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Why are Americans so Nutrient-Depleted?

Zoe Baker, PharmD.

Have you ever wondered why many Americans lack the essential nutrients their bodies need to stay healthy? It might appear puzzling, given the variety of food options and supplements available. However, there are underlying reasons for this issue. From shifts in farming practices to the allure of processed snacks, this article delves into the causes behind the deficiency of vital nutrients in many of us. Understanding these factors empowers us to make wiser choices to counteract nutrient shortages and enhance our well-being.

There are four primary causes of nutrient depletion:

  1. Evolutionary Shift in Food Composition: Our ancestors thrived on wild foods that were rich in vitamins, minerals, and essential fats, unlike today's modern diets.

  2. Agricultural Practices and Hybridization: Industrial farming methods, hybridization, and depleted soils have led to reduced nutrient content in both plant and animal sources.

  3. Minimal Nutrient Content in Processed Foods: Factory-made processed foods often lack essential nutrients, compounding the issue of nutrient depletion.

  4. Cumulative Impact of Environmental Factors: Factors such as environmental toxins, inadequate sunlight exposure, and chronic stress collectively elevate our nutrient requirements.

Functional medicine practitioners emphasize personalized and holistic health approaches, which include tailored recommendations for vitamins and supplements based on individual needs and health conditions. While suggestions may differ, the following are ten commonly recommended vitamins and supplements along with their sources, food origins, and approximate recommended dosages:

Vitamin D:

Source: Sunlight exposure is the primary source of vitamin D. It can also be found in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel), fortified dairy products, egg yolks, and mushrooms exposed to UV light.

Foods: Fatty fish, fortified dairy, egg yolks, mushrooms.

Recommended Dosage: Dosage can vary widely based on individual needs and levels. A common recommendation is around 1000-2000 IU (25-50 mcg) per day, but some individuals may require more.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

Source: Found in fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel), flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and algae-based supplements.

Foods: Fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts.

Recommended Dosage: A typical dose of EPA and DHA (the active components of omega-3s) is around 1000-2000 mg per day combined. This may vary based on health needs.


Source: Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts beneficial for gut health, found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and supplements.

Foods: Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi.

Recommended Dosage: Dosages vary depending on specific strains and supplementation goals, typically ranging from 1 billion to 100 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) per day.


Source: Magnesium-rich foods include nuts (almonds, cashews), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower), leafy greens (spinach, Swiss chard), whole grains, and legumes.

Foods: Nuts, seeds, leafy greens, whole grains, legumes.

Recommended Dosage: The suggested daily magnesium intake varies by age and sex. Generally, adults may require around 300-400 mg per day.

Vitamin C:

Source: Abundant in fruits and vegetables like citrus fruits (oranges, lemons), berries (strawberries, blueberries), bell peppers, and leafy greens.

Foods: Citrus fruits, berries, bell peppers, leafy greens.


Source: Collagen comes from animal connective tissues, often in bone broth and supplements.

Foods: Bone broth, collagen supplements.

Recommended Dosage: There's no official recommended amount, but supplements usually suggest 5-15 grams daily.

Vitamin B Complex:

Source: B vitamins are in various foods, like meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and leafy greens.

Recommended Dosage: The B vitamins are a group, so there's no set dose. But a B-complex supplement might provide around 25-100 mg total.

Vitamins A and K2:

Source: Vitamin A is in liver, eggs, and orange and green vegetables. Vitamin K2 is in fermented foods and animal products.

Foods: Liver, eggs, vegetables, fermented foods.

Recommended Dosage: Vitamin A: around 700-900 mcg for adults. Vitamin K2: no official recommendation, but supplements usually offer around 100-200 mcg.

High-quality multivitamin:

A reliable multivitamin encompasses all the vital vitamins and minerals needed for health. It's important to note that for optimal results, taking 2 to 6 capsules or tablets daily may be necessary. Some individuals might require unique doses beyond this range, as determined by a trained nutritional or functional medicine professional.

Significantly, B complex vitamins hold special importance for individuals dealing with diabesity, as they aid in guarding against diabetic neuropathy and enhancing metabolism and mitochondrial function. Additionally, antioxidants like vitamin E, C, and selenium play a pivotal role in mitigating oxidative stress, a major contributor to diabesity.

Understanding that individual requirements for vitamins and supplements can vary widely based on factors such as age, gender, health conditions, and dietary habits is crucial. Before initiating any supplementation regimen, consulting with a healthcare expert or functional medicine practitioner is advisable to determine personalized needs and suitable dosages. Whenever feasible, obtaining nutrients from whole foods is preferred over supplements, as whole foods offer a broader range of nutrients and beneficial compounds. By arming ourselves with this knowledge, we can make informed choices to replenish the nutrient gap and enhance our overall well-being.

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