7 Nutrients That May Not Be In Your Diet
We often think that what we eat is enough to keep us living a healthy lifestyle. What we don’t know is that many adults lack seven essential nutrients, from calcium to fiber. Other people may be missing even more. We often resort to supplements to remedy this, but food can actually be the best solution to this problem.
Calcium: A nutrient needed for muscle and bone development and more
It is wrong to think that as we grow up, we don’t need calcium anymore. It is true that developing bones need calcium, but it doesn’t stop there because maintaining a strong skeleton for life also requires calcium. Calcium also has a very important role in normalizing heart rhythms, blood clotting and muscular functions. Successful weight control and lower blood pressure can both be linked to adequate calcium intake.
Here are your daily calcium needs according to age:
- 1,000 milligrams – 19-50 year olds
- 1,200 milligrams – 51 years and up
Most people need only to include three servings of dairy food items a day in their balanced diet to meet their calcium requirements. Since calcium is best absorbed in the presence of lactose and natural milk sugar, then it is wise to try to get calcium from dairy foods.
Here are foods that provide 300 milligrams of calcium per serving:
- Milk/Yogurt (8 ounces)
- Calcium enriched orange juice (8 ounces)
- Hard cheese (1.5 ounces)
- Fortified soy beverage (8 ounces)
Other than just calcium, dairy foods and soy also contain magnesium while orange juice supplies you with potassium.
Fiber: Total Health Requirement
Regular bowel movements owe their regularity to fiber which also prevents other intestinal problems including an intestinal inflammation known as diverticular disease. Fiber is also good in promoting overall health. It also prevents the development of chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes; and because it is filling and low in calories, it can help in weight management.
Fiber requirements are based on the required calorie intake. This is the reason why men and women have different fiber needs and why the requirement decreases with age.
- 38 grams – Men, 19-50 years old
- 30 grams – Men, 51 years and up
- 25 grams – Women, 19-50 years old
- 21 grams – Women, 51 years and up
The reason why people don’t get enough beneficial fiber in their diets is the lack of plant foods as well as whole grains.
Here are means of boosting your fiber intake:
- Choose whole grain crackers, vegetables or popcorn over cookies, candy and chips.
- Opt for breads that contain whole grains and cereals. Whole wheat pasta, other whole grains like quinoa, millet, barley, cracked wheat, and wild rice are also good sources of fiber.
- Check the nutrition facts and choose breads with more than three grams of fiber per slice as well as cereals with five or more grams of fiber per serving.
- Bean-based soups such as lentil or black bean are good meal starters. To fiber-boost other recipes, also add canned, rinsed chick peas to salads, soups, egg, and pasta dishes.
- Make fruits, vegetables and whole grains a part of every meal.
Other than just fiber, fresh and lightly processed fruits, vegetables, and beans are also a good source of potassium, while beans are also rich in magnesium.
Magnesium: Immunity booster, Bone Nutrient and more
Many physiological functions require magnesium to work properly. Bone strength, nerve integrity, muscle normalcy, heart function, and peak immunity are all dependent on magnesium.
Your daily requirements for magnesium are as follows:
- 400 milligrams – Men, 19-30 years old
- 420 milligrams – Men, 31 years and up
- 310 milligrams – Women, 19-30 years old
- 320 milligrams – Women, 31 years and up
Your can satisfy your magnesium requirements through the following:
- Magnesium can be found in whole grains, quinoa, and bulgur
- Pumpkin seeds are also magnesium rich
- Top your cereal or low-fat frozen yogurt with slivered almonds
- Substitute your protein from meat with legumes like black beans, white beans or soy a few times each week.
- Have three servings of low fat dairy foods each day.
Other than just magnesium, quinoa and cracked wheat contain helpful fiber. Almonds are also very rich in vitamin E and calcium. Milk is also a viable source of calcium.
