Essential Nutrients to Get Through the Day
By Genevieve Smith
As part of an ongoing series on essential nutrients, I’m hitting some of the vitamins and minerals the body needs to get through all of its daily functions. These aren’t the trendiest or the hippest of nutrition topics (antioxidants are wonderful, but often steal the show); these are the building blocks of life.
A Balance of Essentials
In the American diet, it's rare to encounter severe deficiencies, but it is easy enough to slip into low stores through restrictive diets, food sensitivities, and a propensity for empty calories. Nutrient dense is the way to get there, but how do you navigate? Let’s look at the things your body needs and adaptations for most diets!
Choline - Vegans can be at risk for deficiency, as choline is abundant in meats and milk, but fear not. Before turning to supplements, choline is available in cruciferous vegetables, peanuts, and wheat germ to name a few. The essential nutrient is needed for a healthy nervous system and to avoid developing a fatty liver. If you’re vegan, be extra smart about tuning in to your body’s choline needs, as the average American typically doesn’t hit their daily requirement of choline to begin with.
Selenium - Unless you’re a nutrition nerd, you’ve probably not given a second thought to selenium. A trace mineral that functions as an antioxidant in conjunction with Vitamin E, it’s needed for smooth sailing in the thyroid department, and can protect your cells from damage. Present in the soil foods are grown in, the American diet is unlikely to cause a deficiency, as our soil is rich in the mineral. It’s present in nuts, rice, whole wheat products, fish, poultry and eggs. That said, you can actually overdose on selenium, and this can be a huge danger. Eating too much selenium is also tied to higher risks of certain types of cancer. One ounce of Brazil nuts can send the body over the edge, and eating liver regularly can also have harmful effects. As usual, moral of the story is: Everything in moderation!
Tryptophan - You may have overheard that this amino acid is to blame for your sleepiness post-turkey on Thanksgiving Day. This is a myth and it is not, but it made you vaguely aware of this essential nutrient, didn’t it? Tryptophan from food is responsible for building proteins, producing glucose, and helping kids grow. While it’s plentiful in beef, poultry and fish, those on a high-protein diet can actually run the risk of low stores because tryptophan has to compete with other amino acids to make it in, and since it’s usually present in lower amounts in comparison to other aminos, it gets beat out. Aim for a balanced diet rich in carbohydrates, proteins and natural fats for a nutrition win every time. Get your tryptophan from dark leafy greens, sunflower seeds, and bananas.
A balanced diet is rarely at risk for low stores of the vital nutrients your body needs to propel you forth. Be sure to eat the rainbow, in the form of whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible. Thanks to mineral-rich soils and easy access to year-round produce, nutrients await you. That said, a special diet such as veganism or a high-protein route can shift the balance, but there are always ways to navigate around it. Stay aware! Always do the research, and try not to go on a special diet without a doctor’s consultation.
To learn more about your health and wellness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Apex, N.C.