One of the ongoing responsibilities of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to keep track of and monitor Americans' nutritional intake. Periodically, the CDC will release new research that indicate which vitamins and minerals we may need more of. The most recent findings are from their Second Nutrition Report based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999-2006. The good news is that most Americans are consuming a sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals from a variety of food sources but there are some groups of people that may need to be more aware of certain nutrients.
In this week's blog, I'm highlighting three of these essential nutrients and who might need to increase their intake of these nutrients. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies arise from multiple causes and are influenced by factors such as age, gender, and race or ethnicity. Before overhauling your diet or reaching for supplements, discuss your personal diet and lifestyle habits, along with any symptoms you may have with a physician to avoid any excess nutrient consumption, which can be just as harmful as a nutrient deficiency.
Iron plays an important role in blood, hormone, and tissue development in the body and helps keep red blood cells oxygenated. In the CDC's nutrition report, "Mexican-American and non-Hispanic black women [were found to be] two times more likely to have low levels of iron than non-Hispanic white women." To boost your iron intake, add more iron-rich foods into your diet such as lean meats, fish, poultry, dark green vegetables, and legumes. If you are consistently exhausted or are pregnant, consult with your doctor to test for iron-deficiency anemia or discuss whether taking an iron supplement is right for you.
Watch: Signs You Have an Iron Deficiency
Iodine regulates thyroid hormones and ensures proper human growth and development, especially when it comes to brain development in fetuses. According to the CDC nutrition report, "women age 20 to 39 - those most likely to become pregnant - have lower iodine levels than any age group, bordering on insufficiency." The amount of iodine consumed by Americans has for the most part remained steady for the last 20 years, particularly with the common use of iodized salt. Pregnant women may be advised to consider prenatal vitamins that contain much-needed iodine (check the label to make sure it has at least 150 micrograms of iodine, as many prenatal vitamins contain little or no iodine at all). Aside from supplements, iodine is also found in seafood like salmon, dairy products, and grains.
One of the unexpected statistics that came out of the CDC nutrition report was that "over 30 percent of non-Hispanic blacks have low levels of Vitamin D, despite greater bone density and fewer fractures", a finding that needs to be explored in future research. To get more vitamin D into your diet, add foods like salmon, vitamin D-fortified milk, egg yolks, and mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet light, into your meal rotation. Vitamin D helps promote bone health and muscle strength and may even help lower the risk of the development of type 2 diabetes and cancer.