The Center for Disease Control (CDC) currently recommends eating nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. On average however, we are usually eating closer to two servings per day. Given the reality of our ever growing to-do lists and busy schedules; well-rounded, home-cooked meals aren’t always an option. Additionally, our weather in the Pacific Northwest is filled with gloomy, rain-stricken days making vitamin deficiency a hot topic at any primary care clinic.
So where do you begin? Here are some tips on identifying which foods are rich in these nutrients and how to incorporate these foods into your meal and snack times to reach your daily needs.
A major player in skeletal health, calcium also helps out in the circulatory system and with cell signaling. Calcium is found in dairy products (i.e. milk, yogurts and cheese) fortified juices, canned salmon and some plant sources such as tofu. Try making tuna melts with salmon instead of tuna or enjoy plain-low fat yogurt with fresh fruit for a mid-morning snack.
This vitamin, like calcium plays a key role in bone health. There is also growing evidence supporting vitamin D’s role in preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. Vitamin D is in milk and some yogurt and can also be found in eggs, mushrooms, and some fortified foods. While Vitamin D can also be synthesized from exposure to sunlight, don’t count on getting much from our cloud-stricken Seattle weather. Starting your day with a hard-boiled egg or having a glass of milk instead of your midday soda can help.
Potassium helps to regulate blood pressure and is crucial in muscle and cardiac function. Bananas usually come to mind when we think of potassium but many people don’t realize that lots of other nutritious foods are also rich in potassium. These include beans, potatoes, plain yogurt, and fruits and vegetables.
Fiber is a non-digestible nutrient found mostly in plant sources including whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Fiber can be thought of as a “Renaissance Man” as it has a vast number of health benefits. Fiber can also help support colon health, blood sugar balance, decrease the risk of coronary heart disease, and help to support a healthy weight. Next time you’re at the Wedgwood Ale House, try switching your favorite sandwich bread or wrap from refined bread to whole grain! Quinoa is a particularly high fiber grain which can be used in exchange for rice. Snacking on fruits and vegetables in between meals can also help to bump up the fiber. Bonus? Fiber helps you to feel full longer, so you may be able to resist that mid-afternoon candy bar.
Taking a multivitamin can always help to increase nutrient intake as well. However, most dietitians recommend trying to get these nutrients from your foods versus from a supplement. If you do choose to take a multivitamin be cautious so as to avoid potential vitamin toxicities, particularly from vitamins, A, D, E, and K. These vitamins are fat-soluble meaning that your body can not easily excrete excess amounts thus increasing the risk to potentially overdo it.
At the end of the day following a balanced diet, complete with all the necessary nutrients will help you to feel your best. If you eat a varied diet, you do not need to stress about filling your vitamin quota but each of the above suggestions can be found at the Wedgwood QFC or other local grocers. If you’re interested in learning more about proper nutrients, make an appointment with a dietitian, nutritionist or your primary care provider to see which vitamins are right for you and your lifestyle.