Research shows that there are a few keys nutrients most people are deficient in. Find out why and what to do about it.

A nutrient dense diet is the best way to ensure that your body receives as many of the micro-nutrients it requires for optimal functioning. For over 95% of human evolution we only ate this way. Removing foods that cause inflammation decreases the chance of unwanted weight gain.(1) This approach is protective against all modern diseases that involve chronic inflammation. Eating real food increases energy and absorption.

When is this not enough? Factors that influence the bioavailability of nutrients include soil quality and health of the gastro intestinal tract. These environments are crucial factors to vitality.

Simple guidelines to increase nutrient value:

  • Local and organic support soil health. Grow your own plants and animals or support those who do grass fed, pastured and/or organic.
  • Broccoli and other plant foods that grows above ground ought to be eaten shortly after harvest. Each hour and day means a loss of nutrients.
  • Preparation impacts assimilation of food. Slow food supports digestion. For example, bone broth has key micronutrients that nourish the gut and brain.
  • Pleasure is key. Enjoy the whole experience of gathering, preparing and eating. Turn off devices at meal time. Physiologically we are hard-wired for regular celebration and rituals around sharing food.
  • Medicinal aspects of foods are real. Eat a wide and varied diet representing all the flavours. Include pungent, sour, bitter and spicy along with sweet and salty.

A few suggestions to consider when supplementing:

Gut health and thyroid function both require adequate Vitamin D from sun or daylight exposure. These are just a couple on a long list of tissues that use this important nutrient. If you are supplementing please have your levels checked regularly and take breaks. I check a few markers including parathyroid hormone, to ensure accuracy of levels. Toxicity is becoming more common and the effects can be serious and even fatal.

Vitamin D works synergistically with vitamin K2. K2 is responsible for transporting calcium to the bones and is protective against cardiovascular disease.(2) It is found in grass-fed hard cheese, ghee, butter, poultry liver and fermentable foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, beet kvass, kefir and natto (a fermented soybean product from Japan).

Magnesium is key for muscle relaxation and repair. It can also support deep sleep. Regular sleep is protective against heart disease and nearly all other health concerns. Many magnesium supplements come with calcium. I don’t recommend supplementing with calcium as recent studies show it accumulates in arteries.(4) The best form is magnesium glycinate.

Vitamin A is an important fat-soluble vitamin and is bioavailable through animal sources in the form of retinol. Cod liver oil provides both vitamin A and D. It has been used in small amounts as an age old immune tonic for good reason. Organ meats are an excellent source and naturally are consumed in small amounts.

Zinc is key for immune function and balances other micronutrients like copper which become elevated when there is excess inflammation. Zinc is more bioavailable in animal food because phytic acid in plant foods binds zinc. Organ meats, red muscle meats and shellfish are good sources. Pumpkin seeds are also a good source if prepared properly by soaking and sprouting. I don’t recommend supplementing with zinc over the long-term and I always look at the ratio of copper to zinc when working with a patient.

Keep in mind that our current lifestyles are higher in stress than any other time in our evolution. Stress is pro-inflammatory and this along with industrial food systems is why we are missing these key nutrients. An evolutionary approach is valuable and can help simplify some the complexities around lifestyle, medicine and diet.

1. http://dx.doi.org/10.2337/diabetes.52.8.2097

2. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/134/11/3100.full