You try to eat a balanced diet, but nobody’s perfect! Experts have identified five nutrients that require particular attention because they often go missing from meal plans. A few minor adjustments to your diet may be just enough to include the nutrients you need. Here’s what to add, and how to do it.
Why it’s important: This mineral helps to maintain healthy blood pressure, heartbeat, and muscle function.
How to get enough: Potassium is found in nearly every food. Fresh or lightly processed foods, including fruit, vegetables, and legumes, offer the most potassium. But dairy foods, meat, and seafood are also good sources of potassium. Include at least five servings of produce daily to help meet potassium needs. Build a potassium-packed meal by topping Eat Smart Gourmet Vegetable Salad Kits with four ounces of cooked chicken or canned tuna.
Why it’s important: Fiber helps to keep the intestinal tract healthy, and contributes to controlling levels of cholesterol and glucose. How to get enough: Legumes (beans such as chickpeas and lentils), fruit, vegetables, and whole grains offer the most fiber. Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables and at least three servings of whole grains every day. Try topping salad greens with legumes and opt for bean-based soups.
Why it’s important: Calcium is critical for bone health and may help prevent colon cancer. It’s also necessary for a regular heartbeat and normal muscle movement.
How to get enough: Dairy foods are among the best natural sources of calcium. Include three servings of dairy products daily or the equivalent, such as soy beverages that are fortified with calcium. Dark leafy greens, including collard greens and spinach, also provide calcium.
Why it’s important: Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium from foods and dietary supplements.
How to get enough: Your body produces vitamin D when your skin is exposed to strong sunlight. However, many people don’t make enough vitamin D. Only a few foods, such as salmon and tuna, are good natural sources of vitamin D. Milk, soy beverages, and orange juice with added vitamin D also help satisfy your needs.
However, it’s difficult to fulfill vitamin D requirements with food alone. It’s a good idea to eat foods rich in vitamin D, such as milk and take a dietary supplement to fill in any gaps.
Why it’s important: Iron helps your body transport oxygen to your cells. Adequate iron intake helps prevent iron-deficiency anemia, which is relatively common in younger children and in women in their childbearing years.
How to get enough: Lean meat, poultry, and seafood are good or excellent iron sources and most adults should eat at least six ounces of these proteins daily. Plant foods, including legumes and dark green leafy vegetables, offer iron too. Other foods that are enriched or fortified with iron, such as cereal, pasta, and bread, are reliable sources; include at least three servings daily as part of a balanced eating plan.