9 Important Nutrients You May Be Missing

Even though you may think you’re eating a balanced diet, you could be missing out on some key nutrients that can help manage a rheumatoid arthritis flare-up or protect against any number of chronic diseases.  Nutrients are best taken in their food form as certain elements interact to aid in absorption within our bodies and increasing the bioavailability of these key nutrients.  Here are 9 important nutrients for optimal health and common foods that they can be found in:

  1. Omega 3 fatty acids – these are healthy fats that help regulate the inflammatory pathways in your body and help maintain brain and heart function. Omega-3’s are found in salmon, avocado, flax seeds, walnuts, soybeans, and sardines.
  2. Calcium – this is an important mineral for bone health with a recommendation of 1,000 mg/day (ages 19-50) or 1,200 mg/day (age 50+) 1.  Calcium can interfere with iron absorption so if you’re worried about both of these nutrient levels, try to space out their consumption at different meals.  Calcium levels are tightly regulated within the body and if there are inadequate amounts then the body will take it out of the bones.  Calcium-rich foods are typical dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt, but there is also calcium in dark leafy greens, lettuce, okra, and sesame seeds contain some as well. Additionally, you can find calcium in fortified orange juice.
  3. Vitamin D – this vitamin goes hand in hand with calcium as it helps with its absorption for strong bones. Though we know it as the sunshine vitamin, it can also be found in some foods. Food sources of vitamin D include salmon, sardines, tuna fish, fortified milk and eggs. Mushrooms that are exposed to UV light before harvest can contain significant amounts of vitamin D. Look for packaged mushrooms that state they contain vitamin D on the label.  Like calcium, you can also find vitamin D in fortified orange juice.
  4. B vitamins – these vitamins are crucial to cell metabolism, your nervous system and your immune system. They are normally found in whole, unprocessed grains, and meat. Other sources include potatoes, bananas, lentils, beans, and molasses. Vegans are most likely to be deficient in B12 because it is not available in plant foods. It is found in many animal foods such as clams, fish, beef, lamb, cheese and eggs. If you are vegan or someone who doesn’t eat a lot of animal products, consider a vitamin B12 supplement; however, always talk to your doctor before adding this to your diet 2.
  5. Iron – an essential nutrient that is needed for our red blood cells to carry oxygen. If you often feel tired, you may be deficient in iron. You can find this mineral in egg yolks, red meat, dark leafy greens, iron-enriched cereals, beans, liver (although not recommended), and artichokes. For best absorption of iron, try eating these foods along with foods that are high in vitamin C. Enjoy chopped sautéed tomatoes, spinach and onions teamed up with low-fat cheese in your egg omelets. Men should be cautious of too much iron as they are rarely found to be iron-deficient.  Excessive iron intake can be harmful to the body because it is an oxidant. Hemachromatosis, or iron overload, is estimated to occur in 1-6 out of every 100 people, and is associated with increased mortality and morbidity.  Consult with your doctor if you think you may be iron-deficient before consuming any of the above-mentioned foods.
  6. Vitamin E – a powerful antioxidant found in wheat germ, sunflower seeds, almonds, red chili powder, dried oregano, green olives, papaya and spinach. It plays an important role in stopping free radicals that can damage our skin, blood vessels, and organs.
  7. β-Carotene – you can call this the “orange” vitamin because it’s found in foods such as sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, carrots, and orange bell peppers, as well as other foods not quite so orange like spinach, winter squash and collard greens. β-carotene turns into vitamin A in our bodies and is essential for vision and bone development. Excess vitamin A can be harmful, so if you do take a multi-vitamin supplement make sure most of the vitamin A is provided as β-Carotene to avoid toxicity.
  8. Zinc – an essential mineral needed in our diet for keeping a healthy immune system, maintaining our sense of smell, and building proteins. It can be found in foods such as oysters, roast beef, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, crab, and baked beans. Fortified cereals can also provide a source of zinc. Don’t consumer oysters as a means for adequate zinc. If you do buy oysters check for recent FDA warnings and buy from a safe and reliable purveyor.
  9. Vitamin K2 – this lesser-known vitamin can be found in fermented foods like natto (fermented soybeans), sauerkraut, aged and curd cheeses, as well as grass-fed butter, organ meats, fish eggs and egg yolks. An RDA has not yet been established, but new research is showing that vitamin K2 is important for cardiovascular health, cancer prevention and bone health, and may benefit people with rheumatoid arthritis. 3

These are just nine important nutrients you may be missing if you are not eating a well-balanced diet. Remember to include 4 – 5 cups of fruits and vegetables, healthy whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats in your daily diet. Always check with your doctor before using supplements if you feel your diet is not adequate. Consider obtaining a referral to see a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to have your diet evaluated. Take it one day at a time and try including one new healthy food item in your meals today. You will feel healthier before you know it and be proud that you’re taking steps to protect your health!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
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