As an athlete – and just all-around awesome person – you understand the importance of nutrition in your routine. No amount of exercise will fill the gaps in a poorly designed diet. According to the newest draft of the much-anticipated 2015 Dietary Guidelines for All Americans and several other scientific inquiries into the topic, however, there are several nutrients most people simply aren’t getting enough of. How does your diet measure up? Here’s the list, in no particular order.
Vitamin A – Found mostly in dairy, fish and meat, vitamin A can also be synthesized from carotenoids which are abundant in dark leafy greens and orange fruit. Among the many roles that vitamin A plays in your body are cell growth, immune function, and eye health.
Vitamin D – In large part, the deficiency in this nutrient is likely because people are simply spending too much time inside these days. While some foods – like oily fish, dairy and eggs – are good sources of the vitamin, your best source is still the sun. Research into the benefits of vitamin D is ongoing and ever-expanding. So far, we know that the vitamin regulates the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, therefore giving it a powerful influence over bone health. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to depression, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and digestive problems.
Vitamin E – A powerful antioxidant, vitamin E primarily focuses it’s protective efforts on the free radicals that damage your skin – reducing sun damage, dryness and wrinkles. Some research has also shown that vitamin E can help to prevent the formation of LDL “bad” cholesterol. Plant oils, nuts and avocados are rich sources of this nutrient.
Folate – Also known as vitamin B9, folate aids in the metabolism of amino acids – which in turn impacts a huge amount of biological systems. Folate is also used in the formation of healthy DNA. And that’s important. Vitamin B9 is found in high concentrations in leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits and legumes like lentils and other beans.
Vitamin C – One of the most well-known vitamins, this antioxidant helps to support immune function and healthy skin. Most fruits, in addition to broccoli and white potatoes are good sources of vitamin C.
Calcium – The primary use of calcium is bone health, since this mineral is a large component of your skeletal system. Dairy products including milk, cheese and yogurt are favorite sources of calcium.
Magnesium – Mainly found in leafy greens, nuts and grains, magnesium is full of uses – ranging from extracting energy from your food and conducting nerve impulses to creating proteins and DNA. The mineral also contributes to the health of your bones and cells.
Potassium – Yet another mineral needed for bone health, potassium also works as an electrolyte – conducting nerve impulses and helping you heart beat in rhythm. Many fruits and vegetables contain potassium in varying amounts. Because your body needs pretty high quantities to function correctly, it helps to eat a wide array of foods.
Fiber – In truth, fiber is the portion of plants that our bodies cannot break down and fully use. But that doesn’t make it useless at all. Fiber has actually been shown to contribute to improved cardiovascular and digestive health, in addition to helping you maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Vitamin B12 – Okay, so this one isn’t true for everyone. But our vegan and vegetarian friends out there typically have a hard time getting adequate levels since this vitamin is primarily found in meat and dairy products. If need be, you can take supplements or pick foods that are fortified with the vitamin.