In the United States especially, the average person's diet lacks certain essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients. The best source of nutrients is from the foods we eat. But some nutrients are difficult to obtain in sufficient quantities. And the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets the recommended daily allowance (RDA) at the bare minimum instead of at the ideal amount.
As with any food product, read all nutrition information carefully. Many supplements contain unhealthy additives like sucrose, dextrose, artificial colors and glycols. Here is a list of nutrients and how they are used by the body as well as good sources for this nutrient.
- Vitamin C- This is important for warding off and fighting infections. We can get it from fruits and vegetables, but often not enough. A good C supplement should provide you with 500-1000 mgs per day when you are healthy. When you are ill, you'll need 3,000-5,000 mgs per day! Any excess you take will not harm you. The Alacer company makes a product called 'Emergen-C.' It is a powder that dissolves in water and provides you with a good dose of C. It gets into the bloodstream more quickly than a tablet. Kids need plenty of C to cope with all the germs they encounter in school. As an antioxidant, Vitamin C helps the body release harmful chemicals.
- Vitamin B - This nutrient helps with healthy neurological and emotional functioning. It is a natural 'happy pill.' It also helps the body to heal. It can be difficult to obtain from foods. Choose a supplement labeled B-50 or B-100. These contain 50 to 100 mgs of each of the B vitamins (niacin, riboflavin, biotin) which is the beneficial amount. B-complex only contains the RDA and may not be as helpful. Vitamin B will make the urine neon yellow so don't panic! This is not unsafe.
- l. Acidophilus or l. bifidus - This is a healthy bacteria that the body needs to maintain digestive health. Anytime you take an antibiotic, it strips your body of all bacteria, and some bacteria is part of a healthy system. Acidophilus keeps the balance of bacteria in your system. It also helps heal yeast and fungal infections. It can be found in yogurt as well as in supplement form. The 'l' stands for lactose, as it is found in milk sugars. For those who are lactose intolerant, there are lactose-free varieties.
- Iron - This mineral is used by the body to keep the blood and circulatory system strong. It can often be found as 'ferrous sulfate' (iron + salt) or 'ferrous glutamate' (iron + sugar). Many who lack iron suffer from fatigue, weakness and frequent illness. Girls and women are generally in need of extra iron. It can leave an aftertaste and make stools darker, but it is not unpleasant.
- Fiber - I mention fiber because it is a popular supplement. It is important for digestive health and is cleansing to the system. But is not good to take as a supplement because it generally has additives and can cause dependency. Good natural fiber comes from beans, raisins, prunes, citrus fruit, bran cereals and oat bran, as well as green leafy vegetables.
- Calcium - This mineral is important for bone health. As great source is green leafy vegetables like spinach, field greens and bok choy. Women often need a supplement of calcium.
- Flax Seed Oil - This is an Omega-3 oil that is essential for heart, circulation and general system maintenance, especially in women. It is similar to fish oil, borage and evening primrose oil. Almonds, salmon and tuna are good sources, but a supplement is necessary.
- Essential Amino Acids- These include L-lysine, glucosamine and lycopene amongst others. I use Bragg's liquid amino which cooks and serves like soy sauce, but balances the body's acids. They can be taken as supplements. Glucosamine should be taken as a supplement, especially for those with muscular aches.
- Folic Acid- This is available as a supplement and is crucial for brain development. The time to supplement this nutrient is during the earliest time in pregnancy.
- Zinc - This mineral helps to ward off illness and infection and to fight infection. It can be obtained from lozenges in combination with Vitamin C.
These are the most common nutrients that the average person's diet lacks in sufficient quantities. Essential nutrition isn't just about what not to eat. It is important to monitor your dietary intake to ensure that you are getting what you need, and then supplement what is lacking. Eat whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, good proteins such as fish, almonds, peanut butter and beans, and avoid processed foods and artificial additives. Then supplement the nutrients that you lack.