Many Americans are deficient in at least some essential nutrients, which can lead to serious health problems in some cases. If you’re feeling extra tired or are suddenly experiencing unpleasant symptoms, it might be time to evaluate your diet for nutrient deficiencies. Therefore, knowing some common nutrients you may be deficient in is helpful.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 percent of women ages 12 to 49 aren’t getting enough iron in their diets. One reason for this is women in this age category have increased iron needs due to menstruation and pregnancy. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for iron for adults is 8 milligrams daily for men, 18 milligrams for women ages 19 to 50, 27 milligrams during pregnancy, and 9 milligrams per day for breastfeeding women. Iron-rich foods include red meat, poultry, seafood, legumes, spinach, tofu, dark chocolate, and iron-fortified breakfast cereals. If you’re at risk for iron deficiency, be sure your multivitamin supplement contains iron.
Vitamin D deficiency among Americans is more common than you might think. According to one 2011 review, vitamin D deficiency — which may be linked to heart disease and cancer — is about 42 percent overall in the U.S. Low vitamin D can also cause soft, weak bones. The RDA for vitamin D is 15 micrograms for adults age 19 to 70, and 20 micrograms per day for adults over 70. You can get your daily dose of vitamin D from fish, vitamin D fortified orange juice, milk, yogurt, egg yolks, and vitamin D fortified breakfast cereals. Sunlight is also a good source.
The majority of Americans fail to meet daily potassium requirements. According to one 2012 study, less than 2 percent of the U.S. population meets potassium recommendations set by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans — of 4,700 milligrams daily. Good sources of dietary potassium include fruits, vegetables, milk, legumes, and nuts. Aim to eat about 5 servings of fruits and veggies daily to help meet your body’s potassium needs.
Potassium and fiber go hand in hand because many potassium-rich foods are high in fiber as well. Harvard School of Public Health notes that many Americans consume just 15 grams of fiber daily, which is about half of the fiber recommendations for adults. To reach your daily fiber goal, eat plenty of fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. And ask your doctor if a fiber supplement would be beneficial for you.
Many Americans aren’t meeting daily recommendations for omega-3 fatty acids, according to one 2014 study. This is troubling because omega-3s are essential for brain health and brain development during pregnancy and childhood, and appear to be beneficial for heart health as well. Omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies, and halibut), algae, krill, fish oil supplements, vegan omega-3 supplements, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, canola oil, walnuts, walnut oil, soybeans, soybean oil, pumpkin seeds, and pumpkinseed oil. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish two days per week to improve heart health.
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