The reason that heavier Americans are nutrient deficient: Foods that are high in calories aren’t necessarily high in vitamins.
Fill your plate with veggies and fruit that deliver nutrient power and balance it with a protein.
- VITAMIN A—Aids bone growth, helps organs function and preserves vision. Find it in: Meat, fish, dairy products and veggies. Eat three cups of dark leafy greens and two cups of orange veggies each week.
- VITAMIN C—Important for collagen production (which helps keep skin resilient), vitamin C is a must-have for all the membranes in the body, from your heart to your adrenal glands (which help control blood pressure and how your body reacts to stress). C has been shown to shorten the duration of a cold if taken before the onset of symptoms. Find it in: Citrus fruits, sweet potatoes and cantaloupe.
- VITAMIN D—Assists in calcium absorption and aids bone growth. It may help keep colds from worsening; helps with asthma. Find it in: Sunlight, fortified milk, orange juice, mushrooms and fatty fish, like salmon, trout and tuna.
- VITAMIN E—Fights off invading bacteria and viruses, and helps widen blood vessels and keep blood from clotting within them, which may help prevent hardening of the arteries. Find it in: Almonds, sunflower seeds, Swiss chard, avocado, peanuts and leafy green veggies.
- CALCIUM—Helps the body do everything from building bone to clotting blood. A deficiency can lead to neuropathy (numbness or tingling in the hands and feet), osteoporosis and more. Find it in: Milk, yogurt, cheese, kale, broccoli, canned sardines, salmon, fortified cereals and fruit juices.
- MAGNESIUM—Necessary for more than 300 chemical reactions in the body, magnesium is key for helping the heart muscle function better, protecting blood vessels, helps with memory, muscle pain, leg cramps and spasms, depression, high blood pressure, asthma, insulin resistance, irregular heartbeat, and according to two recent studies, it may also help reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Find it in: Legumes, whole grains, edamame, dark chocolate,spinach, cashews, avocado, brown rice, black beans and veggies such as broccoli and squash.
- PROTEIN As we age, our bodies are less efficient at processing protein’s amino acids, so we may need more protein to promote healthy muscles, Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, says. A 150-pound woman should get around 68g per day from a mix of lean animal sources, such as chicken or turkey (four ounces has 35g), and plant sources, such as beans (most varieties are 15g per cup).
MY GROCERY LIST BASED ON THE ABOVE:
- Avocado, broccoli, squash, dark leafy greens: kale,swiss chard, spinach
- Orange veggies: Citrus fruits, sweet potatoes and cantaloupe.
- Yogurt, cheese, fortified milk, and fruit juices, orange juice, mushrooms
- Almonds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, cashews
- Brown rice
- Canned sardines, fatty fish, like salmon, trout and tuna.
- Fortified cereals
- Legumes, whole grains, edamame, black beans
- Dark chocolate
- Turkey, chicken
A multivitamin can help offset deficiencies or, to break the high-cal, low-nutrient cycle.
Why it matters: Only 1 percent of women consume enough potassium, a mineral that helps cut your risk for heart disease and stroke by lowering blood pressure. In fact, one analysis of nearly 250,000 adults found that increasing potassium intake by just 1,600mg per day slashed stroke risk by 21 percent. The good news? “Most fresh fruits and vegetables have 300mg to 400mg potassium per serving,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, author of Eating in Color (Stewart, Tabori and Chang).
How much you need: 4,700mg daily
Best food sources: Swiss chard, lima beans, sweet potatoes, bananas and cantaloupeVitamin E
Why it matters: Consider it brain food. New research suggests that vitamin E may protect against what are called white matter lesions—small clumps of dead cells—that are linked to heightened Alzheimer’s risk. The vitamin is mostly found in foods high in fat, though, which means you could be missing out if you’ve reduced your intake of even healthy fats. To make room for more E-rich foods, focus on cutting out sources of empty calories in your diet instead, such as added sugars often found in packaged foods, Largeman-Roth says.
How much you need: 15mg daily
Best food sources: Sunflower seeds, almond butter and hazelnutsCholine
Why it matters: An essential micronutrient, choline supports the liver’s natural detoxification process (no juice cleanse necessary!). Some research also suggests that getting enough choline could reduce your risk for breast cancer. But unfortunately, most women over age 50 take in only half their daily quota.
How much you need: 425mg daily
Best food sources: Eggs (particularly the yolks), salmon and Brussels sproutsVitamin B12
Why it matters: B12 keeps your central nervous system in working order, which is why too little can lead to numbness, weakness and anemia. But adults over 50, as well as those with digestive disorders such as celiac disease, tend to have trouble absorbing the vitamin, Largeman-Roth says. Because it’s found mostly in animal-based foods, vegetarians and vegans also could fall short.
How much you need: 2.4mcg daily
Best food sources: Yogurt, shrimp and chicken or, for vegan options, fortified breakfast cereals and nondairy milksMagnesium
Why it matters: “More than 300 of the body’s biochemical reactions require magnesium,” says Tina Ruggiero, RD, author of The Truly Healthy Family Cookbook (Page Street Publishing). For instance, magnesium helps reduce your chances of hip fracture, keeps your immune system in fighting form and plays a role in staving off diseases such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome. It helps with memory and for people with chronic pain as it inhibnits TNF which is a pain-causing chemical (in higher amounts). Still, research suggests that nearly half of all adults may be deficient—particularly those who eat a gluten-free diet, as whole grains are a significant magnesium source.
How much you need: 320mg daily
Best food sources: Spinach, cashews, avocado, brown rice and black beans
Supplement Magnesium L-threonate
Why it matters: Vitamin D works with calcium to keep your bones strong and reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis. There’s some evidence that it may help prevent depression and cognitive decline, particularly in older adults. But because it’s only found in a few foods, most of us don’t get nearly as much as we should, says Ruggiero.
How much you need: 600IU daily
Best food sources: Salmon, eggs, fortified milk (dairy and nondairy), fortified yogurt and fortified orange juice