We are pretty malnourished as a society. It’s not to demonize any type of diet and way of living but the fact is that the processing that the majority of our food goes through strips away some really valuable nutrients. I’m talking easy and convenient foods. The processed stuff. Not so much the real stuff.
In addition to my schooling, I did a lot of research on helpful nutrients that 1) we are commonly deficient in and 2) would help me with my surgery recovery. Having a spinal fusion is a HUGE procedure and the recovery process is also pretty intense. The body has to do a lot of healing and recovery. How else can it do that? It needs nourishment. And it needs to be challenged (more on that in another post).
Your body doesn’t just need nourishment when it’s under duress. It needs nourishment all the time. If it’s not nourished, it will start to break down in one way or the other.
Since we are all about nourishment here, I figured I’d share with you some of my favorite nutrients, how they help and where you can find them!
OK so this isn’t a vitamin or mineral, but hear me out. Protein is the very foundation of our bodies. And without the support of certain vitamins and minerals, it can’t do its job. Our DNA is made up of proteins. So, it’s kind of a big deal.
What else does protein do for us? Well, in addition to it being the structural foundation of our DNA, it is also what our tissues are made of. Our skin, our joints, and connective tissue – protein. So of course, it is a necessity when it comes to building, maintaining and repairing things like muscle tissue. Protein coupled with strength training can build a pretty strong body! What is often misunderstood is that not all protein sources are equal. Finding a protein source that has all the essential amino acids is crucial. Essential means your body doesn’t make it, so it needs it from an outside source.
Where can I find protein? Well, it’s in most foods, but if we are talking about high content sources, here we go….
- Whey protein (best amino acid profile)
- Soy protein
- Collagen peptides (incomplete protein)
Fun fact: did you know that vitamin C is not only an antioxidant, but it aids in the biosynthesis of collagen? So if you are taking collagen supplements, make sure you are getting in some healthy vitamin C food sources too.
This is one of my favorite nutrients. Not only because of how helpful this nutrient can be but also because one of the main sources of magnesium is chocolate. What’s not to love?
This was a really important nutrient to me during my surgery recovery and still is to this day. Magnesium is ESSENTIAL for so many biochemical reactions in the body; from protein synthesis to muscle function and bone health. Your bones will not be healthy and strong without proper magnesium levels. Not to mention the support it provides to the nervous system. It’s a pretty versatile nutrient that MANY individuals are deficient in.
Magnesium can actually be found in whole unprocessed wheat products but the unfortunate part is that due to the high levels of processing for wheat products, magnesium goes by the wayside.
Where can I find magnesium?
- Pumpkin seeds
- Chia seeds
- Dark chocolate (not processed)
- Legumes (peanuts black beans)
Who can argue with chocolate?
Fun fact: did you know that drinking alcohol actually causes you to lose magnesium?
This one is pretty fascinating to me and slightly personal. Vitamin D can best be found with sun exposure. Deficiency is VERY common considering how much we spend indoors. But skin color and geographic location can also play a role. The darker your skin color is, the more sun exposure you need for vitamin D synthesis. Living in areas where sunlight is limited or around for a short time can also create an issue for vitamin D levels. In these cases, supplementation of vitamin D3 may be necessary – so if you do, take it with a fat source.
Like magnesium and calcium, vitamin D is vital to bone health because it aids bone growth, bone remolding and maintaining levels of calcium in the body. It also plays a huge role in the immune system.
Where can I find vitamin D?
- Sunshine exposure
- Fatty fish (cod, salmon)
- Milk (vitamin D fortified)
I have been asked about this one a lot and it’s definitely worth discussing. Vitamin B12 is another one of those common deficiencies that can happen with a mostly processed diet, a vegan diet without proper supplementation and digestive disorders. It’s a key nutrient for the development and maintenance of the nervous system. The protective coating of our nerves relies on sustained vitamin B12 levels. It’s absorbed in the small intestine so it’s pretty common for those with digestive conditions to have low levels of vitamin B12. In these cases, getting it from a regular diet may not be enough and supplementation may be needed.
Because it is found in mostly animal products, it is very common for vegans to be vitamin B12 deficient and it must be supplemented. There is nothing wrong with being vegan. That’s why when stepping into a vegan lifestyle, it’s important to seek guidance from a medical professional to make sure you are getting the nutrients you ABSOLUTELY need.
Where can I find vitamin B12?
- Nutritional yeast
- Hiball Energy
Moral of the Story…
These are just some of my favorites and some of the most common deficiencies in the US. I always recommend getting these nutrients from real foods first. But sometimes supplementation is necessary – and that’s okay too! It’s always best to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about starting a new supplement – especially when it comes to minerals. Without the proper guidance, you can unintentionally throw off some of the levels in your body which can create other issues.
So moral of the story. EAT REAL FOOD. I’m not a diet pusher and I don’t think that dessert/sugar is evil. My philosophy is – worry most about nourishing your body and then leave some room for the fun stuff. We are overfed, no doubt. But we are overfed and under nourished and THAT is quite the predicament.
If you need help with navigating food labels or you need some ideas on how to incorporate these different foods into your diet, give me a holler. I’d be happy to hep and work with you 1:1.
Thanks for reading x
Disclaimer: This is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. I am currently a student and I am still completing my coursework to become a registered dietitian. I am not licensed or credentialed to give prescriptive nutrition advice. This is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Conversations pertaining to specific medical conditions or supplementation dosing are best had with your doctor.