What are Nutrients?
WHAT NUTRIENTS MIGHT I BE LACKING AND WHERE CAN I FIND THEM?
Our western diets are often high in calories but severely lacking in micronutrients, so it is very common for American adults to lack the appropriate levels of certain vitamins and minerals. A well-balanced diet should address your overall nutrition needs, but it is helpful to know where you can find the extra nutrients you may be lacking.
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A is needed to help your body grow and develop and is critical in maintenance of the immune system and good vision. It can be found in eggs, milk, carrots, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe. More than 50 percent of Americans are deficient in Vitamin A.
- Vitamin C: We often think of Vitamin C when we’re sick, but this micronutrient does more than just boost your immune system. Vitamin C protects the cells from damaging compounds in our bodies and also helps improve the absorption of iron in the body. You can get more Vitamin C from oranges, strawberries, tomatoes, kiwi, broccoli, and bell peppers. More than 50 percent of Americans are deficient in Vitamin C.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E protects the cells from damaging compounds in our bodies and also helps slow the aging process of our cells. It’s also great for your skin! Vitamin E can be found in avocados, nuts, seeds, whole-grain foods, and dark leafy greens like spinach and kale. Approximately 80 percent of Americans are deficient in Vitamin E.
- Calcium: A must-have for strong bones and teeth, calcium is commonly found in dairy products, broccoli, dark, leafy greens, and sardines. About 70 percent of Americans are deficient in calcium.
- Potassium: Potassium is often ignored in the nutrient conversation, but it is one of the most important minerals in the body. Potassium helps with fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve signals, and diets high in potassium can help reduce blood pressure and protect against stroke. This magical micronutrient can be found in bananas, cantaloupe, raisins, nuts, fish, and dark, leafy greens. Nearly 90 percent of Americans are deficient in potassium.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is another important nutrient that is commonly overlooked. It helps regulate muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure and also assists with making protein, bone, and DNA. You can find magnesium in spinach, black beans, peas, and almonds. About 50 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium.
WHAT ARE THE COMPONENTS OF A NUTRIENT DENSE MEAL?
If your current diet consists primarily of processed foods or you’re eating a lot of junk food, it can be overwhelming to think about overhauling your diet. However, eating nutrient dense meals doesn’t have to be complicated or confusing. As with any lifestyle change, it is recommended that you start small when incorporating nutrients into your daily diet. If you’ve been eating a lot of fast food and junk food, you might still find yourself craving these things as you work to change your diet, so one great place to start is to simply add a piece of fruit, such as an apple, or a serving of vegetables, such as a side of broccoli, to your normal meals. While this won’t help you cut down on calories or fat, it will help ensure that you’re getting much needed vitamins and minerals. When you’re ready to make another change, try incorporating lean cuts of meat or low-fat dairy into your favorite recipes, like topping your homemade pizza with part-skim mozzarella cheese.
If the idea of making small changes still leaves you feeling confused and overwhelmed, or you’d just prefer to take the guesswork out of preparing healthy foods, there are plenty of online resources and cookbooks that can help. Body FX offers personalized health and wellness coaching and detailed nutritional advice, plus tons of great recipes and meal ideas. Try one of our challenges and receive a daily meal plan with weekly grocery lists right to your email inbox.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO GET ENOUGH NUTRIENTS WITHOUT EATING MEAT?
It is possible to get enough micronutrients and macronutrients on a plant-based diet, but it does require careful planning and a concerted effort to ensure you get all of the nutrition that you need. We typically rely on dairy products to get in vitamin D and calcium, but it’s also possible to get vitamin D from vegetables, beans, and fruits. Calcium can be obtained from broccoli, kale, bok choy, turnip greens, and mustard greens, as well as tofu. In order to get the necessary amount of protein on a plant-based diet, choose foods like chickpeas, peanut butters, and other legumes such as lentils.
SHOULD I TAKE MULTIVITAMINS?
From the ubiquitous Flintstones vitamins of the 1980s and 90s to the gummy vitamins of the 2000s, many of us have been conditioned to take a multivitamin daily since childhood. while multivitamins can be a convenient way to supplement your diet with micronutrients that may otherwise be lacking, they should not be relied upon as the sole source of vitamins and minerals in your diet. Eating a poor diet filled with processed food and junk food and taking a multivitamin each day certainly wouldn’t ensure good health benefits, for example. Our bodies are designed to absorb vitamins and minerals through the process of digestion, and eating our micronutrients remains the best way to get the nutrition we need. However, multivitamins can be beneficial for older adults, those with dietary restrictions, such as vegans and vegetarians, and pregnant and breastfeeding women, who may require additional vitamins and minerals in their diets. If you are limiting your caloric intake while aiming for weight loss, you may also benefit from taking a multivitamin.
Body FX carries a multivitamin in our lineup of supplements to ensure a high-quality, low-cost option is available to our community. Check it out here!