Back in 2004, nutritionists everywhere were screaming at movie theater screens, threatening to boycott Mean Girls when Regina George "innocently" (you never know with Queen Plastic) asked how butter's contents translated into nutritional value.
We'll limit this healthy-eating lecture to a minimum: In order for your body to function, you need to make sure you're consuming enough essential nutrients in your everyday diet with actual healthy food. Just so you know...butter does not count as a good carb and no, your beloved chicken-and-broccoli combination platter doesn't satisfy anything but your 1:33 a.m. craving for Chinese food.
Okay, so you might be the outlier and pack kale for lunch and reach for a banana post-workout—TEACH US YOUR WAYS—but are you 100% sure you're meeting the daily requirements of all that is good? We tapped into the minds of registered dietitians Emily Haller and Keri Gans for dead giveaways you need to step up your nutrient intake. Blurred vision? You might need to eat more carrots—not be prescribed glasses.
- Dry eyes
- Blindness at night
- Scaling, dry skin
The next time you get a paper cut, grab a bandage and chew on some carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, or tuna. Vitamin A encourages healthy cell production to heal wounds, boost your immune system, and strengthen your vision. Aim for roughly 2,333 IU a day.
- Impaired wound healing
- Corkscrew hair follicles
- Prone to bruising
- Bleeding gums
- High blood pressure
An orange a day—not really, but 85 mg daily will do—keeps everything that we just listed above away. This antioxidant protects against don't-want-ever illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, asthma, and the common cold.
- Softened bones (over an extended period of time)
- Susceptibility to infectious diseases like the flu
There are no clear symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, however, the longer someone goes without getting the nutrient—by not basking in the sunlight enough or eating enough almonds or fatty fish—the more likely it is your skeletal health decreases. The only way to be positive of your status is to get yourself checked. The daily recommendation is 600 IU.
- Frequent muscle cramps
- Prolonged abnormal appetite—meaning eating isn't appealing to you (WHAT??)
- Development of osteoporosis (over a longer period of time)
You remember those Got Milk commercials? Brilliant. But there's a slight chance their message didn't stick when you were a kid. Calcium helps your heart, prevents bloods clots, and of course, fortifies your bones and teeth. Adults should aim for about 1,000 mg per day from sources like milk, yogurt, cheeses, almonds, and salmon.
- Hair that falls out
- Thinning hair
- Sore muscles
- Not building muscle while exercising (if you're trying to bulk up)
- Constantly getting sick
- Muscle loss
Is it just us or is everyone talking about protein these days? Although standard recommendations for women say to consume about 46 g per day, fitness experts usually suggest eating 1 g of protein per pound if you're trying to gain muscle mass—so 130 g of protein for a 130-pound woman. Don't go overboard with your red meats though: The quality and quantity of protein sources can impact your risk against cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
- Constant hunger
So this is why we're starving by 11:39 a.m. (sorry, donuts). A healthy fiber intake—of about 20 to 35 g every day from oats, beans, and broccoli—can help with irritable bowl syndrome, high cholesterol, and irritable bowel disease. Basically, fiber is your gut's best friend.
- Pale skin
- Always feeling cold
- Difficulty breathing
Ahhh, iron—it's the mineral that allows our cells to retain oxygen and keep our blood circulating. When you don't hit the recommended 18 mg a day, you put yourself at risk of things like anemia. All you need is to stock up on spinach, fish, nuts and seeds, and you'll survive.