Feeling tired lately? Noticing that your body isn’t able to function as well as it once was? Whether it is a lack of energy or an increase in muscle aches, your body is indirectly telling you something. Symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, headaches, mood swings, and changes in your skin, nails, and hair can all be associated with a lack of specific nutrients that are vital in your body’s ability to perform optimally. Your body slowly adapts to these changes and responds accordingly, especially during high stress situations. Since there is a direct correlation between your diet and how your body functions, one way to combat these symptoms is to make more nutritious food choices. Understanding the role of these vital nutrients is a perfect place to start.
Nutrients can be broken up into two different categories, nonessential nutrients and essential nutrients. Nonessential nutrients are either made in the body or can come from sources other than food, such as sunlight. Essential nutrients cannot be made by the body and need to be obtained from food. Foods such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water are all considered essential nutrients that we should be supplementing in our diet everyday. Essential nutrients are crucial in promoting proper nerve conduction, metabolism, digestion, and enzyme function. Today’s typical American diet lacks the majority of these nutrients, and as a result, has led to nutritional deficiencies in more than half of our nation’s population. Understanding the importance of essential nutrients and where to obtain them naturally can reduce the statistics of deficiency and provide the body with proper factors needed for growth, development, and optimal function.
Below are the top 5 most common deficiencies that everyone should be aware of...
FUNCTION: an important mineral responsible for energy production. Not only essential for brain, heart, and muscle function, but also involved in hundreds of enzyme reactions. The most common cause of magnesium deficiency is the prolonged use of prescription medications that decrease absorption in the digestive system and depletes viable nutrients our bodies need in order to heal.
SYMPTOMS: muscle cramps, increased menstrual cramps, arrhythmias, constipation, seizures, delirium, migraines, abnormal muscle contractions, and osteoporosis.
NATURAL SOURCES: raw spinach, dark chocolate, almonds, oats, seeds, black beans, and edamame.
FUNCTION: an essential mineral needed for the production of red blood cells and hemoglobin. Both are responsible for delivering oxygen throughout the body. A lack of this mineral can result in anemia.
SYMPTOMS: fatigue, headaches, pale complexion, weakness, cold extremities, restless leg, hair loss, brittle nails, hypothyroidism, and PICA which is an eating disorder that involves craving peculiar items that have no nutritious value such as dirt, hair, and ice.
NATURAL SOURCES: kidney beans, pumpkin and sesame seeds, ground beef, liver, shellfish like oysters and clams, but most importantly dark green leafy veggies such as kale, broccoli, and spinach.
FUNCTION: responsible for building and maintaining bone and teeth health as well as muscle and nerve conduction.
SYMPTOMS: muscle cramping, soft and weakened bones, osteoporosis.
NATURAL SOURCES: cheese, sardines, dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, bok choy, and broccoli.
FUNCTION: helps improve calcium absorption for growth, strength, and overall health of bones.
SYMPTOMS: softening of bones, brittle bones, bone pain, muscle pain and weakness.
NATURAL SOURCES: sunlight (synthesized in the skin), yogurt, cod liver, egg yolk, and fatty fish such as salmon or trout.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
FUNCTION: water-soluble vitamin essential for the production of DNA, brain and nerve conduction, and blood formation. Vegans and vegetarians are on the higher end of the spectrum for being deficient by 80-90% since this vitamin is predominantly found in animal products.
SYMPTOMS: fatigue, mood swings, problems with memory, muscle weakness, tingling in arms and legs, and inflamed tongue.
NATURAL SOURCES: chicken, shellfish such as oysters, liver, beef steak, eggs, and whole milk.
What you eat directly affects how your body responds to internal and external factors. Get involved in your health by being proactive, and exploring new ways to provide your body with nutrition through healthy food choices before “normal symptoms” progress into life-threatening conditions. If healthy eating is not possible due to an insane schedule, supplementing can come in second place. Food is medicine, so choose wisely