5 Foods You Aren't Eating Enough

Holli Lapes, RD, LD/N

Most Americans are in a constant balancing act managing our daily lives. We try to juggle work & play, family & friends and somewhere in between we need to find time to maintain a balanced diet.

It all depends on your lifestyle, of course, but chances are many of you may not be getting enough of these five types of foods. Focus on increasing your intake of them, and you'll be well on your way toward nutritional improvements.

Potassium-Rich Foods

If you are one of the 70 million Americans adults that have high blood pressure, or even among the 1 in 3 adults that have conventionally defined prehypertension, then you’ve probably been told to change your diet by cutting back on sodium.1

A low sodium diet may not be the solution for everyone, but that is another topic entirely. But did anyone tell you what you should eat MORE of? Potassium helps to balance out sodium and the goal should be to correct your sodium to potassium ratio.2

Ironically, diuretic hypertension medications deplete potassium and magnesium. The first food that may come to mind are bananas. Here are some other rich sources of potassium: plums, oranges, tomato, lima beans and spinach. When it comes to potassium, we suggest getting it primarily from your diet. Around 35 mg – 99 mg is a good adjunct when it comes to a supplemental potassium. Note: Individuals with advanced stages of kidney disease must limit high potassium foods.

Magnesium-Rich Foods

Magnesium is a crucial mineral for healthy bones but is also very important for heart health due to its role as an electrolyte.3

Unfortunately, it is one that is commonly depleted by prescription medications including acid blockers, antibiotics and corticosteroids. People who are deficient may be fatigued and suffer from insomnia. Although serum levels are routinely tested on a CBC, they really are not a good reflection of total magnesium storage in the body.3

Check your levels is through an RBC (Red Blood Cell) Mg blood test. Some food sources of magnesium include brown rice, almonds and swiss chard.

Calcium-Rich Foods

The USDA have been long time advocating the inclusion of dairy at each meal as depicted by MyPlate (which replaced the food pyramid) suggesting Americans have a glass of milk* with each meal.4 Does anyone really do that? We live in a modern day world with an increased prevalence of lactose intolerance and milk allergies. Many people choose alternative milks that are fortified to include calcium but this doesn’t mean Americans are getting enough. (*Or equivalent serving of cheese, yogurt or soy milk.)

According to Harvard Medical School, osteopenia (decreased bone mineral density) affects about half of Americans over age 50.5 We should not only make sure that we are reaching our peak bone mass but also ensure we are getting enough calcium as we age to avoid full blown osteoporosis. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons states: “Most people will reach their peak bone mass between the ages of 25 and 30.6

By the time we reach age 40, however, we slowly begin to lose bone mass.” In reference to menopausal women, “As the levels of estrogen drop dramatically, women undergo rapid bone loss.” To put this in perspective: In women over 45 years of age, osteoporosis accounts for more days spent in hospital than many other diseases, including diabetes, myocardial infarction, and breast cancer, says the International Osteoporosis Foundation.7

No dairy? No problem! There are non-dairy, plant based sources of calcium including bok choy, kale, broccoli, pinto beans and white beans. We suggest men and women have around 1,200 mg of calcium daily, which can be a combination of intake from both diet and supplements. Note: we highly suggest taking vitamin K2 when supplementing with calcium.

Vitamin D-Rich Foods

Vitamin D can be ingested from food and can also be produced in the skin. Skin has the ability to manufacture vitamin D using sunlight but with limitations such as age, skin color, geographic latitude and, of course, sunscreen use.8

Vitamin D is found in foods such as sardines, tuna, salmon and egg yolk. A 4 oz piece of wild salmon will provide you with around 500 IU of vitamin D and an egg, almost 44 IU.9,10 Considering that that RDA is 600 IU, salmon is an excellent source of vitamin D. With the RDA often proving itself inadequate to promote optimal health, especially for vitamin D, what does this mean for our health?

With research showing that people who have optimal vitamin D levels are at a reduced risk of dying from any cause – it sure means A LOT for our health, way beyond bone health in fact.11 Thankfully, even mainstream doctors are starting to routinely test for it. We suggest maintaining a range between 50–80 ng/mL for optimal health.

Unfortunately, it may be nearly impossible to get enough vitamin D from food and the sun alone to get in this optimal range, especially if you are deficient. Note: Individuals supplementing with doses over 2,000 IU per day should monitor their vitamin D status though blood work.

Green Foods

Yes, we need to eat more vegetables in general but sometimes green foods don’t make the cut. Green foods tend to be alkalinizing which may help to promote an optimal acid-base balance in the body (although the body does a pretty good job at maintaining this balance).12

Also, greens tend to be non-starchy (besides peas, for instance) so they are often referred to as a free food for those who count carbs due to diabetes or other reasons. Take celery for example, it’s a great source of fiber with very low calories. Kale offers a significant amount of protein considering it’s a plant-based food. But perhaps the #1 reason you should be including more green foods is because of their chlorophyllin content and its detoxifying properties that protect our cells from becoming cancerous.13

References:

  1. Available at:http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm Accessed October 17, 2016
  2. Available at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sodium-potassium-balance/ Accessed October 17, 2016
  3. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4455825/ Accessed October 17, 2016
  4. Available at: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/dairy Accessed October 17, 2016
  5. Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/osteopenia_when_you_have_weak_bones Accessed October 17, 2016
  6. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00127 Accessed October 17, 2016
  7. Available at: https://www.iofbonehealth.org/facts-statistics Accessed October 17, 2016
  8. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3738435/ Accessed October 17, 2016
  9. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=104 Accessed October 17, 2016
  10. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=92 Accessed October 17, 2016
  11. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18574092 Accessed October 17, 2016
  12. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3195546/ Accessed October 17, 2016
  13. Available at:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25650669 Accessed October 17, 2016

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