By Chris Mohr, PH.D., R.D.
Photo by Thinkstock
We are in the midst of a nutrition crisis as a nation where we’re overfed, yet undernourished. Data suggests we’re falling short of the recommended nutrient intake of several nutrients--namely fiber, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin D--even though we’re eating more calories than our bodies need. In other words, America has a “broken diet” problem that fortunately can be changed with a few simple tweaks. Here’s why you need to pay attention to these often-neglected nutrients, along with the easy ways to pack them into your diet.
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The recommendations from the Institute of Medicine for 19- to 50-year-old men is to get around 38 grams (g) of fiber daily. That’s a crazy high mark to hit--think 9 apples, for example. (Most people only eat about 15 g of fiber daily.) While the RDA is more than double what most guys are actually eating, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to get more. Aside from helping with digestion and making it a bit easier in the bathroom, fiber-rich foods can keep your heart health in check, control your cholesterol, and protect you from diabetes and high blood pressure.
Your easy fiber fix: Simple additions throughout the day include snacking on fruit and nuts, topping your salads with beans, and building your meals around vegetables. Or try this recipe for breakfast: Add ½-cup of cooked rolled oats to a bowl, top with 1-cup milk, 1-cup blueberries and a dash of cinnamon. Soak overnight and enjoy it cold the next morning to add around 6 g of fiber to your morning routine.
This is a key mineral and electrolyte that helps your muscles contract, controls the activity of your heart, and helps control blood pressure. (Something particularly important as you get older.) It’s recommended that guys get 4,700 mg of potassium daily, but according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics we’re hitting just about half that.
Your easy potassium fix: Potassium is particularly high in common fruits and vegetables, but other sources pack a big punch--a baked potato has nearly 800 mg and a cup of white beans comes in at nearly 1,200 mg. Avocado offers around 487 mg of potassium, which is more than a medium banana at 422 mg. Try topping a burger with half a fresh medium Hass avocado for a quick dose.
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If you want to keep your vision and immune system in check, you’ll need more of this nutrient. Vitamin A comes in two forms--retinol and carotenoids--and the carotenoid form is the more challenging one to get. In fact, data from the National Health and Nutrition Survey shows we’re getting just about 50 percent of the vitamin A we need.
Your vitamin A fix: To up your intake, think about orange, red, and yellow colored vegetables like peppers that can be added to your omelet or carrots and hummus for your lunch. Also go for cantaloupe. Just 1 cup provides over 100 percent of your recommended daily intake for the nutrient. You can even top wedges of cantaloupe with cottage cheese and a handful of almonds for a solid meal with a high quality protein, healthy fats, fiber, and vitamin A.
If you have naturally darker skin, are over 50 years old, or play a pasty vampire in teen movies, you may lack vitamin D. In fact, research has found that more than a third of American men--including young, healthy men who live in sunny states--aren’t hitting the recommended intake of 600 IUs. (Plus, experts think that number is probably too low.) Vitamin D deficiency may show up as fatigue or achiness, though sometimes there are no symptoms at all. (Ask your doctor to test your levels when you go for a checkup.)
Your vitamin D fix: Swap out your usual chicken breast for a 4 oz piece of wild salmon. Each filet has around 450 IUs. Then pick up a pack of Dole Portobello mushrooms as a side, brush them with balsamic vinaigrette, and grill them. Just like we make vitamin D from sun exposure, these mushrooms are grown under special light to provide 100 percent of the RDA for vitamin D. Together this dish offers over 1,000 IUs.
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Chris Mohr, Ph.D., R.D., is a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant, and the owner of MohrResults.com.