It’s data week! I ran across this chart below that shows nutrient deficiencies in the U.S. population and thought I would share it with you. The percentage of nutrient deficiencies may not seem that high (I actually thought they’d be even higher!), but when you compare it against the population of the U.S. (327 million) this means that about 34 million are deficient in Vitamin B6, 31 million women are deficient in Iron and 26.5 million are deficient in Vitamin D. That’s kind of a lot!
Digging a little deeper, I found that American non-Hispanic Blacks are actually the most deficient in Vitamin D (31%), followed by Mexican Americans (12%) and non-Hispanic whites (3%).
I also found this data that describes the current eating patterns in the U.S.
Sadly, though not unexpectedly, this chart shows that people in the U.S. eat plenty of added sugars, salt and fat, but not nearly enough fruits and veggies. The most shocking statistic of course is the vegetables – close to 85% of the population does not meet the daily recommended amounts for vegetables (not counting French fries of course!). And lack of fruit consumption is not too far behind them. This means that ONLY 1 in 10 people consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables in a day. Wow!
I can actually see a direct correlation between these two charts. What comes to mind immediately is that there is a connection between the number of fruits and vegetables that a person consumes and the percentage of nutrient deficiencies.
Low fruit and vegetable intake = Nutrient deficiencies
For example, as a country we are most deficient in Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is involved in more than 100 enzyme reactions that speed up chemical reactions in our bodies; more specifically it helps us metabolize protein. It is important for brain development in children; is involved in the production of cells that help boost our immune system and is responsible for making hemoglobin to carry oxygen to our tissues. So pretty important nutrient!
Here’s a look at some good fruit and vegetable sources of Vitamin B6:
As you can see, a medium potato contains about 51% of our daily recommended amount for Vitamin B6. That’s more than ½ your days’ worth! Mango, green bell peppers and sweet potatoes are not far behind and even Watermelon has over 10% of our daily recommended amount. It’s easy to meet your daily recommended amount for Vitamin B6 by consuming a couple of servings for fruits and veggies a day.
The next statistic I noticed was Vitamin C, which also has a direct correlation to fruit and vegetable consumption. Most of us know that Vitamin C is important for protecting against colds and flu, but it also is a powerful antioxidant that can protect against cancer, heal wounds and assists with the absorption of iron.
Here is a chart that shows the foods high in Vitamin C:
As you can see if you eat 1 medium mango a day you will be getting 161% of your daily recommended amount for Vitamin C. So, slap your hands together – case closed! You’ve exceeded your daily requirement.
Bell peppers, strawberries and oranges are also extremely high in this nutrient. You may not know it, but strawberries actually have more Vitamin C per serving than oranges. I always like to say that the orange growers did a better job of marketing!
The last nutrient I want to point out is iron. Iron is important in preventing iron-deficiency anemia, especially for women athletes who could end up with amenorrhea (lack of menstruation) if they don’t consume enough. Iron is a critical component needed for carrying oxygen to the lungs and around the body. It is also used to build hair, nails and skin.
Four of the top ten sources of iron include beans, another vegetable (about 40%). If you’ve read some of my blogs in the past, you know I love beans! They are not only high in iron, but also a great source of protein and fiber. They are high in calcium, magnesium, folate and many other nutrients. And they are naturally low in calories, fat and cholesterol. A most perfect food!
Lentils contain the most iron (42% of our daily recommended amount), followed by black beans (34%) and then adzuki beans (33%).
As you can see, consuming a wide variety of whole fruits and vegetables on a daily basis can easily help erase the nutrient deficiencies that are so prevalent in this country. Can you think of ways to incorporate more fruits and veggies into your day?