The standard American diet, better known as S.A.D., is just that. It’s sad, people. Real sad.
As a country, we’re overfed and undernourished because of an overabundance of processed foods high in simpler carbohydrates and refined sugars. The saddest part is that because of this diet there has been a significant increase over the past century in chronic diseases and illness that are totally preventable. If we would simply eat better, we would feel better.
So, what’s the fix? Eat more whole foods. It’s simple. One of the main problems with highly processed foods is that they’re missing some key nutrients that are essential for optimal health. Whole foods, on the other hand—including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins—contain antioxidants, minerals and other nutrients that are critical for our health. And you can get so much more out of foods than you can from dietary supplements.
Here’s the quick Cliff Notes version of the key nutrients that are likely missing from your diet (according to the Department of Health and Human Services), and the whole foods you can eat to get more of ‘em.
Key Nutrients Likely Missing From Your Diet
Why you need it: Dietary fiber is really like the be-all-end-all of nutrients. It’s what helps move food swiftly through your digestive system, and what makes you feel full and stay satisfied after eating. It also helps regulate blood pressure. Diets rich in fiber have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
Where to get it: Black beans, lentils, sweet potato, and dates.
Why you need it: Magnesium plays a central role in nearly every bodily process, including metabolizing insulin, synthesizing DNA and strengthening bones. Low levels of magnesium in the body have been associated with a number of diseases, including Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
Where to get it: Avocado, leafy greens, black beans, oatmeal, dates and fortified cereals.
Why you need it: Potassium helps the body maintain the right fluid balance and improves nerve impulses. It has also been found to prevent kidney stones and bone loss.
Where to get it: Almonds, banana, potatoes, salmon, dried apricots and dates.
Why you need it: If those milk commercials ever taught you anything, it’s that calcium is good for strong bones and overall bone health. It also plays a critical role in nerve transmission and cardiovascular health. To top it off, calcium has been found to prevent osteoporosis and works in conjunction with Vitamin D to maximize nutrient absorption.
Where to get it: Milk, yogurt, leafy greens, soy, sardines and dates.
- Vitamin B12
Why you need it: It keeps your nervous system in check and helps build red blood cells. A lack of it can lead to fatigue and has even been linked to depression. Unfortunately for vegetarians, it’s only found in meat and eggs, but tofu is a decent plant source. Most of these foods also contain omega-3 fatty acids which are important nutrients for a well-functioning body.
Where to get it: Egg yolks, beef, sardines, nutritional yeast and tofu.
As you can see, a lot of the same whole foods are, including leafy greens and dates, are found in most of these key nutrients. Adding just a few servings of each of these foods per day could help you make up for what you might be missing and contribute to a healthy eating lifestyle.