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Where Our Diets Fall Short

You don’t need a sophisticated survey to establish that most Americans are overfed – a casual look around will suffice.What may not meet the eye is that while most of us are getting more than we need in terms of calories, refined carbohydrates, saturated fat and sodium, we’re curiously undernourished when it comes to key nutrients.Recent reports issuing from the U.S.Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that we fail to meet recommended daily allowances for a host of vitamins and minerals.

Regular DNN readers know what they need to eat everyday — and why, having perused our highly popular brochure on the subject (also available in Spanish). What you may not know is where you’re in danger of falling short of dietary recommendations.Well, we’re here to guide you.

The following chart highlights the five most glaring nutrient deficiencies in the American diet.In addition to explaining why the missing nutrients are important, our guide to “what you need — and aren’t getting” also identified top sources of each.

Fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamins A and E aren’t the only nutrients that are slipping through the cracks.Americans are also failing to get enough vitamin C and calcium — while some sub-populations are short on other key nutrients.Read on to find out if you’re at risk of certain nutrient deficiencies.

– One nutrient deficiency is vitamin C, surprising because it’s so easy to meet (e.g.half of one red bell pepper provides well over 100% of the daily requirement).Vitamin C promotes collagen formation, immune function and wound healing.Top sources of vitamin C include red/yellow bell peppers, kiwi, oranges, and broccoli.

– Calcium deficiency is also pervasive, with one half of women and 40% of men failing to get enough.Calcium promotes strong bones and teeth.Top sources of calcium include nonfat milk, soybeans, kale, and arugula.

– One-third of people over 70 years old do not get enough zinc.Zinc helps boost the immune system and may reduce cold symptoms.Top sources of zinc include oysters, beans, oats, and green peas.

– Almost one-third of adult women do not meet the daily vitamin B6 requirement.Vitamin B6 may reduce the risk of heart disease, help make red blood cells, and support normal brain and immune function.

Top sources of vitamin B6 include potatoes, bananas, red bell peppers, and broccoli.

– About 15% of women 14 to 50 years old fall short on iron.Iron is needed to oxygenate the blood and support reproduction.Top sources of iron include cooked clams, spinach, green peas, and soybeans.

– Forty percent of young women (ages 9-18) do not get adequate phosphorus.Phosphorus works with calcium to promote strong bones and teeth.Top sources of phosphorus include lentils, sardines, salmon, and Portobello mushrooms.

Published October 24, 2005

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