From a longevity stand point we want to get as many nutrients from a little calories. Combining this with intermittent fasting is very beneficial but can make it somewhat difficult to get everything you need in your eating window.
Nutrient deficiencies are quite usual and affect millions of people even when eating a healthy diet, even though the average person isn’t underweight or malnourished.
Our body stores a lot of nutrients in its own body fat. These are all the fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, K which are stored in the adipose tissue and released when you’re losing fat. When eating a nutrient dense diet with plenty of these fat soluble vitamins there shouldn't be any issues. On the other specture there are the water soluble vitamins which can be stored in the body for only a few days as they are excreted primarily through urine.
The above indicate that we need to be getting our vitamins on a regular basis. But what happens when we are already lacking some of these essential nutrients? We need to ensure that we repair our diet and potentially also supplement.
An essential nutrient is a nutrient that is required by our body but can’t be synthesized inside the body and needs to be obtained from the diet. These are 9 amino acids, 2 fatty acids, 13 vitamins and 15 minerals. Not having them will drastically impact critical functions of our body.
Here are the key nutrients you need
- Vitamin A – Vitamin A is important for nerve functioning, growth development, building new cells and improving eyesight. We have already discussed how critical Vitamin A is. Vitamin A has to be obtained from food and the best sources come from animal meat since there Vitamin A is much more bioavailable.
- Vitamin D – A key hormone that is involved in almost all other physiological processes. Deficiencies in vitamin D are associated with autoimmunity and weakened immune system, which makes up prone to infections. Low levels of vitamin D are linked to poor sleep quality, osteoporosis, and more. You also need vitamin D for autophagy. deficiencies. Sunlight is your friend and we need to ensure we get enough on a daily basis.
- Vitamin K – Vitamin K is important for proper physical development and growth. It’s also essential for blood clotting and wound healing. In the context of atherosclerosis, Vitamin K also directs calcium into the right place, namely the bones and teeth, instead of keeping it in the bloodstream to cause plaque formation. Vitamin K1 is quite easily obtained from vegetables but vitamin K2 comes primarily from fermented foods, organ meats, liver, egg yolks and animal fats.
- Iodine – Iodine is essential for producing thyroid hormones and maintaining metabolic rate. Hypothyroidism causes fatigue, hair loss, frailty, osteoporosis, constipation, and goiter. The best source of iodine is seafood but it’s commonly depleted from nutrients or is contaminated with heavy metals.
- Iron – Iron is essential for hemoglobin transportation, which helps to transfer oxygen to muscles and cells. If you eat foods like meat, lentils, spinach, pumpkin seeds, vegetables, fish and dark chocolate, then you’re probably getting enough iron. Excess iron is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and can be toxic.
- Zinc – Zinc is an essential mineral involved in cell growth, protein synthesis and protecting the immune system and is critical for autophagy. Zinc is also crucial for testosterone production. Eat a lot of seafood or red meat and you should be ok.
- Sodium – Sodium is important for energy production, digestion, and electrolyte balance. Deficiencies in sodium can cause muscle cramping, brain fog, fatigue, water retention and even insulin resistance. Always salt your food to taste!
- Potassium – Deficiencies in potassium can weaken muscle contraction, arrythmia and low energy. Potassium is paired with calcium and low levels will activate calcium signaling, leading to calcification. Eating a lot of vegetables is the solution. Fresh meat has some but not enough.
- Magnesium – Magnesium is involved in more than 600 functions in the body. It important for managing stress, including all the other biological processes and reactions in your body. It promotes sleep efficiency and many more. Unfortunately the soild is depleted from magnesium and even when following a good diet you will probably need to supplement. There are many different types of magnesium which have a different use so look into that before choosing.
- Choline – Choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter responsible for cognitive functioning and attention. It’s also vital for cell membrane, methyl metabolism, and cholesterol transportation. You need choline to prevent fatty liver and support methylation. Foods rich in choline are eggs, meat, and fish.
- Protein and Amino Acids – The daily minimum requirements for protein are set at 0.8g/kg of bodyweight, which for an average adult is roughly between 40-80 grams of protein. However that is not the optimal intake. For muscle growth and improved body composition you’d want to aim for 1-1.5g/kg of bodyweight. Out of the 20 amino acids, nine cannot be synthesized by the body itself and thus need to be obtained from diet. They are phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, and histidine.
How to construct a nutrient dense diet
Independent of the diet you are following you should aim to eat a nutrient dense diet and cover all your needs on a daily basis. Tracking your meals for a period of time is always a good idea to understand where you might be falling short. In this cases a supplement will help you.
Here are some simple guidelines.
- Vitamin D – Spend at least a few hours outside every day if you’re fully clothed. Sunbathing or not wearing a shirt would just speed up the process. Fatty fish, algae, milk, and egg yolks are also high in vitamin D.
- Support your thyriod – The thyroid needs primarily iodine, selenium, magnesium and B12 to function properly. Unfortunately, these are one of the most depleted nutrients in most foods. Seafood and sea vegetables are the best source of iodine and selenium. Brazil nuts are also a good source of selenium, while kelp is for iodine.
- Organ Meats – Liver, heart, kidney have all the fat soluble vitamins like K2, A, D as well as CoQ10. They’re the most nutrient dense foods in the world. The best sources of vitamin A are organ meats with liver giving you about 5000-7000 mcg-s from just 100 grams. You should eat liver once or twice a week a you will get most vitamins and minerals you need.
- Limit Iodine Inhibiting Foods – Grains inhibit iodine absorption, thus lowering thyroid hormones.
Here are the main food required to construct a nutrient dense diet.
|Vitamin D||Fish, Eggs|
|Vitamin K2||Liver, Eggs|
|Iron||Red meat, spinach|
|Sodium||Sea or Himalyan salt|
|Magnesium||Nuts, seeds, spinach, legumes|
|Choline||Red meat, Fish, Eggs|
Nutrients and fasting
Fasting is a catabolic process and a stressor itself so it should be adjusted to your lifestyle and needs. Clean-up you diet first, create some good buffers and introduce fasting step-by-step. Here are some notes relating to nutrient deficiencies and fasting.
- When doing intermittent fasting go for a slightly higher protein intake to compensate for the increased catabolism.
- Fasting can lead to low iron or anemia, especially in women or people who don’t eat red meat.
- Fasting can lower thyroid because of increased stress. That’s why iodine intake is important.
- In phases of your life where your are stressed and your are also fasting, ensure you get enough Zinc as a deficiency of Zinc can lower testosterone by raising cortisol.
- While fasting consume salted water on a daily basis and while eating salt your food to taste.
- It is always a good idea to supplement with Potassium especially when sweating.
- Ensure you get enough choline to drive fat out of the liver whenever you break your fast.
Supplementing can complement your diet and avoid deficiencies as unfortunately in day and age even the healthiest diet might be lacking some nutrients. I would suggest the below, which I personally use.
- Eat a nutrient rich diet but be aware that most of the soil is depleted from nutrients so dont be afraid to complement your diet with some supplements were required.