The Nutrition Facts label got a few updates this year. Two important additions based on modern scientific research are the daily values of vitamin D and potassium. Vitamins A and C are no longer required to be on the label, but companies can add them voluntarily.
But, why the change? Research has shown that Americans can much more easily get enough vitamin A and C, making deficiencies in those nutrients rare. For example, scurvy, a disease caused by not getting enough vitamin C and of pirate story fame, isn’t a problem we hear about anymore. What we do hear about now is vitamin D deficiencies and potassium deficiencies, and those can cause problems with our health.
Why is vitamin D important?
Vitamin D is most important for bone health. It helps the body absorb calcium, which is the mineral that makes your bones strong. Vitamin D helps muscles send signals to your brain to move. The body also needs it to support the immune system to keep bacteria and viruses from getting you sick. Vitamin D deficiency can cause fatigue, depression, and decreased immune response. One rare risk vitamin D deficiency is the development of weak, brittle bones.
How much vitamin D do I need and where do I get it?
The amount of vitamin D you need in your diet depends on your age. For example, a child who is zero to 12 months old needs 400 IU of vitamin D. Someone who is 71 or older needs 800 IU of the vitamin.
The main way to get vitamin D is through fortified foods, which means that the vitamin was added to the food or beverage. This includes dairy products, cereal products, and some brands of juices. Other foods have naturally occurring levels of vitamin D, such as fatty fish like salmon and tuna. You can also get some vitamin D through direct exposure to sunlight, but be sure to wear sunscreen and proper protective clothing. The last way to get vitamin D is through a supplement.
Why is potassium important?
Potassium is one of the most important nutrients in your body. It has a huge role in helping your cells balance and regulate fluids. A potassium deficiency could cause high blood pressure, increase the chance of developing kidney stones, and cause a sodium imbalance.
How much potassium do I need and where do I get it?
The amount of potassium you need is also based on your age and sex. For example, women between 19-50 years old need 2,600 milligrams (mg) of potassium daily, and men between those same ages need 3,5400 mg.
Potassium can be found in a bunch of foods. The easiest way to boost your intake is through certain fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as some legumes like soybeans. According to the National Institutes of Health, most Americans get potassium from milk, fruit, and potatoes.
Now that you know more about these essential nutrients, how will you work more into your daily diet?