Vitamin E: Your Free Radical Destroyer
There is a misconception that we should stay away from fat; this misconception often keeps us from getting the vitamin E that we need. This vitamin, which is found in fatty foods like nuts, seeds, and oils, is a very good antioxidant. It works by destroying free radicals which are unstable oxygen molecules that result from normal metabolism and other things like exposure to air pollution, cigarette smoke, and strong UV rays.
The desire to loose weight keeps people from eating healthy high-fat foods, and hence, keeps people away from vitamin E. Vitamin E can be very easy to acquire – an ounce of sunflower seeds supplies most (2/3) of an adults daily need for the vitamin, or an ounce of almonds provides for half of this need.
Being a complex nutrient, there are 8 kinds of vitamin E, alpha-tocopherol vitamin E (AT) being the most useful of these types. Anybody above the age of 19 requires 15 milligrams of AT every day.
Here are ways to get the Vitamin E that you need:
- Make sunflower seeds and almonds a part of your snack pack or you may also add these to salads, steamed vegetables, and cooked whole grains.
- Indulge in a nut-butter spread over some whole grain bread.
- When cooking, replace your corn or vegetable oil with sunflower or safflower oil.
- Make a rich delicious smoothie with low fat milk, honey, and an ounce of toasted, slivered almonds, all incorporated together in a blender.
- Go for vitamin E fortified, ready to eat, whole grain cereals.
Vitamin E is not the only nutrient that you can get from the above foods, whole grains also supply fiber, sunflower seeds contain magnesium and fiber, and milk is a rich source of calcium.
Vitamin C: Vital Immune System Booster
Although vitamin C is not solely responsible for a healthy immune system, it is known to help the body combat germs and prevent cancer. It has to be noted, however, that cancer prevention through a proper diet focuses on consuming various types of food items containing different nutrients and not only vitamin C. What we already know about vitamin C tells us that this nutrient is vital for healthy connective tissue because it is important in the production of collagen which is a component of muscles, skin, and bones. Vitamin C can also help prevent cellular damage because like vitamin E, it is also an antioxidant.
Your vitamin C daily requirements are as follows:
- 90 milligrams – Men, 19 years old and up
- 75 milligrams – Women, 19 years old and up
Vitamin C cannot be stored by the body, neither can it be produced naturally in your body, hence, it is essential that it is taken in every day. Here are some vitamin C rich foods that you may include in your diet:
- sweet red pepper (raw) – ½ cup = 142 milligrams
- medium kiwi – 70 milligrams
- orange juice – 6 ounces – 61-93 milligrams
- strawberries (raw) – ½ cup = 49 milligrams
- cantaloupe (medium) – ¼ of the whole = 47 milligrams
- broccoli (cooked) – ¼ cup = 51 milligrams
Other than just vitamin C, these foods also provide potassium and fiber. Carotenoids can also be found in sweet red pepper and cantaloupe. Vitamin C consumption also helps in the absorption of iron from plant foods and iron-fortified grains.
Vitamin A and Carotenoids: Bright-eye nutrients
Normal vision, gene expression, tissue growth, and proper immune function are physiological processes requiring vitamin A. This vitamin has two kinds; retinol which is readily used by the body, and carotenoids, which are raw materials that the body converts into vitamin A. Retinol is a normal part of the American diet, unlike carotenoids which are consumed at low levels.
There is no daily requirement for carotenoids; however, it is wise to have foods rich in this nutrient in your every day diet. We can easily tell which food produce contain carotenoids, these are the ones that have bright colors, like the following:
- sweet potato
- sweet pepper
These same food items are also rich in fiber and potassium; spinach contains vitamin C and E, and broccoli contains vitamin C.
Potassium: For Healthy Nerves and Muscles
Every single cell in our body contains potassium. Muscles require potassium to contract normally, and so do nerves, for normal impulse transmission, and fluid balance in general. This nutrient is required for energy production and also helps in promoting strong bones. High blood pressure that comes with age can be avoided with ample potassium intake. All of us above 19 years of age require 4,700 milligrams of potassium every day.
It is wise to consult your doctor if you already suffer from high blood pressure because some medications taken for this condition function as diuretics and causes the body to lose potassium, hence, increasing your potassium needs.
