduce asthma risk, decreases diabetes, guards against cancer and plays a role in thyroid function and our immune system.
Available in: The Highest foods in selenium include nuts (especially brazil nuts), shellfish and fish. Some alternatives for vegans include sunflowerseeds, rice and oat bran.
7. VITAMIN B12
Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient, especially for those following strict vegan lifestyles. It is required by your body to make new red blood cells and help keep your nervous system healthy. Without it, permanent damage can result. B12 can also lower homocystein levels, which is great news since elevated homocysteine levels may cause heart disease and strokes. A deficiency leads to anaemia and its symptoms include tiredness, pale complexion and breathlessness. It can also cause memory loss, confusion, mood swings and depression.
Available in: Vegetables are not reliable sources of B12. Meat and eggs are some of the best sources, however, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, it may be essential to occasionally use a B12 patch or high quality B12 supplement in your diet.
Iodine is a mineral found mostly in seafood (including seaweed) that helps the body synthesize hormones, including thyroid hormone. This important mineral has been slowly but steadily leaving our food stream. The chemicals in fertilizers used in modern farming and chlorine added to water bind to iodine and prevent it from being utilized by our bodies. Iodine deficiency significantly affects the brain development of unborn babies and young children and is the main cause of preventable mental retardation and brain damage across the world. It also leads to underactive thyroid and may increase the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, which could be a major problem given the numbers of women suffering from this deficiency. Iodine deficiency is not only common in developing countries, research has suggested that more than two thirds of teenage girls and 15 percent of adult females in the US have an iodine deficiency.
Caution: Too much iodine can also be harmful. although the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 200-300 micro grams of iodine daily during pregnancy for normal fetal thyroid hormone production and neurocognitive development, 1,100 micro grams is considered to be the safe upper limit for daily ingestion by the US Institute of Medicine.
Available in: Eggs, fish and seafood are good sources. Vegans can go for seaweed, cranberries, organic strawberries and himalayan crystal salt.
Karen Foster is a holistic nutritionist, avid blogger, with five kids and an active lifestyle that keeps her in pursuit of the healthiest path towards a life of balance.