Here in the United States, our modern food supplies are often highly processed to the point that much of the nutrition is lost. These nutritional deficiencies are further compounded by modern farming methods and the use of chemical fertilizers, which leave most conventionally grown produce and meat lacking in nutritional density.
This, along with the effects of GMO crops, modern storage and shipping practices, and general poor eating habits all lead to one thing: over 90% of Americans are nutritionally deficient. (1)
Fortunately, there are options to help you get the daily nutrition you need, such as increasing your intake of the right organic fruits and vegetables or adding quality supplements to your regimen.
And, just to help you better understand just which nutrients you may be lacking, here is a list of the top 5 nutrient deficiencies in Americans, how these deficiencies can impact your health, and how to improve the nutritional density of your diet.
Top 5 Nutrient Deficiencies in Americans
1. Vitamin D—First identified in 1921, vitamin D is actually a hormone produced by the body, despite it also being considered an oil-soluble vitamin. Since it requires skin contact with the sun’s ultraviolet rays for the kidneys to produce it, those in areas of little sunlight, who reduce their sun exposure with clothing and sunscreen, or who spend inordinate amounts of time indoors, likely aren’t producing enough of it.
Unfortunately, a vitamin D deficiency can lead to:
- Low bone density
- Weak muscles.
- Skeletal pain
- Muscle pain
- Weakened immune system
- Hair loss
Even worse, low levels of vitamin D can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, including hypertension, heart failure, and ischemic heart disease. This makes getting enough of this prohormone crucial to your existence. (2, 3, 4)
However, even though as little as 6 minutes of noontime summertime sun per day for those with fair complexions can keep vitamin D levels adequate (more time for darker-skinned people or for winter or fall sunlight), it can also be absorbed from food or supplements. (5)
Vitamin D foods include:
- Fish, such as wild salmon, trout, whitefish or snapper
- Raw fish row (caviar)
- Cod liver oil
- Portabella mushrooms which have been exposed to ultraviolet light
- Beef liver
- Eggs (6)
2. Vitamin B12—Among the many important functions of vitamin B12 (AKA cobalamin) is the manufacturing and maintenance of red blood cells, nerves and DNA. However, if you follow a vegan diet, have had weight loss surgery, have celiac or Crohn’s disease, or consume excessive amounts of caffeine or alcohol, there is a strong chance you are deficient in this highly important B-complex vitamin.
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- Low energy
- Tingling or numbness of the extremities
- Poor motor control
And, if left unchecked, low levels can lead to severe nerve damage and blood disease, which means adding foods containing B12 to your diet or using a supplement is critical if you are at risk of deficiency. (7)
Cobalamin is not produced by any plant source, which is why vegans and vegetarians often don’t get enough of it. However, foods which do contain vitamin B12 include:
- Liver and kidneys
- Seafood, including fish and shellfish
- Poultry and grass-fed beef
Since all B vitamins (B-complex) are water soluble and need daily replacement, it is recommended that you consider a supplement which delivers the entire spectrum of B-Complex vitamins to ensure optimum uptake and health.
3. Magnesium—Nutrient deficiency can be more than just vitamins, and also includes minerals and other nutritional elements. One of the most commonly deficient minerals in Americans is magnesium, which has many important functions for your health and well-being.
For instance, magnesium acts as nature’s muscle relaxer, which means low levels of it can lead to muscle tension, muscle spasms, hypertension and trouble sleeping. Its deficiency can also affect the gastrointestinal tract and cause nausea and vomiting along with fatigue and weakness in a deficiency’s early stages.
However, a worsening deficiency can cause tingling and numbness, changes in personality, seizures, irregular heartbeat and coronary spasms, along with calcium and potassium deficiencies.
