Our body needs essential vitamins and minerals to stay healthy and function normally. Our survival depends on these nutrients. When we don’t get them every day, we may feel tired, heal slowly, find it hard to concentrate, and lose bone density. You might also lose hair, have muscle cramps, or notice a decline in your vision. Over time, a lack of essential nutrients may contribute to chronic diseases.
Most of us feel like we eat healthy enough to get all the vitamins and minerals we need, but do we? Are there nutrient gaps in your diet? Read on to assess.
Analyzing Your Diet for Nutrient Deficiencies
The vitamins and minerals we need daily for our bodies to survive and thrive include:
Vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, and the B vitamins: thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxal (B6), cobalamin (B12), biotin, and folate/folic acid.
Calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, zinc, iodine, sulfur, cobalt, copper, fluoride, manganese, and selenium.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 says we’ll ideally get all these from nutrient-dense foods. Yet, it also says the majority of Americans do not follow a healthy eating pattern. Oregon State University researchers studying micronutrient deficiencies explain what our diets are missing.
“Specifically, 94.3% of the US population do not meet the daily requirement for vitamin D, 88.5% for vitamin E, 52.2% for magnesium, 44.1% for calcium, 43.0% for vitamin A, and 38.9% for vitamin C,” their study reads. “For the nutrients in which a requirement has not been set, 100% of the population had intakes lower than the AI for potassium, 91.7% for choline, and 66.9% for vitamin K. The prevalence of inadequacies was low for all of the B vitamins and several minerals, including copper, iron, phosphorus, selenium, sodium, and zinc.”
Let’s pick one nutrient and see why we might not get enough of it from food. Potassium is an electrolyte essential for nerve function and muscle contraction. It can help manage blood pressure, offsetting the negative effects of sodium, and it helps your heartbeat stay regular.
The recommended daily value of potassium is 4,700 mg. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says adequate intakes (AI) for adults are 3,400 mg a day for men, and 2,600 mg a day for women. This is the minimum we need daily.
Often, when we think about getting potassium, we think bananas. According to the NIH chart, a medium banana has 422 mg of potassium. To get an “adequate” amount of potassium daily, a guy needs to eat eight and a woman needs six! To meet the daily recommendation, we’d need to eat 11 bananas!
We can get more potassium by eating a cup of lentils (731 mg) or a cup of acorn squash (644). If we eat two bananas, a cup of lentils, and a cup of acorn squash – add dried apricots for a snack (the highest potassium food at 1,101 mg per half cup) – we’re at 3,320 mg. That’s still less than the daily recommendation but meets minimum AI.
Now, let’s look at vitamin D, which is crucial for bone strength and calcium absorption. The study says 88.5% of us don’t get the minimum we need daily, which differs depending on where we live. People in the northern states, above 37-degree latitudes (states above Kansas on the map) generally need more vitamin D because we get less sunlight. A blood test can determine if your levels are low.
While recommended levels are debated among health professionals, it’s agreed we need at least 600-800 IU (international units) or 15-20 micrograms (mcg) daily. (2 mcg = 100 IU) If you love salmon and eat it daily, great news: 3 oz. of salmon has 383-570 IU of vitamin D. However, 3 oz. of canned tuna only has about 230 IUs. If you’re a vegetarian, mushrooms can have 114-1,110 IUs per cup.
But if you’re trying to get enough vitamin D from fortified foods like yogurt, milk, or almond milk, they only provide 100-120 IUs a cup. To meet daily minimums from fortified milk or milk alternatives, we need six to eight cups a day!
These examples underscore the importance of eating nutrient-dense foods that provide multiple nutrients. Acorn squash is not only high in potassium, it provides vitamins A, C, B1 and B6 as well as calcium, copper, folic acid, and fiber.
Fill Nutrient Gaps and Fuel Your Body
Yet, eating enough nutrient-dense foods every day can be a challenge. To really know where your diet stands, you need to analyze it for each essential vitamin and mineral listed above. Plus, you need to factor in things that can rob your body of nutrients or block nutrient absorption like alcohol, medications, diseases, lactose intolerance, and radiation therapy.
Furthermore, as we age, our bodies do not absorb and utilize nutrients as well so seniors often have higher nutrient requirements. Unfortunately, our appetites and sense of taste and smell decline as we age, so while we need more nutrients we tend to eat less healthy food.
You almost need to be a nutritionist or dietician to build a diet that provides ALL the micro-nutrients you need! Then, you must consistently source and prepare enough nutrient-dense foods to meet your body’s needs.
You can stress less and fill your nutrient gaps with a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement. Preferably, one with a sustained-release formula that releases nutrients slowly, mimicking the way your body processes food.
Endur-VM®, our sustained-release multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, complements a nutrient-dense diet and helps fill nutritional gaps. It has 22-23 vitamins and minerals (iron-free or with iron), including selenium, a powerful antioxidant not often found in multi-vitamins. A daily dose – one tablet – costs about 8 cents a day!
Supplements are not a substitute for food. But added to a healthy diet, they can ensure you get the nutrients you need to function at optimal levels, fight illness, and feel your best.
One Endur-VM tablet provides a continuous release of nutrients for 4-6 hours, helping fill nutrient gaps and easing your health conerns.
If you have signs of a serious nutrient deficiency, including fatigue, hair loss, burning sensations on the tongue or feet, slow-healing wounds, dark circles under the eyes, unexplained weight loss, diarrhea, or discolored, brittle nails, please talk to your health care provider.