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National Nutrition: What You Should Eat to Fight The 9 Most Common Nutrient Deficiencies



Written by Andy Kester: Nutritional Biochemist and Cofounder of Ubiotic Health

Spring is officially here, and just in time to do a recap of National Nutrition Month, which was last month. We’d like to take this opportunity to talk about something that many of us take for granted—access to an incredibly wide variety of foods, which for most of us is just a short drive to the grocery store away. Never before have we had so many food options, and with year-round availability at that. But as the saying goes, options can be both a blessing and a curse.

Famous nutritionist and natural health advocate Ann Wigmore once said that “The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” This statement echoes Hippocrates’ famous proclamation to “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” We all like the idea of a healthy diet being able to stave off chronic disease. But what exactly did Ann Wigmore mean when she made this statement? How can food be “poison”? There are few ways you could interpret this.  

For one, the foods we eat might be contaminated with high concentrations of pesticide and herbicide residues or other toxins, which are “poison” in the literal sense of the word. These toxins can bioaccumulate in the food chain and in our own bodies and contribute to illness. Alternatively, the foods we eat might contain high amounts of sugar, refined starch, or trans-fat, which over time can also lead to generally poor health and chronic disease. But we’d like to propose a third interpretation of this statement. It might not be what you are eating, but what you’re not eating, that acts as “poison.” We’re not talking about starvation, but rather something that’s much more common: micronutrient deficiency.

“Micronutrient” is an umbrella terms that refers to the vitamins and minerals that are essential for humans, meaning that we must eat them in our diet because our bodies can’t make them. For example, vitamin C is an essential micronutrient for humans, but most other animals can actually make their own vitamin C, so for them, it’s not essential. “Great, so why should I be worried about micronutrient deficiency…isn’t that a third world problem?” Actually, no. Consider this:

Percentage of Americans With Nutrient Deficiencies:

 Common Nutrient Deficiencies in America

Despite having access to a wide variety of foods, most of us still don’t get enough of several essential vitamins and minerals. “If I generally feel ok and don’t have a chronic disease, does this really matter? Absolutely. Even mild micronutrient deficiencies can, over time, have serious health consequences. Consider vitamin D for example. A severe deficiency in vitamin D will cause rickets disease in children and osteomalacia (soft, brittle bones) in adults. But a mild deficiency in vitamin D can impair insulin sensitivity, contribute to depressive symptoms, and impair immune function. As a result, a person may experience more blood sugar swings, feel the winter blues more acutely, or get sick more often.

You wouldn’t intentionally poison yourself, yet mild micronutrient deficiencies can be a “slow form of poison” that many Americans are not aware of. So what can you do? In the spirit that food is medicine, here is a list of foods that contain naturally high amounts of the nutrients that Americans are most commonly deficient in. We recommend you clean out your pantry and fridge to get rid of refined starches, high glycemic load foods, highly processed grain-based products, those made with trans-fat and artificial ingredients, and start enjoying the foods that are truly “the safest and most powerful form of medicine.”

 

Micronutrient

Good Food Sources

Vitamin A

sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, carrots, cantaloupe, fish, liver

Vitamin C

citrus fruit, strawberries, pineapple, kiwi, broccoli, Brussels sprouts

Vitamin D

tuna, salmon, sardines, egg yolks, cheese, cod liver oil, sun exposure

Vitamin E

sunflower seeds, almonds, avocados, spinach, chard, safflower oil

Magnesium

dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, beans, figs, dark chocolate, avocado

Calcium

yogurt, milk, black-eyed peas, leafy greens, sesame seeds, sardines

Zinc

beef, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, lentils, chickpeas, turkey, yogurt

Folate

beans and lentils, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, seeds

Vitamin B6

Meat, poultry, fish, pistachios, seeds, sweet & white potatoes, avocado

 

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