Essential Nutrients You Are Probably Missing

By: John Jarmul 08/19/2013

  • 1 cup of milk contains 330mg of calcium 
  • Each banana contains about 422mg of potassium 
  • Farmers can mix flaxseed into chicken feed to boost the Omega 3 in eggs 
  • Lentils are a rich source of calium and other nutrients 
  • 10-15 minutes of sunscreen free sunshine per day for vitamin D 
  • Clams are one of the most rich sources of vitamin B12 
  • 120 cans of sardines are needed to get 100mg of Ubiquinol 
Would it surprise you to know that most American adults do not get enough micronutrient-dense food on a daily basis? With our easy availability to an abundance of food, you would think that obtaining the appropriate daily nutrients would be the least of our problems. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), many Americans do not get the nutrients they need to reduce their risk of chronic diseases, like heart disease or diabetes, yet research and studies indicate that as a nation, we consume way too many calories. Instead many Americans of all ages consume a high-caloric diet of refined sugar, fat and salt which are all items we can learn to live without for a healthier and higher quality of life.

Why it’s so difficult to get these nutrients?

For many older adults, pregnant women, or those who have diet restrictions, getting the proper nutrients can be difficult. For instance, pregnant women need extra folate and iron found in lean meats or seafood for their unborn children. Vegetarians are commonly at risk for low blood iron levels (enemia) because meats have higher densities of iron compared to non-animal food sources. Older Americans are at a higher risk for not getting enough vitamin B12 simply because their bodies cannot absorb the mineral efficiently. Another naturally-recurring antioxidant in our bodies, ubiquinol, which provides energy to and protects the heart, becomes difficult for older adults to convert from Coenzyme Q10. This rapid deterioration of the conversion process requires older populations to seek increase their intake of ubiquinol from other sources.

In 2010, the dietary guidelines developed by both the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services noted several common nutrients that are missing from the common American diet. Take a look through the list, compiled with the help of the National Institutes of Health, and see if any of them might be missing from your diet and foods you can eat to help add these essential nutrients to your diet.

Calcium

broccoli for calciumMost of us are very well aware that calcium is important for strong teeth and bones. The latest research also shows an increased association between low levels of calcium and a low risk of developing most cancers including breast cancer. Studies also show that calcium may help protect the heart. However, the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines indicate that many American adults fall well below the essential amount of calcium needed daily.

How much calcium

Between the ages of 19 and 50, women need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day, after the age of 50 1200 milligrams is sufficient. Men need 1000 milligrams of calcium a day and 1200 milligrams after the age of 70.

Where you can find it

Calcium is found in milk, yogurt, tofu, calcium-fortified orange juice, low-fat cheeses and fortified cereal. Milk, yogurt and low-fat cheeses are also a great source of protein, too. A little over 3 cups of milk a day will provide you with the 1,000 milligrams of calcium recommended each day. For those who are lactose-intolerant or dislike dairy, calcium is also available in broccoli, dark leafy greens, and sardines.

Potassium

OJ for potassiumIf potassium were the super-hero of all nutrients, then salt or sodium would be its arch nemesis. While most of us know that too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, what is unknown to many is that potassium can also avert the effects of sodium on blood pressure. Other benefits to an increased intake of potassium include a reduced risk of bone loss and kidney stones.  

How much is enough?

Sorry to say, but most of us fall significantly short in getting the required intake of potassium on a daily basis. A massive 97% of Americans don’t even come close to the 4700 milligrams needed daily.

Where you can find it?

Potassium can be found in bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, cantaloupe, raisins, nuts, spinach and other dark greens, fish, orange juice, carrots, beans and peas. The good news is that dietary sources of potassium are abundant and can be found in all food groups including vegetables, fruit, and milk products. Bananas, one of the most potassium rich food, contain about 422 milligrams of potassium per banana, so incorporating lots of potassium rich fruits and vegetables into your diet is a good idea.

