Eating right is about more than maintaining a healthy weight, it is about ensuring your body has all the nutrients it requires. You might think you have a balanced diet but stress, processed food, and even where you live have negatively impact on your nutrition. Sadly the Standard American Diet (also known as “SAD”) prioritize the consumptions of these types of foods vs. real whole foods.
These are six key nutrients you could be deficient in. You can take supplements, of course, but no pills can substitute for a balanced whole food diet that delivers a broad range of nutrients.
This is one nutrient where environment plays a key role. Your body produces Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight so if you live in a northern climate, have dark skin, or routinely use strong sunscreen, you probably need more Vitamin D. It is essential for absorption of calcium, bone development, immune functioning, and relieving inflammation so increase the following foods: eggs, oily fish such as wild caught salmon, leafy greens and mushrooms.
You probably know about calcium’s role in bone health. It is also essential for functions like blood clotting and nerve transmission. The most common source in the American diet is dairy. Dairy is acid, however, meaning excess consumption can prompt your body to draw calcium from your bones to restore your internal pH balance. Talk about counterproductive! Increase the plant sources of calcium in your diet such as kale, collard greens, tofu, fortified soy milk, and legumes.
Potassium and sodium are two essential elements that literally keep your heart beating and maintain nervous system function. It is hard to be sodium deficient eating a modern diet, but you need to pay attention to your potassium intake, as it also helps fight osteoporosis, diabetes and heart disease. Bananas are high in potassium, as are potatoes, sweet potatoes and leafy greens.
You need iron for the basic demands of breathing (it carrys oxygen in the blood) and building muscle. It is also vital for energy, regulating body temperature and mental function. Meat, fish and poultry are high in easily-absorbed iron. Vegetarians and vegans need to pay special attention to iron consumption. The best plant sources include edamame, leafy greens such as kale and spinach, lentils and nuts.
Your zinc intake has a direct impact on your health as it is an essential nutrient for the immune system. It is also critical to growth, reproductive health and keeping your enzyme systems function properly. Oysters and shellfish are high in zinc. If you have health concerns about eating shellfish, aim to increase the amount of eggs, meat, nuts, and seeds in your diet.
Though not a vitamin or mineral, fiber is essential to maintaining the health of your digestive system, which impacts your ability to absorb and utilize the nutrients in your food There are two key types of fiber: soluble, which can help lower glucose and cholesterol levels in the blood; and insoluble which promotes good digestive health. Plenty of soluble fiber from oats, apples, peas and barley will help reduce your risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes, and atherosclerosis. Keep your internal transit system running clean by eating lots of nuts, tubers and vegetables.
What’s your favorite uber-nutritious foods? Share in the comments below!