As I learn more about health in my own life, I become more and more interested in finding out what nutrients I need. While we may think that we know enough about nutrition, the fact is that there are still many nutrients that we aren't getting enough of, according to health writer Elizabeth Shimer Bowers at Everyday Health. These nutrient deficiencies can affect us in many ways, including our energy levels, our mood, and our overall future health.
"We often get stuck in a routine, good or bad, that limits variation in dietary intake,"says Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN to Bustle over email. "If you are also not consuming the recommended portion of five fruits and vegetables a day, then you will likely be deficient in one ore more nutrients."
Nutrient deficiencies tend to manifest themselves in many forms, including stress, depression, and lethargy among other symptoms and problems, so sometimes we are unaware that something is missing, thinking that the problem is caused by something else entirely. Becoming knowledgeable about what nutrients people commonly lack can help you choose foods that are rich in these vitamins and minerals, and they may even make a difference in your everyday health.
"In the standard American diet, most of us are not getting the recommended 25-38 grams of fiber daily," says Kaufman. "Fiber is beneficial for decreasing cholesterol levels and improving gastrointestinal motility." Getting too little fiber can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease as well as affect your digestive system, according to Kaufman. "The best sources of fiber are found in the skin of plant based fruits and vegetables," says Kaufman. You can also find fiber in whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and wheat.
2. Vitamin D
If you live somewhere where you don't get a ton of sun, or tend not to eat many dairy products, you may be low in vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiencies can cause bone and muscle weakness as well as increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. "In order to increase vitamin D daily make sure to add eggs and salmon into your diet," suggests Kaufman. "You may be missing out on essential ingredients such as vitamin D when opting for that egg white omelet." Foods such as fatty fish, dairy products, and other fortified foods such as mushrooms are great sources of vitamin D.
Women are at their peak bone mass at age 30, making calcium even more important during this time. Taking in too little calcium can cause weak bones, depression, and problems absorbing other nutrients, according to Kaufman. "With so many people following a vegan diet or [who are] lactose intolerant, it is no surprise that many people are calcium deficient," says Kaufman. Dairy is the largest source of calcium, but Kaufman recommends adding dark green leafy vegetables and beans in your diet if you're not a fan of consuming so much dairy.
4. Vitamin C
Although it's rare to be completely vitamin C deficient, many people have low levels of vitamin C, as it's not stored by the body and needs to be absorbed from food."Not only does vitamin C help fight the common cold, but it also helps with cardiovascular health and immune system deficiencies," says Kaufman. "I recommend my patients add strawberries or kiwis into their daily intake of fruit during the winter months to help improve their vitamin C intake."
"Most people who consume a well rounded diet get enough potassium, however deficiencies may occur in athletes due to hydration issues or patients with gastrointestinal issues that may suffer from malabsorption," says Kaufman. Low potassium levels can cause weakness, cramping, and low blood pressure. "If potassium deficiency does occur, you can find it in bananas or even potatoes," says Kaufman.
If you do suspect you have a severe deficiency, you should always talk to your doctor, but upping your intake of these five foods can help keep your body in balance and give it the power it needs to function optimally.