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Did you know that 90% of Americans are deficient in vitamins and minerals?
It’s not as simple as eating more fruits and vegetables. Even if you stick to a healthy diet, you’re unlikely to absorb all the nutrients you need from the food you eat.
Researchers have found that most people are deficient in:
- Vitamins A, C, & E
The question is, what can you do about vitamin and mineral deficiency? What dietary or lifestyle changes can you make to ensure you get the daily essential nutrients you need?
Read on as we answer these important questions.
1. Know Which Nutrients You Need
First of all, what is an essential nutrient? They’re the vitamins and minerals your body needs to thrive.
Essential vitamins for human health include Vitamins A, C, D, E, and K. The B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pyroxidine, pantothenic acid, biotin, folate, and cobalamin) are equally important to your health.
Minerals that are essential for your body include calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium.
How do you know if you’re deficient in certain vitamins or minerals? Symptoms may appear when you’re lacking a particular nutrient, but your best bet is to get tested by your doctor.
Once you know which deficiencies you have, you can tailor your diet accordingly.
2. Eat Locally Grown Produce
Whenever possible, it’s best to eat produce that was grown in your local area.
The longer those items sit on a shelf in the supermarket, the more nutrients they lose. Items like spinach can lose up to 90% of its Vitamin C within 24 hours of being picked.
The solution? Shop at farmer’s markets or anywhere in your community where you can buy freshly grown (and picked) produce. Ideally, you want to consume your fruits and veggies within 72 hours of harvest.
Another health benefit of eating locally is you get the nutrients your body needs for the current season. The foods that grow in your area each season likely contain the nutrients you need to keep you healthy in your local environment.
3. Focus on Proper Food Prep
What if you live somewhere with cold winters or limited options for local produce? The next best thing you can (whether you buy locally or not) is to prepare your food correctly.
The way you prep your produce can make those vitamins and minerals more available for your body to absorb. Most fruits and vegetables should be cut up before you eat it, as this helps to break down the rigid walls of the plant cells.
Onions and garlic, on the other hand, will benefit you most if you chop or crush them. Doing so creates a nutrient called allicin that can help to prevent disease.
What about beans and grains? Your best bet is to soak them before you cook them. This reduces the phytic acid that inhibits the absorption of their nutrients.
4. Store Your Food Correctly
You should store your produce somewhere easily accessible—that way, you’ll remember to eat it!
To slow down nutrient loss from the environment, store all your vegetables (except the root veggies) in the fridge. Fruits (except berries) are best stored at room temperature and away from direct sunlight.
If you cut up fruits or veggies, store them in an airtight container until you’re ready to eat them. And the best way to maintain the nutrients in your herbs is to freeze them in an ice cube tray with a bit of water.
5. Cooked vs. Raw Foods
To get your daily essential nutrients, you should become familiar with which foods are more nutritious when they’re raw (or when they’re cooked).
As an example, you’re likely to get more nutrients out of cooked tomatoes and carrots. Cooked tomatoes are higher in cancer-fighting lycopene, while cooked carrots make beta-carotene more available for your body to absorb.
Other foods with water-soluble vitamins are more nutritious when eaten raw. These include spinach, kale, peppers, and avocado.
Also, don’t overlook the nutritional value of animal sources. Heme iron in animal protein is much easier for your body to absorb than plant-based non-heme iron. Calcium and Vitamin A are also best consumed from an animal source.
6. Supplement Where Necessary
No matter how carefully you monitor your diet, you can’t control how much of a certain nutrient your body will absorb. You may also be limited in your ability to buy freshly grown, locally sourced products.
The next best thing you can do is make up for those deficiencies with vitamin and mineral supplements. You can buy pills, powders, medical patches from PatchMD, and a host of other supplements to add to your diet.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are also a good alternative when the fresh version isn’t available. Because it’s blanched and frozen as soon as it’s harvested, frozen produce retains a lot of its nutritional merit.
7. A Little Is Better Than None
If you’re struggling to find a balanced diet, just focus on doing the best that you can.
Eating a bag of frozen Brussel sprouts is better than eating no Brussel sprouts at all. Eating a prepared salad is a healthier option than a slice of pizza. And taking a multivitamin is better than living on a diet of junk food.
Keep it simple, and you’ll preserve not only your health but also your sanity!
Ready to Get Your Daily Essential Nutrients?
Of course, a healthy diet and regular exercise are vital for maintaining your well-being. But when it comes to your daily essential nutrients, you may need to make a few changes to optimize your intake.
Eat locally grown produce when you can. Make sure you store, prep, and cook your food properly for maximum nutritional value. Supplement with pills, powders, or patches to be 100% sure you’re getting the nutrients you need.
If you do all those things, you should have a well-nourished body for years to come!
Did you enjoy this article? Be sure to browse our other health and fitness posts for more great information.