Most health problems in the developed world are due to overnutrition, but there are still a variety of nutrients the majority of people probably don’t get enough of. The deficiencies aren’t caused by a lack of exposure in the diet, but by lower levels of absorbance or increased levels of depletion due to metabolic disregulation. In some cases its because certain nutrients must exist in a certain ratio with others to maintain health. The omega3/6 fatty acids are a good example.
Here are three nutrients that are naturally removed from your diet, and may cause you fatigue, cardiovascular problems, and bad eyesight as a result.
Glutathione is made by your body and is its most robust antioxidant. It’s found in almost every cell, and is used for DNA synthesis and protects your mitochondria from pollutants and degradation. It also complexes itself with vitamins C and E to help them function more effectively. Low levels of glutathione are consistently found in patients with a wide variety of diseases, ranging from cancer to Autism and ADD. (Of course causality can be tricky with these sorts of things). It’s absolutely essential to your well being but doesn’t get a lot of attention because it’s difficult to digest from the diet.
Inflammation, viral infections, and autoimmune disorders are by products of a disregulated redox state, and glutathione is probably the most important molecule in your body to maintain the appropriate “electron balance” within your body.
It’s made from cysteine, which requires sulfur as starting material. Dietary glutathione is poorly digested and glutathione supplements are largely a waste of time. (There might be some that are specifically formulated to overcome the digestability problem but I’ve never used them).
Instead it’s a good idea to consume a wide variety of sulfur containing vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and flat-leaf greens like swiss chard and bok choy.
Your body uses energy in the form of ATP, and the metabolism of ATP is dependent on a variety of enzymes that use magnesium as a co-factor. Magnesium depletion is particularly important for people who exercise regularly since physical exertion transports magnesium out of the bloodstream and into your muscle cells, which removes it for use by other tissues.
Fatigue is a more and more prevalent problem, and I suspect at least part of it is due an imbalance between magnesium and other minerals more prevalent in the standard american diet. Enzymes, transport pumps, and intracellular membranes often require different minerals to be activated in one direction or the other, and magnesium often works hand in hand with sodium to regulate energy expenditure within the cell. Most people get far more sodium in their diet than magnesium, and the resulting imbalance could lead to problems with energy utilization.
Magnesium is easily found in the diet and common foods high in magnesium are nuts, leafy greens, and legumes.
Unlike glutathione, magnesium supplements can be useful, but are not necessary if you eat right. If you’re taking a magnesium supplement make sure to try and take it in the form of magnesium citrate, which is digested more readily by the body.
Beta Carotene is the most popular form of this type of nutrient, but three that are equally important are astaxanthin, lutein, and lycopene. Lycopene has been well publicized due to its occurrence in tomatoes, but astaxanthin and lutein are particularly important for eyesight. Carotenoids are easily degraded in the food manufacturing process and are very sensitive to heat. If you’re not paying attention they can very easily be removed from your diet.
They’re commonly found in colorful fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids are best absorbed when taken with fat.