Below are foods that are packed with potassium for your daily needs:
- white beans (canned) – 1 cup = 1,189 milligrams
- spinach (cooked) – 1 cup = 839 milligrams
- sweet potato (cooked) – medium sized = 694 milligrams
- fat-free yogurt – 1 cup = 579 milligrams
- orange juice – 1 cup = 496 milligrams
- broccoli (cooked) = 1 cup = 457 milligrams
- cantaloupe – 1 cup = 431 milligrams
Other nutrients that may be supplied by these foods are magnesium and fiber from beans, fiber and carotenoids from sweet potato, broccoli, and cantaloupe, and calcium from yogurt.
Who are those who would need more nutrients than normally required?
Pregnancy increases the nutrient requirements of women, so those in the childbearing age should stock up on two important nutrients to prepare themselves for motherhood.
Folic acid which is the synthetic form of the B vitamin, folate, helps protect the baby against neural tube defects and also cleft lip or palate during the first trimester. Women should try their very best to acquire the required 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, whether from food supplements or food items that are rich in folate. Since this nutrient is involved in cell production and the prevention of certain types of anemia, folate is just as important for the remaining trimesters of the pregnancy. Even when folic acid is easily absorbed by the body compared to the naturally occurring folate, consumption of folate rich foods is still advisable.
Here are some foods fortified with folic acid:
- ready-to-eat breakfast cereals – 1 ounce = 100-400 micrograms folic acid
- enriched spaghetti (cooked) – 1 cup = 80 micrograms folic acid
- enriched bread – 2 slices = 34 micrograms folic acid
Here also are some folate-rich foods:
- lentils (cooked) – 1 cup = 358 micrograms folate
- spinach (cooked) – 1 cup = 263 micrograms folate
- broccoli (cooked) – 1 cup = 168 micrograms folate
- orange juice – 1 cup = 110 micrograms folate
Iron is vital in the transportation of oxygen to the cells and tissues of the body. Before pregnancy, women should consume adequate iron, and even during pregnancy, because iron is depleted at this stage and may cause iron-deficiency anemia in mothers.
Heme-iron, the highly absorbable form of the nutrient found in animal foods should be consumed by pregnant women in ample amounts. They should also consider having iron-rich plant foods and iron-fortified foods in their diet. This, however, should be accompanied with Vitamin C because this nutrient helps in the absorption of heme-iron. For women ages 19-50, they should consume about 18 milligrams of iron daily, while pregnant women should get 27 milligrams a day.
Here are some sources of heme-iron:
- beef (cooked) – 3 ounces = 3 milligrams
- turkey (cooked) – 3 ounces = 2 milligrams
- light chicken meat (cooked) – 3 ounces = 1 milligram
Sources of non-heme iron:
- whole grain total cereal – ¾ cup = 22 milligrams
- fortified instant oatmeal – 1 cup = 10 milligrams
- soybeans (cooked) – 1 cup = 8 milligrams
- kidney beans (boiled) – 1 cup = 5 milligrams
As we grow old, our nutrient needs also vary. Like people with a dark complexion and those who are not exposed to sunlight that much, older adults may lack Vitamin D. This vitamin is quite unique in that its production is initiated by the skin’s normal response to sunlight, hence, those who avoid the sun may not have enough vitamin D in their bodies. Those who have higher melanin levels in their skin are also prone to vitamin D deficiency because their dark complexion acts as a natural sunscreen. In the same manner, older adults are unable to normally produce vitamin D and are most likely deficient of this nutrient.
Age is very important in this case because vitamin D needs increase to twice the requirement after the age of 51. At this age, one needs to have 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day which is equal to four glasses of milk. After the 70th year, we need to consume 600 IU of vitamin D per day.
The problem gets even worse because most foods are not good sources of vitamin D. A possible solution to this problem is to consume foods that are fortified with the nutrient like milk, breakfast cereals, and food supplements. These items, working hand in hand, may give you the vitamin D that your body requires.