People in Western cultures like to think that nutritional deficiencies only exist in developing countries or remote locations where food is scarce. The theory behind this is that there is an overabundance of food in Western countries. Quantity is vastly different than quality, and consuming a lot of food doesn’t mean that you’re exempt from becoming nutrient deficient.
Nutritional Deficiencies Explained
Humans didn’t always eat the processed foods, refined grains, sugars, artificial sweeteners, and hormones in factory farmed meat that they do nowadays. The transition from a Paleolithic diet to the current Standard American Diet is the easiest explanation for nutrient deficiencies. The Paleolithic diet was rich in plant-based foods, with occasional grass-fed wild game or wild caught fish. This diet offered an array of vitamins and minerals, whereas the modern day American diet consists of food with little to no nutritional value. People do not consume the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables, and the foods they do eat put them at risk of developing hardened arteries, kidney failure, stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart attack. But this can all be avoided with proper diet modifications.
As we previously detailed in many articles, a balanced diet plays a large role in controlling blood pressure. Various studies have determined that specific minerals, in addition to general macro and micronutrients, are beneficial for blood pressure management. A diet of processed, canned, and frozen foods will not supply the body with nutrients that are needed to balance blood pressure levels. Whether you have high blood pressure or you are simply looking to maintain blood pressure levels, focus on consuming the following four nutrients.
Magnesium has many jobs in the body, some of which include regulating blood pressure, muscle & nerve function, and blood sugar. The body requires magnesium to develop healthy bones, produce energy, and help blood vessels to relax. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has reported that most American adults do not meet the recommended daily intake of magnesium, which is 420 milligrams (mg) for men over 50 and 320 mg for women over 50. While magnesium supplements are available, nutritionists advise consuming magnesium from plant-based food sources for optimal absorption. The best magnesium sources include dark leafy green vegetables, unrefined whole grains, nuts and seeds, and legumes.
Beneficial for cardiovascular health, omega-3s are necessary polyunsaturated fats from plant and animal food sources. Most people consume an excess of omega-6 fatty acids, but nutritionists claim that people should focus on eating more omega-3 fats. A 1: 1 ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s is ideal, but today’s diet sees an excess of omega-6s in the body. The ratio can get up to 16:1, meaning there is only one gram of omega-3s consumed for every 16 grams of omega-6s. Studies have shown that improving this ratio to 4:1 can decrease the risk of cardiovascular-related death by 70 percent. Great sources of omega-3s include pine nuts, walnuts, chia seeds, tahini, Brazil nuts, flaxseeds, avocados, and olive oil.
Potassium is a necessary mineral for optimal muscle function, but it also works to relax blood vessel walls, resulting in lower blood pressure levels. Maintaining proper potassium levels helps to prevent irregular heartbeat by conducting electrical signals between the nervous system and heart. If you are taking a diuretic for high blood pressure, however, potassium can leave via urination, meaning that consuming potassium-rich foods may not maintain proper potassium levels. About one-third of patients with edema or high blood pressure don’t get enough potassium. Too much potassium can cause irregular heart rhythms, though; so adults are recommended to consume 4.7 grams per day.
Coenzyme Q10, also known as CoQ10 or ubiquinone, is a self-produced nutrient and molecule that acts like an antioxidant in human cells. Many factors deplete CoQ10 levels over time, long-term use of certain pharmaceutical drugs and cholesterol-lowering statin drugs being the primary culprits. CoQ10 supplementation is often recommended for people with fibromyalgia, myocardial infarction, depression, or Parkinson’s disease. This nutrient works to enhance blood flow and protect blood vessels, ultimately influencing blood pressure. If CoQ10 isn’t in great supply, a person with high blood pressure may be in trouble. Studies have found that CoQ10 supplementation for people with high blood pressure helped to lower readings by up to 11mm Hg systolic and 7mm Hg diastolic. While supplementation is an option, CoQ10 can be found in pistachios, sesame seeds, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, and peanuts.