7 Nutrients Your Diet May Be Missing
Vitamin A and Carotenoids: Essential Nutrient for Eyes
An important player in good health, vitamin A is essential for normal vision, gene expression, tissue growth, and proper immune function, among many other duties.
Vitamin A comes in two forms: as retinol (preformed and ready for the body to use) and carotenoids, the raw materials the body converts to vitamin A. Americans have no trouble consuming adequate retinol, but they don't get nearly enough carotenoids.
Concentrate on including colorful produce in your diet to get more carotenoids. Top picks include:
- Sweet potato
- Sweet red pepper
Bonus nutrients: Foods that contain carotenoids are rich in potassium and fiber; there's vitamin E and magnesium in spinach, and vitamin C in broccoli.
Potassium: Essential Nutrient for Nerves and Muscles
Potassium is present in every cell of your body. It plays a central role in normal muscle contraction, transmission of nerve impulses, and fluid balance. Potassium even serves to promote strong bones, and it's necessary for energy production.
Adequate potassium intake hedges against high blood pressure, which creeps up with age. Men and women over age 19 need 4,700 milligrams of potassium every day.
If you already have high blood pressure, check with your doctor or pharmacist about the medications you take to control it. Some drugs, including certain diuretics, cause the body to lose potassium, which increases your potassium needs.
These potassium-packed foods will help you meet your daily quota:
- 1 cup canned white beans: 1,189 milligrams
- 1 cup cooked spinach: 839 milligrams
- Medium sweet potato, cooked: 694 milligrams
- 1 cup fat-free yogurt: 579 milligrams
- 1 cup orange juice: 496 milligrams
- 1 cup cooked broccoli: 457 milligrams
- 1 cup cantaloupe: 431 milligrams
Bonus nutrients: Beans supply magnesium and fiber. Sweet potato, broccoli, and cantaloupe can boost fiber and carotenoids; yogurt contains calcium.
Who May Need Even More Nutrients?
Women of Childbearing Age
If there's a chance you'll become pregnant or are pregnant, two nutrients are particularly important.
Folic acid is the synthetic form of the B vitamin folate. Once you conceive, folic acid (and folate, the natural form) help protect your baby against neural tube defects (and possibly cleft lip and/or palate) during the first 30 days.
Getting the recommended 400 micrograms of folic acid every day from supplements is critical for women who may become pregnant. Folate is important throughout the remainder of pregnancy, too. It's involved in cell production and guards against a certain type of anemia.
In addition to taking a folic acid supplement, it is important to eat folate-rich foods including:
- Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals: 1 ounce equals 100-400 micrograms folic acid
- Enriched spaghetti: 1 cup cooked equals 80 micrograms folic acid
- Enriched bread: 2 slices equals 34 micrograms folic acid
- Lentils: 1 cup cooked equals 358 micrograms folate
- Spinach: 1 cup cooked equals 263 micrograms folate
- Broccoli: 1 cup cooked equals 168 micrograms folate
- Orange juice: 1 cup equals 110 micrograms folate