7 Nutrients Your Diet May Be Missing
Think your diet is well balanced? It may not be.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, many adults lack essential nutrients, including:
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
Filling in the nutrient gaps may seem insurmountable without supplements, but more often than not, healthy food can solve the shortfalls.
Calcium: Essential Nutrient for Muscles, Bones, and More
You don't outgrow your need for calcium just because you're all grown up. While calcium is necessary to bolster developing bones, it's also needed to keep your skeleton strong throughout life. And that's not all. Calcium is important for maintaining a normal heart rhythm, blood clotting and muscle function. Also, studies have shown a link between adequate calcium intake and lower blood pressure, as well as weight control.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM), the group of experts that sets nutrient quotas, has determined that calcium needs increase with age. Here's what you need every day:
- 19- to 50-year-olds: 1,000 milligrams
- 51 years and up: 1,200 milligrams
Three servings of dairy foods each day, as part of a balanced diet, provides most people with the calcium they need. Try to get calcium from foods including green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and low-fat dairy products. For those with dairy or lactose intolerance, nondairy milk products are available.
Some examples of foods that provide around 300 milligrams of calcium per serving include:
- 8 ounces of milk or yogurt
- 8 ounces calcium-added orange juice
- 1 1/2 ounces hard cheese
- 8 ounces fortified soy beverage
Bonus nutrients: Dairy foods and soy supply magnesium; orange juice packs potassium.
Fiber: Essential Nutrient for Overall Health
Fiber is best known for keeping bowel movements regular and preventing other intestinal woes, including diverticular disease, an intestinal inflammation. Years of research on fiber underscores its importance in overall health, too.
Fiber-rich foods lower the risk of developing chronic conditions, including heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Fiber is also filling, and it's found in foods that are relatively low in calories, so it's important to weight control.
Fiber needs are based on calorie requirements. That's why men and women generally differ in their daily fiber needs, and why quotas decline with age:
- Men 19- to 50-years-old: 38 grams; 51 years and older: 30 grams
- Women 19- to 50-years-old: 25 grams; 51 years and older: 21 grams
It's beneficial, so why don't many people get enough fiber? Experts say they aren't eating enough plant foods.
Here are some easy ways to boost fiber intake:
- Snack on whole-grain crackers, fruit, or vegetables or popcorn (a whole grain) instead of cookies, candy, and chips.
- Choose whole-grain breads and cereals, whole-wheat pasta, and other whole grains, such as quinoa (gluten-free alternative), millet, barley, cracked wheat, and wild rice.
- Look for breads with more than 3 grams fiber per slice; go for cereals with five or more grams of dietary fiber per serving.
- Start a meal with bean-based soups, such as lentil or black bean. Add canned, rinsed chickpeas to salads, soups, egg, and pasta dishes.
- Include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains at every meal.
If you are gluten intolerant, add fiber to your diet by eating more fruits and vegetables.
Bonus nutrients: Fresh and lightly processed fruits and vegetables and beans are rich in potassium; beans also supply magnesium.