Over the past century, the average American has increased normal, suggested portion sizes and processed & packaged foods have become dietary staples. Most pantries or cabinets are filled with canned or boxed foods, freezers contain highly processed meals, and sugary, fatty sauces and condiments line refrigerator shelves. There is no way that you can satisfy the recommended daily intake of essential nutrients if you are only eating those foods.
What Are Essential Nutrients?
The body cannot make sufficient amounts of certain nutrients on its own, which is why you have to obtain those nutrients via your diet. Essential nutrients are mostly found in various foods, but they are plentiful in plant-based options like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains, as opposed to packaged or processed foods that are fortified with nutrients. Below, you will find the common essential nutrients, which most people don’t consume enough of, and where you can find them.
Vitamin D aids with the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the digestive tract. This process needs to happen in order to maintain healthy teeth and bones. The body also requires vitamin D for optimal immune and muscle function. You can absorb vitamin D naturally by being in the sun for about 15-30 minutes a day. For those who live in areas where sunlight isn’t as prevalent, mushrooms (maitake, shiitake, and portobellos) are the best natural sources of vitamin D.
Make sure you get folate and not folic acid, which is the synthetic form of folate. You can obtain folate from most leafy greens, avocado, citrus fruits, asparagus, and certain nuts and legumes. Folate is an integral B-vitamin that encourages healthy cell development. Pregnant women are recommended to eat folate-rich foods to aid healthy fetal development and reduce the risk of birth defects.
Potassium works to maintain healthy blood pressure levels by ridding excess sodium from the body. It also helps the central nervous system send impulses all through the body. Consuming potassium has also been linked to a reduced risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, and diabetes. On the other hand, potassium deficiency has been linked to muscle cramps, fatigue, and constipation. Great potassium sources include melons, bananas, apricots, citrus fruits, strawberries, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, and avocados.
Supporting healthy vision and the efficient transmission of electrical signals from the eyes to the brain, vitamin A is an essential nutrient that people often neglect. Vitamin A encourages healthy immune function by supporting mucus membranes, which help to fight off infections. You can find vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A, in carrots, sweet potatoes, papayas, apricots, peaches, winter squash, and leafy greens.