When it comes to nutrition and weight loss, we often speak in terms of “less”: less sugar, less calories, less sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat.
But what about the vital nutrients Americans need more of?
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or just eat a little healthier, remember that cutting things out of your diet isn’t enough: you also need to increase your consumption of vital nutrients-dense foods in the forms of fruits, vegetables, seafood, and healthy fats.
The following six vital nutrients Americans need to worry about most go a long way in promoting general health and preventing disease. As per FDA data, all six are consistently under consumed, to the detriment of overall health and wellbeing.
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in bone metabolism, immune health, and mental wellbeing. Low Vitamin D status is associated with an increased risk for bone loss, anxiety, and depression, as well as a higher susceptibility to seasonal viruses and bacterial infections.
Vitamin D deficiency is fairly common. Fatty fish are the most potent sources of Vitamin D among other vital nutrients. Vitamin D is relatively rare in other food sources, making low Vitamin D status especially likely for those who abstain from seafood consumption.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats found plentifully in fatty fish, walnuts, flax seed, chia seed, and canola oil. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the inflammation associated with various forms of cancer, as well as heart disease, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
While many consumers prefer to focus on non-seafood sources of Omega-3, this isn’t a good idea: Omega 3 fatty acids exist in three forms: EPA, DHA, and ALA. All are necessary for optimal health and disease prevention. EPA and DHA are found primarily in seafood products.
While the body can convert a small amount of ALA to EPA and DHA, the conversion rate is incredibly limited.
Fiber consumption isn’t just about bowel regularity: while fiber is important in gastric motility, it also plays an important role in blood sugar management and satiety. For these reasons, fiber is associated with healthier weight outcomes.
Additionally, high fiber diets typically indicated a higher consumption of fruits and vegetables, aiding micronutrient and antioxidant intake.
Calcium and Vitamin D work together in bone metabolism, providing the base for a healthy skeleton through the aging process. For this reason, this dynamic duo is needed at every age, from early childhood to senior years.
Calcium is plentiful in low and nonfat dairy products, including milk, cheese, and yogurt, as well as leafy greens (such as collard greens and kale), sardines, salmon, and shrimp.
Vitamin A plays an important role in virtually every cell of the human body, as it is crucial for gene transcription and cell growth. Low consumption of Vitamin A is associated with poor eye health and vision and increased susceptibility to viruses and infection.
Food sources high in Vitamin A include sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, cantaloupe, and peppers.
While Vitamin C is typically discussed in the context of seasonal immunity, the role of Vitamin C is more diverse. Vitamin C plays a role in enzymatic reactions, collagen synthesis, and functions as a powerful antioxidant.
Foods high in Vitamin C include kiwis, strawberries, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, oranges, and grapefruit.