When it comes to health concerns like obesity and preventable disease, Americans are unfortunately taking the lead compared to most other countries. Despite the evidence that proves otherwise, about 75 percent of Americans claim that their eating habits are either good, very good, or all-out excellent. In reality, many of us are simply not getting enough of the valuable vitamins and nutrients in our everyday diets.
While most people know that certain vitamins and minerals are essential to health and wellness, the average American diet seems to be lacking some pretty noteworthy nutrients. So, could you be missing out as well? We’ve taken the time to scope out the top seven vitamins most of us are missing in our nutrition plan. Let’s get started!
Some research estimates that 10 million people are iron deficient in the United States. While that number is considerably lower than in some parts of the world, iron deficiency can manifest in some pretty alarming ways when it comes to your health. Therefore, this is a nutrient well worth your attention.
Iron is crucial in your everyday life for your body to stay healthy because it plays a role in carrying oxygen throughout your body by supporting the production of red blood cells. Therefore, iron works hard at things like aiding your digestion processes and keeping your immune system functioning. Iron also aids in energy, cognitive function, and body temperature.
Iron is easy enough to find in foods like red meat, leafy greens, and beans, but not everyone gets a lot of these foods in their diet.
Milk, one of the most common sources of calcium, is good for the body, and you probably know full well that calcium is an important staple in your diet. Nevertheless, about 7 out of 10 Americans could be deemed as calcium deficient.
Calcium intake needs can change as you age and can even vary according to your risks for certain health conditions. For example, adults only need 1,000mg of calcium per day until they are 50, but someone at a higher risk of osteoporosis may need a higher dose. While calcium is important for healthy bones and teeth, this nutrient ensures proper muscle function, heart rhythm, and so much more.
All of your calcium doesn’t necessarily have to come from dairy — spinach, fortified breakfast cereals, and even salmon can be good sources.
Much like calcium, magnesium helps support things like strong bones and teeth, your heart, and even your blood pressure levels. Magnesium also seems to combat bodily inflammation, which can be related to everything from heightened cancer risks to diabetes and heart disease.
Adults over 18 need between 310 and 410mg of magnesium daily, depending on gender. Unfortunately, not only is this nutrient not often a well-established aspect of the typical American diet, but the nutrient can also be lacking in people who:
- Drink a lot of alcohol
- Take medication for high blood sugar or cancer
- Have parathyroid problems
- Have kidney disease or Chrohn’s disease
- Take medications for acid reflux
Magnesium can be found in some whole grains, certain nuts and seeds, wheat bran, and dry beans.
Potassium is often referred to as the mineral for your organs, as this is precisely what the mineral does in your body: it supports your heart, kidneys, liver, and other vital organs. Low potassium levels can be related to many issues, including digestive problems, infertility, high blood pressure, arthritis, stroke, and heart disease.
The thing is, adults actually need a lot of potassium, but most do not get enough. The recommended daily intake is at least 4,700mg per day — more for women who are breastfeeding. Potassium can be found in bananas, potatoes, citrus, avocados, and tree nuts. For reference, one whole banana may give you just over 400mg of potassium, and no one wants to eat 10 bananas in a day. Therefore, the majority of people with a potassium deficiency do have to take supplements to reach their intake goals.
5. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is one of those nutrients that sort of hangs out in the background when it comes to general public attention. However, vitamin A is actually extremely important to the human body. This vitamin, otherwise known as retinol, may be good to fight aging and keep your skin looking youthful, but it also:
- Lowers your risks of infection
- Helps give your immune system a boost
- Protects your vision
- Influences your risk of certain cancers
- Supports your bones
- Supports fertility
The scary part is, about 50 percent of Americans don’t get enough vitamin A in their diet. If you’re a fan of dairy, you can also get more vitamin A in your diet with foods like feta and blue cheese.
6. Vitamin C
Even though most people are familiar with the importance of vitamin C, much like vitamin A, Americans tend to get only about half of what they actually need. The general vitamin C intake recommendation is 65 to 90mg per day. Believe it or not, you can get that much vitamin C from just one orange, but many people don’t make citrus fruit a part of their day-to-day nutrition plan. Other good sources include:
- Bell peppers
Vitamin C is well-regarded for its immune system support, but this nutrient actually plays an important role in repairing your body when something goes wrong. For example, without vitamin C, a wound would never heal.
7. Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiencies are thought to be far more prevalent than most people know. In fact, over half of all people in the U.S. are likely to have low vitamin D levels. This vitamin can notoriously be produced when you spend time in the sun, but more people spend their days indoors and still don’t have much vitamin D in their diets to make a difference.
Vitamin D enables your bones to regenerate, reduces inflammation, and plays a role in everything from immune system function to regulation of cellular proliferation. Some of the best natural food sources for vitamin D are cod liver oil, trout, and salmon. However, even certain mushrooms and fortified dairy and cereal can help you stay on track.
Are You Missing Something Important in Your Nutrition Plan?
Blame it on lacking education, prevalent misinformation, or just basic poor diet choices, but most Americans do have a lot of room to improve when it comes to nutritional intake. When you realize you have nutrients missing from your diet that could be a threat to your overall health, you definitely want to take note. What goes into the body directly affects how the body performs, overall vitality, and even longevity. If you suspect you are missing something important, be sure to talk to your doctor about being screened for specific deficiencies so you can make positive supplement choices for your health.