4 essential nutrients — are you getting enough?

The latest diet guidelines for Americans say that many Americans are not getting enough of four essential nutrients. Over time, a shortage of these nutrients can affect different aspects of your health, from teeth and bones to the heart, intestines, muscles, blood pressure, weight, etc.

What is a nutritional deficit?

Nutritional advice can be confusing. Eat more of this, less of that. Make sure you have enough, but not too much. It is no wonder that many people suffer from so-called nutritional deficits because their diet lacks essential nutrients.

So what nutrients do you really need and how much? And what essential nutrients are most people lacking?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 provide an overview. Updated every five years by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA, the report found that many Americans are lacking in four essential nutrients: calcium, potassium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D .

According to the guidelines, these four items are “considered food items of public health concern for the general American population.” This is what the government is talking about: These nutrients help keep you healthy and you should probably eat more of them.

Four nutrients you need – and where to find them

Here’s a look at these four nutrients, how much you need, and some of the best sources, according to recent guidelines.

The specific daily amounts of each nutrient are based on the Recommended Daily Calorie Intake for adult men and women who do not need to lose or gain weight. For example:

  • Women aged 19 to 50 should aim for 1,800 to 2,000 calories per day and women aged 51 and over 1,600 calories
  • Men aged 19 to 50 should aim for 2,200 to 2,400 calories, and those aged 51 and over 2,000 calories.

Of course, specific calorie needs depend on the individual, but these numbers offer a reasonable estimate.

Food is always the preferred source, as it gives you other essential vitamins and minerals needed for optimal health. However, if you have trouble eating the suggested foods, ask your doctor if supplements are an option.

Keep in mind that the servings listed for these foods are not recommended servings. But they should help you get more of the Fab Four in your daily diet. (See this DGA resource page for a more detailed list of foods containing these nutrients.)

Calcium

How many: women: 1000 to 1200 milligrams (mg); men: 1000 mg

Where to find it? 8 ounces of plain fat-free yogurt: 488 mg; 1 cup of low fat or soy milk: 301 to 305 mg; 1 cup of cooked spinach: 245 mg; 1/2 cup of tofu: 434 mg.

Potassium

How many: women: 2,600 mg; men: 3400 mg

Where to find it? 1 cup cooked lima beans: 969 mg; 1 medium baked potato with skin: 926 mg; 1 cup of cooked acorn squash: 896 mg; 1 medium banana: 451 mg; 3 ounces of skipjack: 444 mg.

Alimentary fiber

How many? women from 22 to 28 mg; men: 28 to 34 mg

Where to find it? 1 cup of grated wheat cereal: 6.2 mg; 3 cups of popcorn: 5.8 mg; 1/2 cup cooked white or white beans: 9.3 to 9.6 mg; 1 cup of berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries): 6.2 mg to 8 mg.

Vitamin D

How many? women and men: 600 international units (IU)

Where to find it? 3 ounces of salmon: 383 to 570 IU; 3 ounces of canned light tuna: 231 IU; 1 cup of unsweetened soy milk: 119 IU; 1 cup of 1% milk: 117 IU; 8 ounces of plain fat-free yogurt: 116 IU; 1 cup of 100% fortified orange juice: 100 IU.

Post 4 Essential Nutrients – Are You Getting Enough? first appeared on Harvard Health Blog.

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Jothi Venkat

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