I have never had foot and leg cramps until the last six months or so. I did some research to see what might be causing my muscle cramps. I discovered that it could be caused by a vitamin and mineral deficiency, in particular a lack of potassium and vitamin D.
I started to wonder if there are other vitamins and minerals that were vital to proper nutrition and a healthier mind and body. The USDA says that American adults don’t get enough of many essential nutrients.
Here are 7 important nutrients that may be missing from your diet:
Like many Americans, I don’t drink milk on a regular basis. I do eat a bowl of cereal most mornings and like to grab a yogurt cup for a snack. Yet, I am sure that I’m probably not getting enough calcium in my diet. Women 19 to 50 years old should get 1,000 milligrams a day (as should men), and that number increases for both men and women as they age.
Why you need it: Calcium is essential for healthy bones, protects your heart and arteries, and may lower the risk of breast cancer.
Where to find it: Milk, yogurt, calcium-fortified orange juice, fortified cereals and low-fat cheeses.
There are two types of vitamin A: retinol and carotenoids, like beta-carotene. Adult women need 700 milligrams a day while men need 900 milligrams.
Why you need it: Vitamin A is key for maintaining healthy eyesight and a strong immune system. It also plays a role in many other physiological functions, such as tissue growth.
Where to find it: Dark green and bright colored vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, pumpkins, winter squash, spinach, collard greens and romaine lettuce.
While vitamin C may not ward off colds as once believed, it’s still an essential part of a well-balanced diet. Women need 75 milligrams while men need 90 milligrams a day.
Why you need it: Vitamin C is essential to maintaining a strong immune system. It may help lower the risk of cancer and is required for healing wounds.
Where to find it: Many fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin C, including citrus fruit, guava, cantaloupe, peaches, kiwi, red peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale.
Brought to us by sunshine, vitamin D is produced by the skin when you’re exposed to sunlight. Since many of us work in offices, we may not get enough sun exposure to make our vitamin D allowance. Optimal levels of vitamin D are up for debate. It’s recommended that adults get 600 international units of vitamin D a day.
Why you need it: Vitamin D is important in the development of healthy bones, muscles and nerve fibers as well as a strong immune system.
Where to find it: A few foods naturally contain this vitamin, including fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, as well as tuna. It can also be found in mushrooms, liver, cheese and egg yolks. Some brands of cereal, milk and orange juice are fortified with vitamin D.
You may know that too much sodium or salt in your diet can raise your blood pressure. You might not realize that too little potassium can contribute to high blood pressure. Adults should shoot for 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day.
Why you need it: A shortage of potassium can increase your blood pressure, as well as increase your risk of kidney stones and osteoporosis.
Where to find it: Potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, carrots, beans, peas, lentils, yogurt, bananas, fish, orange juice and avocados.
Magnesium is required for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. If you have stomach problems as you get older and or if you drink alcohol, you’re at risk for low magnesium levels. Women between the ages of 19 and 30 should get 310 milligrams and after 31 should get 320 milligrams a day. Men who are 19 to 30 should have 400 milligrams and then 420 milligrams after 31.
Why you need it: Low magnesium levels have been linked to osteoporosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, muscle cramps and heart disease.
Where to find it: Spinach, beans, peas, lentils, oatmeal, whole grains and nuts.
We know that fiber is important to our diets. Research has shown that it helps regulate our digestive system. A healthy diet should contain 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories.
Why do you need it: New findings show that fiber helps protect you from heart disease, type 2 diabetes and may help you maintain a healthy weight.
Where to find it: Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, cooked dry beans, peas and nuts.
A balanced diet that includes a variety of healthy foods can help you get your daily allowance of many vital nutrients. So, eat your fruits and vegetables, lean protein, good fats and plenty of fiber for better health!