7 Nutrients Your Diet May Be Missing
Are you getting enough essential nutrients -- like calcium, fiber and vitamin E -- in your diet?
By Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD
Reviewed by Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
Think your diet is healthy? Guess again. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans says many adults lack seven essential nutrients -- from calcium to fiber -- and certain groups of people are missing even more. Filling in so many nutrient gaps seems insurmountable without supplements, but more often than not, 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. Besides participating in maintaining a normal heart rhythm, calcium plays a role in blood clotting and muscle function.
"Studies have shown a link between adequate calcium intake and lower blood pressure, as well as weight control," says Marisa Moore, RD, an Atlanta-based spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
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:
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, preferably dairy," advises Moore. Calcium is best absorbed in the presence of lactose, natural milk sugar.
Some examples of foods that provide around 300 milligrams of calcium per serving:
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," says Hillary Wright, MEd, RD, director of nutrition services at the Domar Center for Complementary Healthcare in Boston. "Fiber is also filling, and it's found in foods that are relatively low in calories, so it's central 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:
It's beneficial, so why don't many people get enough fiber? Experts blame a lack of plant foods, including whole grains.
Here are some easy ways to boost fiber intake:
Bonus nutrients: Fresh and lightly processed fruits and vegetables and beans are rich in potassium; beans also supply magnesium.
Magnesium: Essential Nutrient for Bones, Immunity & More
Magnesium is an unsung hero of sorts. This mighty mineral participates in hundreds of bodily functions that foster good health, yet few people know that magnesium contributes to bone strength; promotes peak immunity; and normalizes muscle, nerve, and heart function.
You need this much magnesium every day:
Here's how to satisfy magnesium needs: