Simple Fixes for a Healthier Diet
Just 5 foods can provide many of the nutrients missing from the typical American diet.
What do you need to eat to have a healthier diet? If you're like the typical
American, you're lacking six key dietary components: vitamins A, E, and C; the
minerals potassium and magnesium, and fiber.
That's the news from America's latest nutritional report card, a U.S.
Department of Agriculture report called "What We Eat in America." The
survey, which measured the food intake of almost 9,000 people, shows that when
it comes to three powerful antioxidants, many of us aren't doing so hot. Almost
everyone surveyed (93%) was getting too little vitamin E from foods and
beverages. Almost a third weren't getting enough vitamin C, and about 44% were
getting too little vitamin A.
Things aren't much better in the mineral department. More than half of those
surveyed weren't getting enough magnesium, and better than 90% needed more
potassium. Further, most weren't meeting the daily fiber recommendations.
We scored better in some other areas. The survey found that less than 3% of
Americans weren't getting enough vitamin B-2 (riboflavin), B-3 (niacin),
selenium, and protein. And only 5% weren't getting enough iron, vitamin B-1
(thiamin), phosphorus, and copper.
The really good news is that we can correct the nutrient shortfall simply by
eating a few plant foods more often: certain fruits and vegetables, plus nuts
and beans. All these foods will also help us get enough fiber, too.
Here's a chart showing you which of the "lost nutrients" can be
found in these powerful plant food groups (Note that several of the food groups
contribute three of the "lost nutrients," and one actually gives you
Dark green, leafy vegetables
Whole grains (whole-wheat pasta, brown rice)
5 Key Foods for a Healthier Diet
What happens if you have a handful of nuts and beans and a serving of dark
green vegetables, plus some citrus and a serving or yellow-orange fruits
or vegetables, every day? With the help of my trusty nutrition analysis
software, I calculated how close these five key foods got me to meeting the
daily needs for the five "lost nutrients" (plus fiber).
The five foods I included were:
- 1/3 cup nuts (I used almonds for my analysis)
- 1/2 cup cooked or canned beans (I used kidney beans)
- 1 cup steamed dark green vegetables (broccoli)
- 1 cup yellow/orange fruit or vegetable (1/2 cup cantaloupe and 1/2 cup
cooked sliced carrots)
- 1 cup fresh citrus juice (fresh orange juice)
The caloric cost for all this food is probably less than you think it is --
just 598 calories. Yet these five foods alone will give you:
- 363% of the Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) of vitamin A (for women
- 388% RDA vitamin C
- 90% RDA vitamin E
- 81% RDA magnesium
- 65% RDA potassium
- 20 grams of fiber (the American Dietetic Association recommends 20-35 daily
grams for healthy adults)
- 0.5g of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
These results literally had me jumping up and down. And the great part is
that these are things you get to add to your diet - which strikes me as
a much happier notion than taking things away. So add these healthy fruits,
veggies, nuts and beans to your grocery list today!