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Diet Fads May Be Robbing Your Body of 4 Elements Key to Good Health

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is key to good health. (Photo: Bill Ebbesen)

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is key to good health. (Photo: Bill Ebbesen)

Diet fads may be robbing your body of four essential elements that are the keys to good health. Fad diets may be designed to shed weight fast, but rarely consider the long-term consequences to your body.

A new study by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture found that many Americans are lacking in four vital nutrients: calcium, potassium, dietary fiber and vitamin D.

The four elements are the keys to good health.

Over time, a shortfall of these nutrients may affect different aspects of your health, from teeth and bones to your heart, gut, muscles, blood pressure, weight, and more, according to Harvard medical school.

Fad diets are typically structured around restricting caloric intake or restricting certain foods, such as carbohydrates. That can lead to so-called nutritional shortfalls.

The federal report, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025 (DGA) looks at overall health and nutrition. It’s updated every five years based on extensive study of our changing diets.

Updated every five years by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA, the report found many Americans are lacking in four vital nutrients: calcium, potassium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D.

The four elements identified in the study are “considered dietary components of public health concern for the general US population.”

“That’s government talk for: these nutrients help you stay healthy, and you probably should eat more of them,” according to Harvard medical school’s health newsletter.

The specific daily amounts of each nutrient are based on the recommended daily calorie intake for adult men and women who don’t need to lose or gain weight.

Women, ages 19 to 50, should aim for 1,800 to 2,000 daily calories daily while women over age 50 should consumer 1,600 calories.

Men, ages 19 to 50, should consume 2,200 to 2,400 calories daily, and men over 50 should lower their diets to 2,000 calories.

A vegan dinner touches all bases.

Supplements are always an option, but most health experts recommended getting your daily nutrients from food.

The DGA report includes a resource page that provides a list of food sources that provide the nutrients and them some.

The body needs calcium to maintain strong bones and to carry out many important functions, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements.

Almost all calcium is stored in bones and teeth, where it supports their structure and hardness. The body also needs calcium for muscles to move and for nerves to carry messages between the brain and every body part.

Eight ounces of plain, nonfat yogurt provides 488 mg of calcium, or about half of the recommended daily allowance of 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams for women and 1,000 milligrams for men.

Among other servings, one cup of low-fat, or soy milk can provides up to 305 milligrams of calcium; one cup of cooked spinach, 245 milligrams and a half cup of tofu, 434 milligrams.

Potassium is one of the most important minerals in the body. It helps regulate fluid balance, muscle contractions and nerve signals.

What’s more, a high-potassium diet may help reduce blood pressure and water retention, protect against stroke and prevent osteoporosis and kidney stones, according to health references.

Women need about 2,600 milligrams daily while men need 3,400 milligrams.

Foods such as one cup cooked lima beans provide up to 969 milligrams; one medium baked potato with skin provides 926 milligrams; one cup cooked acorn squash provides 896 milligrams; one medium banana provides 451 milligrams and three ounces of tuna provides 444 millilgrams.

Vitamin D is often neglected in many weight-loss diet plans, but it’s important in promoting healthy bones, largely by promoting the absorption of calcium.

“If you have a vitamin D deficiency, particularly in your older years, it can lead to osteoporosis or osteomalacia [bone softening],” Lona Sandon, RD, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas told WebMD.

Low levels of the vitamin can also lead to an increased risk of type 1 diabetes, muscle and bone pain, and possibly breast, colon, prostate, ovary, esophageal, and lymphatic system cancers.

“Activated vitamin D is one of the most potent inhibitors of cancer cell growth,” says Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD, who heads the Vitamin D, Skin, and Bone Research Laboratory at Boston University School of Medicine.

“It also stimulates your pancreas to make insulin. It regulates your immune system,” he says.

Vitamin D is crucial for skin protection. Calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D, helps skin cell growth, repair and metabolism as well as prevents skin aging, according to the Journal of Skin Pharmacology and Physiology.

Women and men both should get a minimum of 600 international units (IU) daily. One IU is the equivalent of 0.025 milligrams.

Food sources for vitamin D include three ounces salmon: (383 to 570 IU); three ounces canned light tuna: (231 IU); one cup unsweetened soy milk: (119 IU); one cup of 1% milk: (117 IU) or eight ounces nonfat plain yogurt: (116 IU)

Dietary fiber, also known as roughage or bulk, includes the parts of plant foods your body can’t digest or absorb. Instead, it passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine and colon and out of your body.

Fiber is often sacrificed in diet plans, but it’s essential for normalizing bowel movements, maintaining bowel health, lowering cholesterol, controlling blood sugar and maintaining a healthy weight, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Women should get 22 to 28 milligrams daily, while men need 28 to 34 milligrams daily.

Foods such as one cup shredded wheat cereal provide 6.2 milligrams of fiber; a half cup off cooked beans provides up to 9.6 milligrams and one cup of such vine fruits as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries provide up to 8 milligrams of fiber.

Refined or processed foods — such as canned fruits and vegetables, pulp-free juices, white breads and pastas, and non-whole-grain cereals — are lower in fiber.

The Mayo Clinic warns that too much fiber too quickly can promote intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping.

Fiber should be increased gradually over a few weeks. This allows the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust to the change.

Follow these recommendations and you’ll be on the road to better health.

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