Fiber

peanuts for fiberDietary fiber, found naturally in foods, is the best way to increase the nutrient density of carbohydrates and lignin you consume every day. Unfortunately, most American adults don’t consume nearly enough. Overall, the general intake of fiber for adults is 15 grams, woefully short of the required adequate intake set by the USDA. Most people focus on buns, bread and pizza made from refined flour. But some of the best sources are legumes, vegetables and fruit. Consuming foods high in fiber promotes healthy lipids profiles and gastrointestinal function.

How much is enough?

A good rule of thumb is 14 grams per 1,000 calories. For women, an adequate intake would be 25 grams and 38 grams for men.

Where you can find it

Whole grains are a good place to start for fiber consumption. Other sources include cooked dry beans and peas, nuts and lentils.

Vitamin D

tuna for vitamin dVitamin D deficiency has been known to cause rickets in children, and an increased risk of bone fractures in adults. Sometimes referred to as the “sunshine” vitamin, since it can be produced by the skin when skin is exposed to sunlight, most vitamin D intake in the US is from fortified foods such as milk, cereal and yogurt.

How much vitamin D

According to the Institute of Medicine, it is recommended that most adults get 600 international units of vitamin D a day, and after age 70 the adequate intake climbs to 800 international units.

Where you can find it

For natural sources, 10 to 15 minutes of sunshine a day is adequate. Salmon, tuna and rockfish are also good natural sources and also provide the added benefit of omega-3 fatty acids which protect the heart and slow age-related memory problems.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

walnuts for omega-3s

Omega-3s are a group of essential fatty acids that are important for cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that Omega-3 fatty acids are linked to a reduced risk of death, heart attack, arrhythmia and stroke and can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Omega-3s are not produced by the body, so getting Omega-3s through diet or supplements is important.

How many Omega 3s?

The American Heart Association does not have a daily allowance recommendation, but they do recommend that healthy adults with no history of heart disease eat a variety of fatty fish 2 - 3 times a week.

Where you can find it

Fatty fish such as salmon, trout, herring and tuna are great sources of Omega-3s in your diet. Flax-seed oils, canola oils and nuts, including walnuts, also contain Omega-3 fatty acids.

Vitamin B12

swiss cheese for vitamin b12Vitamin B12 is necessary for cell metabolism, specifically for cells in the gastrointestinal tract, nervous tissue and bone marrow. Older adults, 50 years of age and older, have difficulty absorbing B12 that naturally produced in foods because of the lack of hydrochloric acid in their stomachs that allow for this absorption. While older adults are encouraged to include foods naturally fortified with the vitamin, dietary supplements or fortified B12 food products are also available.

How much vitamin B12?

The recommended average daily amount of vitamin B12 for adult is 2.4 mcg. Inadequate intake can cause weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, depression and weight loss.

Where you can find it

Most natural sources of vitamin B12 are found in lean meat, poultry and seafood; however, the best sources are beef liver and clams. Some breakfast cereals and other food products are fortified with vitamin B12.

Ubiquinol

spinach for ubiquinolUbiquinol is the active form of Coenzyme Q10 which is naturally produced by the human body. It also promotes healthy cell growth and behaves as an antioxidant to provide added protection against free radicals.

How Much Ubiquinol?

While it is always encouraged to get the vitamins and nutrients you need through a healthy, whole food diet, to obtain an adequate intake of this necessary and potent antioxidant, you would need to consume extraordinary and often unhealthy amounts of ubiquinol rich foods. You would need to consume 120 cans of sardines or 50 cups of spinach to get the daily recommended 100 mg of ubiquinol. This is why doctors and nutritionists recommend taking Ubiquinol in supplement form.

Where you can find it

Ubiquinol is available in the vitamins and supplements section at most grocery stores and pharmacies. It is typically available in a soft gel or liquid capsule form. It is often marketed as a type of CoQ10, which more people are familiar with. Be sure to check the label to make sure you are buying a product made with Ubiquinol, which is more absorbable than CoQ10. See our buyer’s guide for more information. Consult with your health care provider before beginning starting a new supplement to be sure ubiquinol is right for you. Bring the free download “Questions for your Doctor about Ubiquinol” with you to the pharmacy or doctor’s office.

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