There are a lot of principles to keep in mind when trying to eat healthier, but this is one of the most important: Make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need. Unfortunately, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Second National Nutrition Report, some aren’t succeeding — many Americans’ diets are lacking in a few key nutrients. Their findings revealed that one deficiency popped up more than others: vitamin B6. A vitamin B6 deficiency was the most common, affecting approximately one in 10 Americans.
Why does this matter? Well, nutrients from your food are required for your body to perform basic functions. Everything from metabolizing energy to replenishing dead skin cells requires nutrients like vitamin C or iron to work best.
Vitamin B6 is important for a few reasons. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), vitamin B6 is involved in over 100 processes in your body, including metabolizing food and creating new red blood cells and neurotransmitters. And the NIH reports that getting enough vitamin B6 may reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and cognitive decline that could lead to Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Certain populations, such as those with autoimmune disorders or poor renal function, are especially vulnerable to this deficiency. But for the average healthy American, combating a nutrient deficiency can be as simple as eating more nutrient-rich foods.
Your body cannot produce vitamin B6 on its own like it can with other nutrients such as vitamin D. Therefore, all of the vitamin B6 you need has to come either from supplements or your diet. But multivitamins are not closely regulated, and there are a few other things you should know before you rely on one. That’s part of why American Dietary Guidelines dictate that your best bet is to get your nutrients from food rather than pills.
Fish, potatoes, other starchy vegetables, chickpeas and non-citrus fruit are some of the richest sources of vitamin B6. Adding a few of these to your diet every day could help ensure you don’t end up among the tenth of Americans who are affected. While evaluating your diet, it doesn’t hurt to watch out for some of the more surprising signs of a nutrient deficiency.