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Missing Nutrients in Your Food

Even the most conscientious eaters may have dietary deficiencies.


"People don't know much about potassium," says Gidus. "They don't know how important it is, especially for maintaining healthy blood pressure." It's also key in maintaining fluid balance and the function of your nerves and muscles.

Adults should get 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day. "Potassium theoretically should be easy to get enough of, since it's in a lot of foods," says Lucia L. Kaiser, PhD, community nutrition specialist in the department of nutrition at the University of California, Davis. "But many people still don't, because they don't eat enough fruits and vegetables."

Bananas are a familiar source, Gidus says. But there are other ways to get this nutrient in food:

  • Baked sweet potato: 694 milligrams
  • Tomato paste (1/4 cup): 664 milligrams
  • Non-fat plain yogurt (8 ounces): 579 milligrams
  • Yellowfin tuna (3 ounces): 484 milligrams


You've probably heard all about the health benefits of fiber over the years. But given all the emphasis on bowels and regularity, you might assume that you won't have to worry about fiber intake until after retirement.

"People think that fiber is just for old people," says Kaiser. "But it's really important at every age for promoting a healthy intestinal tract and guarding against diseases."

So what does fiber do? In addition to keeping your bowels working well, it reduces the risk of other intestinal problems. Good fiber intake may also help protect against heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. Since fiber is so filling and low on calories, it's often key in many successful weight loss programs.

The amount of fiber you need depends on your age and your sex.

  • Women, age 19-50: 25 grams/day
  • Women, age 51 and older: 21 grams/day
  • Men, age 19-50: 38 grams/day
  • Men, age 51 and older: 30 grams/day

Some good sources of this nutrient in food include:

  • 100% bran cereal (1/2 cup): 8.8 grams
  • Cooked black beans (1/2 cup): 7.7 grams
  • Baked sweet potato, with peel: 4.8 grams
  • Small pear: 4.4 grams
  • Whole-wheat English muffin: 4.4 grams

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