The 3 essential nutrients we are all deficient in

The primary function of food is to provide the body with energy to ensure its functioning. As key elements to preserve its physiological balance and protective substances to keep it in shape. But for it to be optimal, it is essential that it combines food in quantity and quality, while taking care to preserve the pleasure of eating. An equation that is not always easy to solve, given everyone’s lifestyles, environmental context and physiological fluctuations!

Two types of nutrients to distinguish

On closer inspection, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to cover the nutrient requirements for some of them and, what is more, for each of them, solely through the plate. Either because the values ​​to be reached presuppose the ingestion of disproportionate quantities of food, or because they are simply unachievable from a physiological point of view.

When talking about nutrients, it is important to distinguish between:

  • nutrients that provide energy such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins,
  • and nutrients that contribute to the development and proper functioning of the body such as water, vitamins, minerals, fiber and micronutrients.

If most of the time the diet makes it easy to cover the needs for energy-supplying nutrients, it is more difficult to reach the recommended daily intake of vitamins, minerals and trace elements by this means alone. To be convinced of this, just look at a few examples of particularly essential nutrients, such as vitamin D, zinc or selenium, which play an important role in the immune system.

Vitamin D: difficult to cover the needs especially in the winter months

The vitamin D RDAs for an adult assume, on a strictly dietary level and on the basis of the latest recommendations in force, a daily intake of around 10 to 15 µg (400 to 600 IU).

Vitamin D intake is quite low from the dietary standpoint and can only be provided by ingesting certain naturally high-fat sources (oily fish, eggs, whole dairy products) or fortified foods (oils, margarines, etc.).

The main source of vitamin D remains exposure to sunlight (80 to 90% of intake). This is not without problems in our country, especially between the months of October and March. This is why vitamin D deficiency is so prevalent, especially during the winter months.

Zinc: so important for the body and so rare in the diet

Zinc is a vital element for the body. It contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system, it is essential for cell growth and division (protein and DNA synthesis), it helps maintain normal fertility and contributes to the metabolism of macronutrients, fatty acids and vitamin A, etc Unfortunately, only 20-30% of zinc from food is absorbed by the body, which limits effective dietary intake. The RDA in zinc for an adult man is 11 mg/d, and 8 mg/d for an adult woman. That is a consumption equivalent to 70 g of wheat germ (12.6 mg), 90 g of oysters (14.4 mg), 250 g of beef (12.5 mg) or 800 g of wholemeal bread (14 .4mg)!

Selenium: impossible to satisfy just through diet

Selenium is a very important nutrient for the body since it contributes, among other things:

  • protect cells against damage from oxidative stress,
  • the normal functioning of the immune system,
  • the normal functioning of the thyroid,
  • maintenance of nails and hair.

The AJR in selenium are 70 mcg/d for adult men and women. Just to cover these recommended daily intakes of selenium, it would be advisable to eat the equivalent of 80 g of sardines (68 µg), 200 g of oysters (72 µg), 190 g of veal liver (72.2 µg) or more than 1 kg of wholemeal bread (60 µg)!

In addition, unfortunately, soil depletion of selenium (chemical fertilizer, acid rain, etc.) is a reality in Northern Europe. This is an unfavorable factor for the natural content of foods grown in these regions.

However, any deficiency or insufficient intake exposes the body to a lower resistance to oxidative stress, to an increased risk of viral infections and to the development of certain pathologies. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant.

In view of these three examples, we observe that it is not so easy to provide the body with everything it needs, only by regularly having a varied, balanced and qualitative diet. This is why, in certain circumstances, it is wise to use food supplements to optimize intake and best protect health capital.


EFSA: Dietary Reference Values ​​for nutrients Summary report

* Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the advice of a health professional.

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