Eating Too Much but Getting Too Little
Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD
Here’s a bit of a paradox for you. Many of us are too many calories, too much fat, too much salt and too much sugar. But at the same time, we’re eating too little – too little fiber, potassium, magnesium and vitamin D. We spend so much time talking about all the things we should be cutting back on, so let’s turn the tables a bit and talk about how to get more of these important nutrients from the diet.
- Fiber is best known for helping with regularity, but high fiber foods are also filling and relatively low in calories, The problem is, most of us don’t eat enough fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains to hit our fiber goals. But it’s a fairly easy fix – just include a fruit or vegetable at every meal and snack, eat whole grain products whenever you can, and add beans to dishes like soups and salads. If you still can’t get enough, try a fiber supplement.
- Potassium is such an important mineral – it supports the function of nerves and muscles and also helps us get energy from our food. But the vast majority of Americans, of all ages, don’t get enough. The problem, again, is a lack of fruits and veggies, which are the richest sources of potassium. It’s also found in dairy products, meat, fish, poultry, whole grains and beans.
- Magnesium isn’t a mineral we think about much, but it contributes to literally hundreds of bodily functions. Magnesium helps your cells to produce energy and most of the magnesium in your body is found in your bones so it helps keep your skeleton healthy, too. Once again, our reliance on refined foods has stripped much of the magnesium out of our diet. But it should be easy to get enough if you regularly include fish, nuts, leafy greens, beans, dairy products and whole grains in your diet.
- Most people associate calcium with healthy bones, but your bones need Vitamin D too; since it helps your bodies absorb calcium from your diet. Not many foods naturally contain vitamin D, though, which is one reason many of us don’t get enough. Fatty fish are one of the richest natural sources, and in the US milk is fortified with vitamin D so it’s a good source, too. Your body can also make some vitamin D in the skin when it’s exposed to sunlight, but the amount that’s made depends on many things, including the time of year, your use of sunscreen, your age, your skin type, and where you live. So a combination of fortified foods and supplements might be called for, in order to give your body the vitamin D it needs.