How to Know if You Are Getting Essential Nutrients
Nutrient deficiencies impact our bodies at a basic cellular level, resulting in a range of troubling symptoms related to growth, development and function. A lack of key nutrients can also lead to debilitating conditions, such as osteoporosis, anemia and more. To ensure that you are getting enough essential nutrients, learn which vitamins and minerals you should prioritize.
Calcium - Recommended Dietary Allowance for Adults: 1,000 mg/day
This nutrient is critical for maintaining strong bones and regulating muscle and nerve function. Severe deficiencies can cause muscle cramps, fatigue, poor appetite and abnormal heart rhythms. To ensure that you are getting enough calcium, eat at least three servings of yogurt or milk. You can also supplement your calcium intake by eating dark, leafy green vegetables or by drinking calcium-fortified orange juice.
Vitamin D - Recommended Dietary Allowance for Adults: 600 IU/day
Also important for bone health, vitamin D also appears to influence our overall health in a number of other ways. In fact, recent studies have shown that it may help prevent certain forms of cancer. Some research indicates that people should be taking up to 2000 IU per day for optimal health benefits; however, because vitamin D is fat-soluble, too much can lead to toxicity. Before upping your intake, talk to your doctor about potential benefits and risks.
Potassium - Recommended Dietary Allowance for Adults: 4,700 mg/day
Potassium plays a critical role in maintaining electrolyte and fluid balance, heart function, transmission of nerve impulses, and contraction of both smooth and skeletal muscle. Diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating, antibiotics and certain health conditions can result in deficiencies. Sports drinks provide large doses of potassium; however, natural sources, such as milk, potatoes, bananas, beans and whole grains, are preferable.
Other Key Nutrients
Nutrients such as iron and vitamin B12 play key roles in red blood cell development and brain function. Deficiencies are relatively rare, since each is available in most American diets. Vegetarians may become deficient in both iron and B12 due to dietary restrictions. Iron and B12 deficiencies can also point toward underlying health conditions that may prevent adequate absorption.
Using Caution with Supplementation
While it's difficult to overdose on Vitamin B12 and other water-soluble nutrients, fat-soluble nutrients can cause significant health problems when taken in excess. Before starting a supplementation regimen, talk to your doctor for dosing recommendations based on your age, sex and health.