If you eat a balanced, whole-food diet like the one described in my nutrition plan, you’re probably getting adequate amounts of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function. If not (and this applies to the majority of the U.S. population), there’s a good chance you may be lacking important nutrients.
Unfortunately, in many cases nutrient deficiencies can be difficult to assess, and you may not develop symptoms until the deficiency has become quite pronounced.
Eating real food is usually your best bet, but sometimes supplementation may be advisable, especially if you’re showing signs of deficiency.
#1: Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent in people of all ages, especially in those who choose to use topical sun screens (which blocks vitamin D production) or limit their outdoor activities.
Researchers estimate that 50 percent of the general population is at risk of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency, and this percentage rises in higher-risk populations such as the elderly and those with darker skin.
Signs indicating you may have a vitamin D deficiency include being over the age of 50, having darker skin, obesity, achy bones, feeling blue, head sweating, and poor immune function.
Your best bet is to get your vitamin D level testеd twice a year. Based on the evaluation of healthy populations that get plenty of natural sun exposure, the optimal range for general health appears to be somewhere between 50 and 70 ng/ml.
How to Optimize Your Vitamin D
To optimize your levels, you need to expose large portions of your skin, such as your back, chest, legs, and arms, to sensible sun exposure. And, contrary to popular belief, the best time to be in the sun for vitamin D production is actually as near to solar noon as possible.
Just be cautious about the length of your exposure. You only need enough exposure to have your skin turn the lightest shade darker.
Avoiding processеd foods is another important consideration.
#2: Omega-3 Fats
Low concentrations of the omega-3 fats are associated with an increased risk of death from all causes, and omega-3 deficiency has been revealed as the sixth biggest killer of Americans.
Most Americans eat too many inflammatory omega-6 fats (think processed vegetable oils) and too few anti-inflammatory omega-3s, which sets the stage for a number of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, depression, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes.
Telltale signs that your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio may be out of balance include dry, flaky skin, alligator skin, or “chicken skin” on backs of arms; dandruff or dry hair; soft brittle nails; fatigue; menstrual cramps, and poor attention span.
The ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats is about 1:1, but the typical Western diet is between 1:20 and 1:50, so in addition to upping your omega-3 intake, you also need to reduce the amount of omega-6 in your diet, which means cutting down on processed and fried foods.
If you decide to take omega-3s in supplement form, I believe krill oil is superior to fish oil.
Krill oil also contains almost 50 times more astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant, than fish oil, which prevents the highly perishable omega-3 fats.
Calcium is one of several nutrients required for strong, healthy bones. However, it’s important to not overdo it on calcium supplements. Calcium needs to be balancеd with vitamin D, K2, and magnesium, or else it can do more harm than good. Lack of balance between these nutrients is why calcium supplements have become associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
For example, if you have too much calcium and not enough magnesium, your muscles will tend to go into spasm, and this has consequences for your heart in particular. Excessive amounts of calcium without enough magnesium can lead to a heart attack. You also need vitamin K2 to optimize calcium’s benefit.
One of the best ways to achieve healthy bones is by consuming a diet rich in fresh, raw whole foods that maximize natural minerals so that your body has the raw materials it needs to do what it was designed to do. It’s more likely your body can use calcium correctly if it’s plant-derived calcium. Good sources include raw milk from pasture-raised cows (who eat the plants), leafy green vegetables, the pith of citrus fruits, carob, and wheatgrass, to name a few.