Low levels of this important mineral are usually due to a diet lacking in magnesium-rich foods, chronic alcoholism, heavy caffeine consumption, heavy perspiration or use of diuretics. Stress can also have a negative effect on magnesium levels, although it should be noted that magnesium can also be used to help ease stress, since it relaxes muscles and helps to improve sleep. (8)
So far as which foods are high in magnesium, try:
- Nuts, such as almonds
- Spinach, kale and other green leafy vegetables
- Beans, such as black beans, kidney beans or pinto beans
- Coconut water
- Fresh fish, such as salmon
- Grass fed meats (9)
If you choose to add a magnesium supplement to your regimen, it is recommended that you opt for magnesium citrate, which is its most absorbable form.
4. Omega 3 Fatty Acids—While the Standard American Diet (SAD) is often high in fats, they are mostly the wrong kind of fats. These include trans, hydrogenated and other saturated fats which are responsible for poor cardiovascular health and weight gain.
And, even though omega 6 and 9 are both essential polyunsaturated fatty acids, our SAD contains too many of them, and lack the 3-6-9 balance which is essential to a healthy diet. This is because the SAD is high in conventionally raised (grain-fed) beef along with oils extracted from grains and seeds such as safflower, corn and soy.
This imbalance of fatty acids leads to the increased risk of:
- Inflammation in the body
- Cardiovascular disease
- Cognitive difficulties
- Diabetes (10)
It should also be noted that the human brain is composed of nearly 60% fat, where essential fatty acids (EFAs) act as messengers in the brain. EFAs are also involved in the synthesis and function of neurotransmitters, which is why getting enough EFAs in general and omega 3 in particular in your diet is essential for brain health and wellness.
Lacking EFAs in your diet? Try adding these foods: (11)
- Cold water fish, such as salmon or cod
- Nuts, such as walnuts or almonds
- Olive oil
- Flax seeds
- Grass-fed meats
Since omega 3 fatty acids are available through either vegetarian or animal sources, vegans can choose to supplement with flax, olive or other plant oils, while meat eaters or lacto-ova vegetarians can use fish oil, such as salmon or cod liver oil.
5. Calcium—While calcium is most commonly associated with bone health, this essential mineral also plays important roles in the transmission of nerve impulses, blood clotting, cell metabolism and muscle contraction.
However, even though many of us get enough calcium in our diets, there are factors which affect the body’s ability to absorb calcium which prevent adequate uptake.
For instance, calcium needs a pH of about 6 for absorption, which is why most of it is absorbed in the upper intestine where the pH level is low due to the presence of stomach acid. Vitamin D is also necessary for the absorption of calcium, as is parathyroid hormone.
Unfortunately, this means that for those not getting enough vitamin D or who are experiencing thyroid problems such as hypothyroidism are not absorbing adequate amounts. The form of calcium also effects absorption, with calcium citrate being the most bioavailable form due to its solubility. (12)
Unfortunately, not enough calcium absorption can not only cause brittle bones, it can lead to:
- Tingling around the mouth
- Numbness, or a “pins and needles” feeling in the hands
- Muscle cramping and stiffness
Even worse, extreme calcium deficiency can cause:
- Difficulty breathing
- Tetany, or muscle lock
- Increased risk of heart attack (13)
So far as foods rich in calcium, try adding:
- Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, broccoli or collard greens
- Canned sardines which include bones—also a great source of omega 3 fatty acids
- Dried figs
- White beans (14)
Even though many of us experience nutrient deficiency in our modern diets, there are measures which can improve the situation. By adding the right nutritionally dense natural whole foods to your diet, you can better ensure optimum health that is free of the problems of most nutritional deficiencies. And, even if you don’t have time or access to the right foods to keep your nutritional balances in check, there are safe and all-natural supplements that can help.
So, whether you follow a vegan diet, have high levels of stress, or are not able to eat right for any reason, you need to change the situation. Not doing so is a sure invitation to a lifetime of poor health!
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- https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin- d/how-do-i-get-the-vitamin-d-my-body-needs/#.W_X2RjbPyM8