With all of the nutrition information available to you each day, it can be difficult to remember the basic goal of keeping up with our essential nutrients. It doesn’t take a major lifestyle change or an expensive diet to improve your health through diet when you know what your body requires each day. Here I break it down into five nutrients I encourage you to emphasize in your diet: Vitamin D, Calcium, Omega-3 fatty acids, Choline and Potassium.
Okay, so maybe with summer here you are not so concerned about this “sunshine” vitamin. Yes, it is true that our body produces vitamin D when we go outdoors and that we can get it from a variety of foods, but the truth is that many of us are deficient in this important nutrient. Following exposure to the sun or after consuming vitamin D rich foods, our bodies go through a process of synthesizing vitamin D into a form that we can benefit from. Issues with this essential and intricate process may impact our ability to properly absorb and make use of the vitamin D we are taking in.
Daily Dose: Adults ages 19-70 need 600IU; 800IU for adults over age 70.
Partner with Vitamin D: your calcium needs vitamin D in order to be adequately absorbed. You are probably aware that calcium is an important mineral for bone and teeth but, you may not realize adequate levels of calcium are also needed for blood, muscle and intercellular fluids. When we are unable to maintain the appropriate concentration of calcium in our blood, bone or other fluids we turn to our bones, our greatest storage for calcium, which contributes to bone loss. There are many food sources of calcium including dairy rich foods, tofu, sardines and calcium fortified juices and cereals.
Daily Dose: Men age 19-70 need 1000mg; 1200mg for men over the age of 71.Women age 19-50 need 1000mg;1200mg for women over age 5o.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
They are called essential for a reason. Our body can’t produce these fatty acids and therefore we must get them from our food. Since the foods that are high in essential fatty acids tend to be foods that most people don’t get enough of (such as fish), most of us need more of this important nutrient. DHA and EPA, two forms of omega-3 fatty acids that play a role in brain and nerve function as well as eye health and disease prevention, are found in fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and halibut. ALA, which can be converted to DHA and EPA once digested, is found in ground flaxseed/flaxseed oil, pumpkin seeds, canola oil and walnut/walnut oil.
Daily Dose: The American Heart Association recommends that we consume fish twice per week to maintain adequate levels of EPA/DHA. If you are considering a supplement, please check with your physician first to ensure correct dosing and avoid any potential negative reactions.
Maybe the first three essential nutrients I have already mentioned don’t surprise you, but what about choline? While our bodies can produce small amounts of choline, we must get it from our food in order to maintain an adequate amount in our system. Choline plays a critical role in nerve health and may also help prevent chronic disease. Food sources of choline include eggs, Atlantic cod, beef and cooked broccoli or Brussels sprouts.
Daily Dose: Men age 19+ need 550mg; 425 mg for women 19+
This mighty nutrient is one of our important electrolytes that helps maintain muscle and nerve function, aids in regulating blood pressure and reduces chronic high blood pressure (hypertension). Many of us under-consume potassium in combination with over-consuming sodium, which puts us at risk for elevated blood pressure and actually increases our need for potassium to reduce our risk of developing heart disease. Potassium is found in potatoes, oranges, avocados, bananas, fish, meat and dairy. A baked potato, for example has approximately 610mg, while a banana has 422mg and a cup of yogurt has 579. As you can see, even when you are aiming for potassium-rich foods, you may still struggle to meet the daily recommended intake.
Daily Dose: Adults 19+need 4700mg