The 3 essential nutrients we are all deficient in


The primary function of food is to provide the body with energy to ensure its functioning. As key elements to preserve its physiological balance and protective substances to keep it in shape. But for it to be optimal, it is essential that it combines food in quantity and quality, while taking care to preserve the pleasure of eating. An equation that is not always easy to solve, given everyone’s lifestyles, environmental context and physiological fluctuations!

Two types of nutrients to distinguish

On closer inspection, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to cover the nutrient requirements for some of them and, more is, for each of them through the plate alone. Either because the values ​​to be reached assume the ingestion of disproportionate quantities of food, or because they are simply unachievable from a physiological point of view.

When we talk about nutrients, it is important to distinguish between:

    nutrients that provide energy such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins,

  • and nutrients that contribute to the development and proper functioning of the body such as water, vitamins, minerals, fibers and micronutrients.

If the diet most of the time easily covers the needs for supplier nutrients energy, it is more difficult to reach the recommended daily intake of vitamins, minerals and trace elements by this means alone. To be convinced of this, just look at a few examples of particularly essential nutrients, such as vitamin D, zinc or selenium, which play an important role in the immune system.

Vitamin D: difficult to cover the needs especially in the winter months

The AJR in vitamin D for an adult suppose, on a strictly dietary level and on the basis of the latest recommendations in force, a daily intake of the order of 10 at 20 µg (250 to 800 IU).

Vitamin D intake is quite low from the diet and can only be provided by ingestion of certain sources that are naturally high in fat (fatty fish, eggs, whole dairy products) or through fortified foods (oils, margarines, etc.).

The main source of vitamin D remains exposure to sunrays (90 to 93% of contributions). This is not without problems in our country, especially between the months of October and March. This is why vitamin D deficiency is so prevalent, especially during the winter months.

Zinc: so important for the body and so rare in food

Zinc is a vital element for the body. It contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system, it is essential for cell growth and division (protein and DNA synthesis), it helps maintain normal fertility and contributes to the metabolism of macronutrients, fatty acids and vitamin A, etc Unfortunately, only 20 at 30% of zinc from food is absorbed by the body, which limits actual food intake. The zinc RDAs for an adult male are 10 mg/d, and 8 mg/d for adult women. That is a consumption equivalent to 60 g of wheat germ (14,6mg), 90 g oysters (14,4mg), 250 g beef (11,5 mg) or 800 g of wholemeal bread (15,4 mg)!

Selenium: impossible to satisfy just by food

Selenium is a very important nutrient for the body since it contributes, among other things:

  • to protect cells against damage from oxidative stress,
  • to function normal immune system,

    normal functioning of the thyroid,

  • to maintain nails and hair.

The AJRs in selenium are of 60 mcg/d for adult men and women. Just to cover these recommended daily intakes of selenium, you should eat the equivalent of 70 g of sardines (60 µg ), 250 g oysters (70 mcg), 190 g calf liver (72,2 µg) or more than 1 kg of wholemeal bread (60 µg)!

In addition, unfortunately, soil depletion of selenium (chemical fertilizer, acid rain, etc.) is a reality in Northern Europe. This is an unfavorable factor for the natural content of foods grown in these regions.

However, any deficit or insufficient intake exposes the body to a lower resistance to oxidative stress, to an increased risk of viral infections and the development of certain pathologies. Selenium being in particular a powerful antioxidant.

In view of these three examples, we observe that it is not so easy to provide the body with everything it needs, only by regularly having a varied, balanced and qualitative diet. This is why, in certain circumstances, it is wise to use food supplements to optimize intake and best protect health capital.


EFSA : Dietary Reference Values ​​for nutrients Summary report

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essential nutrients selenium zinc

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