Could You Be Lacking These 5 Essential Nutrients?

Many women aren't getting enough of five essential nutrients that could make a big difference to their health. While all are readily available through a healthy diet, many of us don't eat as well as we could.  Read on for why we're skimping and what to do about it.

1. Vitamin E is an essential nutrient that helps ward off disease. It's an antioxidant that protects cells from damage by free radicals that might contribute to cardiovascular disease and cancer. Women should get 15 mg daily but most consume less than half the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA).  Vitamin E is plentiful in high-fat foods like nuts, avocados, and vegetable oils, that many women don't eat enough of.

Snack on nuts and seeds, or toss them into salads.  Have guacamole with your chips.  Cook more colorful vegetables like peppers and beans with vegetable oils instead of butter.

2. Vitamin A. Remember when your mother told you to eat carrots for good eyesight? She was right. Most women consume only about half their RDA of 4700 mg of Vitamin A. Carrots are an excellent source of this essential nutrient as are other bright orange fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, apricots, cantaloupes, and pumpkins.  Vitamin A protects our eye health, acts as an antioxidant, bumps up our immune systems, and gives us beautiful skin.  New studies also suggest that this essential nutrient may improve cognitive function in older adults.

3. Vitamin D. After years of staying out of the sun, studies now show most women don't absorb enough Vitamin D - the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D helps our body absorb calcium for strong bones and teeth. Now, researchers are studying whether this essential nutrient can also help prevent breast cancer and type 2 diabetes.

While avoiding too much sun is still good advice to prevent skin cancer, experts advise women to get about 15 minutes of sun exposure per day and consume more foods fortified with Vitamin D (like cereals and dairy products) to meet their RDA of 1000 to 2000 IUs.

4. Potassium supports healthy nerves, cardiac function, and blood pressure regulation and acts as a balance mechanism for sodium. Most women don't meet even half the 4700 mg RDA  needed to offset their sodium consumption.  The result is high blood pressure and nervous systems that don't work as well as they could. Stock up on potassium-rich foods like bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, soybeans, spinach, and legumes.

5. Calcium.  Most people think of calcium as a bone-builder, but this essential nutrient is also required for healthy nervous system, muscle and blood vessel function and hormone and enzyme secretion.  Most of our calcium is stored in our bones but if we don't consume our 1000mg RDA with calcium-rich foods (like dairy products and broccoli) our body takes it out of storage.  This can lead to osteoporosis and brittle bones. 

When you can't get all your essential nutrients through food or natural sources, consider adding supplements to ensure you get everything you need.