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4 Essential Nutrients – Are You Enough? – Harvard Health Blog

4 Essential Nutrients – Are You Enough?  – Harvard Health Blog

The latest dietary guidelines for Americans say that many Americans do not get enough of four essential nutrients. Over time, deficiencies in these nutrients can affect different aspects of your health, from teeth and bones to heart, intestines, muscles, blood pressure, weight and more.

What is malnutrition?

Nutritional tips can be confusing. Eat this more, less. Make sure you have enough, but not too much. It is not surprising that many people have so-called nutritional deficiencies where the diet does not have enough nutrients.

So what foods do you really need and how much? And what essential nutrients do most people lack?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025 offers some insights. Updated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA every five years, the report found that many Americans lack four essential nutrients: calcium, potassium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D.

According to the guidelines, these four are “considered a dietary concern for public health for the entire U.S. population.” That’s the government’s debate: These nutrients help you stay healthy, and you should probably eat more.

The four nutrients you need and where to find them

Here are four of these foods, how much you need and some of the best sources, according to the latest guidelines.

The specific daily amounts of each food are based on the recommended daily caloric intake for adult men and women who should not lose weight or gain weight. For example:

  • Women between the ages of 19 and 50 should have between 1,800 and 2,000 calories a day, and women between the ages of 51 and over should have 1,600 calories.
  • Men between the ages of 19 and 50 should have 2,200 to 2,400 calories, and men aged 51 and over should have 2,000 calories.

Of course, specific calorie needs depend on the individual, but these figures provide a reasonable estimate.

Food is always the preferred source, as it provides you with other essential vitamins and minerals needed for optimal health. However, if you have trouble eating the suggested foods, check with your doctor if supplements are an option.

Keep in mind that the portions listed in these foods are not recommended for serving. They will help you get the best four out of your daily diet. (See This DGA resource page for a more detailed list of foods that contain these foods.)


How much: women: 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams (mg); males: 1,000 mg

Where to find it? 8-ounce plain, fat-free yogurt: 488 mg; 1 cup low-fat or soy milk: 301 to 305 mg; 1 cup boiled spinach: 245 mg; 1/2 cup tofu: 434 mg.


How much: women: 2,600 mg; males: 3,400 mg

Where to find it? 1 cup cooked lime beans: 969 mg; 1 medium baked potato: 926 mg; 1 cup boiled acorn pumpkin: 896 mg; 1 medium banana: 451 mg; 3 ounce tuna: 444 mg.

Dietary fiber

How much? women 22 to 28 mg; males: 28 to 34 mg

Where to find it? 1 cup crushed wheat cereal: 6.2 mg; 3 cups popcorn: 5.8 mg; 1/2 cup white or white beans: 9.3 to 9.6 mg; 1 cup berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries): 6.2 mg and 8 mg.

Vitamin D.

How much? women and men: 600 international units (IU)

Where to find it? 3-ounce salmon: 383 and 570 IU; 3 ounce light tuna: 231 IU; 1 cup unsweetened soy milk: 119 IU; Cup 1% 1 milk: 117 IU; 8 ounce plain yogurt: 116 IU; 1% 100 per cent fortified orange juice: 100 IU.

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