By Elisha Aispuro, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor
The life of a college student is hectic, unpredictable, and caffeine-driven for many. Long hours of studying with so many other responsibilities make it difficult to prioritize mental and physical well-being. This lack of time, in addition to other barriers, such as limited access to nutrient-dense foods, lack of nutrition education in the K-12 system, and financial limitations may lead to nutrient deficiencies so keep reading to find out some ways to get more of these important nutrients.
Calcium is an essential mineral for the maintenance and further development of strong bones. A long period of calcium deficiency may lead to decreased bone mass, increased risk of osteoporosis, weak nails, and hair loss, among other alarming health effects. Getting adequate calcium results from eating enough calcium and vitamin D-rich food as well as from getting enough vitamin D from the sun before using sunscreen. It’s important to mention that our bodies need sufficient amounts of Vitamin D to be able to absorb calcium. Some rich sources of calcium include dairy products, soybeans, dark leafy greens, calcium-fortified foods, and figs. Some rich sources of Vitamin D include salmon, mushrooms, eggs, fish, yogurt, and fortified tofu.
Research has shown that on average, college students are consuming only about one serving of fiber per day. There are two types of dietary fiber, insoluble and soluble, which both carry a multitude of health benefits such as improving digestive health and bowel regularity. A long period of dietary fiber deficiency may lead to poor blood sugar control, a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and constipation. These potential health side-effects can be easily avoided by increasing fiber intake through a variety of delicious vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Some high-fiber sources include lentils, beans, broccoli, berries, and whole-wheat pasta.
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have many health benefits, such as aiding in the improvement of brain function and mood, as well as helping reduce inflammation through
its several anti-inflammatory properties. Unfortunately, current dietary patterns in the U.S. follow an extremely high intake of omega-6 fatty acids that vastly differ from omega-3 fatty acids. Research has shown that Omega-6s are pro-inflammatory and a diet very high in omega-6s but low in omega-3s increases inflammation and the risk of several cardiovascular diseases. This isn’t to say you should stop consuming omega-6s altogether because omega-6s play a crucial role in brain function, the stimulation of skin and hair growth, and metabolism regulations. It’s best to try focusing on including both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as it’s the best way to get the best of both worlds in terms of health benefits from each nutrient. Some rich sources of omega-3s include salmon, tuna, shrimp, flaxseeds, kidney beans, soybeans, spinach, and walnuts. Some rich sources of omega-6s are corn, sunflower oil, meat, poultry, and eggs.
Overall, with a busy college schedule, it may seem impossible to try to include all these nutrients every day which is why it’s best to start small. The next time you walk by a grocery aisle try to guess and look upon google if needed, whether some of your favorite go-to foods contain some of these important nutrients. If they don’t I’d recommend trying to incorporate some of the rich sources of omega-3s, fiber, or calcium into your next shopping trip by reaching for vibrant items in the produce or meat section, such as salmon or broccoli.
Are there any tasty sources of omega-3s, calcium, or fiber that are part of your daily routine and you can’t live without?
Let us know about these delicious and nutritious foods in the comments below!