5 Nutrients You Might Not Be Getting Enough of (and How to Fix It, According to a Health Coach)

Between our exorbitant caffeine intake and takeout-heavy diet, we aren’t always the most in tune with our body, which is probably why we’re not exactly operating at superhero levels. So we asked holistic health and nutrition coach Katrine van Wyk to shed some light on a few vitamins, minerals and other compounds that New Yorkers are commonly short on—plus which foods will help get you back into fighting shape.

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artichokes prebiotics

1. Prebiotics

You know probiotics are great for your gut, but if you’ve been downing yogurt and kimchi on the reg and still feel like your digestion’s not humming along smoothly, van Wyk says, “You might be missing one vital piece—feeding those good bacteria with ‘prebiotics,’ non-digestible fiber that helps the good bacteria in your body thrive.” Prebiotics are the foods that probiotics eat, and the more of prebiotics that probiotics have, the more efficiently they work and the healthier your gut will be. And here’s another interesting fact: According to the FDA, the average woman should aim to eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber every day but most of us only get about 16 grams. Van Wyk recommends loading up on jicama, artichokes, dandelion greens and onions.

girl wearing sunglasses outside vitamin d

2. Vitamin D

It seems like this vitamin comes up every winter, but van Wyk says you really can’t overstate its importance. “The list of symptoms of low vitamin D is very long and includes fatigue and low immunity,” she tells us. And here’s another reason why this vitamin is one to keep in mind: There is emerging research that suggests a connection between vitamin D and COVID-19, Dr. Natalie Azar told NBC News. You can find out if your levels are truly low by requesting a blood test from your doc, but if you live in NYC in the winter and work inside, there’s a good chance you could use a boost. Aside from responsible sun exposure consider adding a supplement during the winter and piling your plate with D-rich foods like salmon and OJ.

chicken liver on toast vitamin a
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3. Vitamin A

Dealing those annoying red bumps on your upper arms? You may need to up your intake of true vitamin A. “Although we think of the beta-carotene in many plants (carrots, peppers, sweet potatoes etc.) as a great source of vitamin A, it is actually just a precursor that the body then has to turn into vitamin A, something it’s not very good at,” van Wyk explains. If you can, eat egg yolks, liver (perhaps in the form of a yummy pâté) and dairy products. Vegans should be sure to eat plenty of the aforementioned veggies, along with some fat to aid absorption.

bagel with lox omega 3s
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4. Omega-3s

Yes, you’ve been hearing about these for years, but that’s because their benefits are seemingly never-ending. “Dry, dull skin? Achy joints? Feel inflamed and a bit down? You might need some more good fats in your life,” van Wyk says. And that’s not all: Omega-3s can lower triglycerides and blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, lower stroke and heart failure risk and aid with irregular heartbeats, according to the Mayo Clinic. You’ll find the coveted fatty acids in wild fish like sardines or salmon (yep, that lox bagel counts as a superfood) and grass-fed meat (though van Wyk cautions that’s not the case with grain-fed). “If you just don’t eat those foods on a regular basis, consider taking a supplement, either a fish oil or a plant-based algae one.”

raw oysters magnesium

5. Magnesium

“I like to call this the chill-out nutrient,” says van Wyk. Who wouldn’t want that, right? Surprisingly, though, most people are low: Achy muscles, anxiety and trouble sleeping are just a few symptoms related to magnesium deficiency. One study published in Nutrients even found evidence to suggest that taking magnesium supplements can help with anxiety. That might also explain that chocolate craving—just one square of dark chocolate contains 41 milligrams of the mineral. (“You heard me—it’s basically medicine!”) Other great sources are dark, leafy greens (a subject van Wyk is an expert on), almonds and oysters.

Psst: While van Wyk recommends upping your magnesium intake to feel better, one PureWow staffer swears by soaking in a bath with magnesium crystals for instant zen. This one from Aromasong ($30) is designed to relieve muscle tension and improve skin health.

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From 2016-2019 Carolyn Kuang-chen Stanley held the role of Editor covering food, travel and all things nyc.