Even if you focus on eating healthy, there could be nutritional holes in your diet. Thankfully, dietitian Julie Upton, MS, RD, of Appetite For Health, has listed out the 10 nutrients most likely to be missing from your diet.
The typical American diet is dismal: it's too high in calories — with more than half of those calories coming from ultraprocessed foods — so it's no surprise that this excess is the main culprit for the weight gain and obesity seen all over the country. What you may not realize: despite excess calories, the typical diet is actually deficient in many essential nutrients due to the poor nutritional value of these processed foods. As a result, 10 essential nutrients are lacking in most women's diets, according to the 2015 to 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The essential nutrients of concern include vitamins A, C, D and E; calcium; iron; potassium; magnesium; choline; and fiber. The best way to ensure that you'll get all of the nutrition your body needs is by eating a balanced diet, rich in fruits and veggies, whole grains, and lean protein.
However, in the case of some nutrients, vegetarians, dark-skinned people, or those who get little exposure to sunlight may need to take a vitamin and mineral supplement. To help ensure quality and purity, choose one that has a seal of approval from a reputable testing organization, like US Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab.com, or NSF International.
Here are 10 nutrients that you may not be getting enough of and how to get more in your diet.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
How Much You Need: 5,000 International Units (IU) or 700 mcgs
Where to Get It: liver, fish and seafood, fortified milk, leafy greens, eggs, yellow or orange produce picks (sweet potato, carrots, mango, apricot, peaches, butternut squash)
How Much You Need: 60 mg
Where to Get It: citrus, leafy greens, bell peppers, potatoes, berries, and tomatoes
How Much You Need: 600 IU or 15 mcg
Where to Get It: fatty fish (i.e., salmon, trout, swordfish, mackerel), cod liver oil, fortified dairy products, mushrooms, pork, eggs, cheese
Supplement Facts: Those who avoid the sun, live in northern latitudes, or have dark skin should consider a vitamin D supplement. Supplements come in two forms — vitamin D2 and D3. Both are considered effective, though vitamin D3 may be more absorbable.
How Much You Need: 15 mg
Where to Get It: vegetable oils, wheat germ, nuts, and seeds
How Much You Need: 1,000 mg per day (1,200 mg for those over age 50)
Where to Get It: dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese; calcium-enriched tofu and milk alternatives; broccoli, kale, and cabbage; sardines and canned salmon (with edible bones)
Supplement: If you need to supplement, take as directed (generally with meals) and be sure you are taking vitamin D with it (or in addition to), as vitamin D can enhance absorption of calcium. (If you take 1,000 mg per day, split into two doses of 500 mg each.)
How Much You Need: 18 mg
Where to Get It: red meat, poultry, and seafood; iron-fortified breakfast cereals and breads; beans; nuts and seeds; raisins
*When eating plant-based sources of iron, combine with vitamin C-rich food to enhance absorption.
How Much You Need: 4.7 g
Where to Get It: citrus fruit, banana, kiwi, prunes, cantaloupe, broccoli, peas, beans, potatoes, squash, red meat, chicken, and fish; dairy products; raisins; tomato juice
How Much You Need: 310-320 mg
Where to Get It: whole grains; legumes; nuts and seeds; beans; bananas; dark, leafy greens; dairy foods
How Much You Need: 25 grams a day or 14 g/1,000 calories consumed
Where to Get It: beans, peas, and lentils; whole grains; fruit and vegetables; nuts and seeds
How Much You Need: 425 mg
Where to Get It: beef liver, wheat germ, egg yolk, beef, poultry, and seafood; peanuts