A lot of the nutrition we need to have good mental health, reduce the risk of chronic illness, have strong bones, and a functioning metabolism all comes down to the same wisdom: eat plenty of leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, lean protein, fish, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and limit sugar, fried, and processed foods. 

However, there are a few essential nutrients that can be hard to get even from a balanced diet. Let’s talk about a few nutrients that can make a difference in your health that don’t necessarily require you to buy supplements but may require you to pay more attention to fulfilling your daily needs. 

Vitamin D

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Vitamin D is a nutrient your body needs for building and maintaining healthy bones. That’s because your body can only absorb calcium, the primary component of bone, when vitamin D is present. Vitamin D also regulates many other cellular functions in your body”. Wow, that’s a lot of important stuff that Vitamin D does for us and with 42% of Americans being deficient, it’s important to find ways to increase your intake.

Certain foods like fortified milk and fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are foods you can eat to increase your intake of vitamin D without supplementation. Another great way to get vitamin D naturally is from the sun. This does not mean you should spend all day frying yourself to a crisp, but a 15 minute walk outside in the morning can give you that boost of vitamin D that your body needs. 

For more information on vitamin D click here.

Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids are good for heart health, brain health, and muscle health–specifically the heart muscle. The body does not make its own omega-3 even though it is an essential nutrient which means you need to acquire it in foods. To optimize your health without turning to supplementation, the American Heart Association recommends that you include at least two servings of fish in your weekly diet. Specifically salmon, sardines, cod, herring, trout, and light canned tuna. Non-fish options are walnuts, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, however they do not offer the same heart health benefits as the fish options.

Because most Americans, including kids, are not consuming enough fish on a regular basis we’ve come up with a few simple ways that you and your family can enjoy fish.

For more information on Omega-3’s click here and here

Probiotic

The research on gut and probiotics is in its infancy, however much of what we currently know is pointing towards increasing the healthy flora in our guts. Fast foods, processed foods, stress, and toxins from our environment contribute to bad bacteria so we have to work extra hard to find ways to help our guts populate with the good stuff. Gut dysbiosis leads to a cascade of health issues such as IBS, brain fog, decreased immune function, and a host of other acute and chronic issues. 

Ways to help increase your good gut flora include consuming fermented foods that contain bacteria that help your gut thrive. These include plain yogurt or plain coconut yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and pickles.

There are tons of probiotic supplements on the market however you will want to do your own research and consult with your medical professional on one that is right for you. There are many different types of strains and varying quality that requires you to get more information before spending your money. In the meantime increase your probiotic friendly foods and improve your gut health.