9 Nutrients You're Not Getting Enough Of

Try as you might to eat healthy, chances are you’re falling short on at least one of these key nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, folate, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium and fiber. On average, Americans don’t get enough of these so-called shortfall nutrients, according to the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

How much do you need? How do you get more? Hint: Eating a lot more fruits, vegetables and minimally processed whole foods will get you there.

Vitamin A

Why you need it: Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s important for cell growth and function. It’s also important for your immune system and vision.

How much you need daily: 900 mcg (men); 700 mcg (women)

How to get it: Vitamin A is available in dairy, fish and meat (especially liver). You can get carotenoids — the nutrients that make vitamin A — through fruits and vegetables. They’re particularly abundant in dark leafy greens (like spinach and broccoli) and vibrant orange-colored fruits and vegetables (sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, mango and more).

Vitamin D

Why you need it: Vitamin D helps your body build strong bones by regulating the balance of calcium and phosphorous. Deficiency has been linked to a variety of diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, IBS, depression and heart disease.

How much you need daily: 600 IUs (men and women); 800 IUs (adults over 70)

How to get it: We actually get most of our vitamin D from sunlight (UVB rays stimulate your skin to make previtamin D-3). But if you live above the Mason-Dixon Line, chances are your body’s short on natural vitamin D during winter months, when there’s not enough UVB to produce D. (You might also risk deficiency if you don’t have much sun exposure — due to clothing, sunscreen or air pollution.) Food sources of D include oily fish (such as salmon and mackerel), dairy products, egg yolks and fortified cereal.


Why you need it: A healthy skeleton is the driving reason to get enough calcium in your diet.

How much you need: 1,000 mg (men and women); 1,200 mg (adults over 70)

How to get it: Yogurt (regular plain yogurt has more calcium than Greek yogurt), calcium-set tofu, beans, bok choy, milk and fortified nondairy milks are your friends here.

Low-Fat or Skim Milk

Milk is one of the most versatile ways to get calcium. A single cup supplies almost a third of the calcium you need each day. Pour it on your cereal, use it to make hot cocoa or blend it with a frozen banana or chopped mango for a healthy milkshake.

Collard Greens

Collard greens are an excellent source of calcium. One cup, cooked, delivers 260 mg. And research shows that calcium from cruciferous vegetables, such as collard greens, is well absorbed (calcium from spinach, on the other hand, is not). Two other greens to try? Kale and broccoli also have calcium, although in smaller amounts.

Photo By: Brand X Pictures

Low-Fat or Nonfat Yogurt

One cup of nonfat or low-fat (1 percent) plain yogurt delivers almost half your daily calcium needs. Make your own flavored yogurt — and save big on added sugars — by mixing in a spoonful of jam. Note: Greek yogurt has less calcium than regular, but it’s still an excellent source with about 290 mg of calcium per cup.

Photo By: Alessio Cola


One cup of cooked rhubarb provides a third of your daily recommended calcium intake. Stew it with sugar and top with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla yogurt, or make a rhubarb chutney for topping pork chops or chicken.

Photo By: Edward Westmacott

Milk Alternatives

Not into dairy? No problem. Look for a fortified milk alternative (such as soy or almond milk) with a similar nutrition profile to milk. One serving should deliver at least 25 percent of the daily value of calcium and vitamin D.

Photo By: Yungshu Chao

Part-Skim Ricotta

Part-skim ricotta is one of the most calcium-dense foods around. Just 1/2 cup of part-skim ricotta boasts even more calcium than a cup of milk. Pair it with berries or sliced peaches and a drizzle of honey for a breakfast treat.

Photo By: Vikif


In addition to being a great vegetarian protein, tofu is also an excellent source of calcium, supplying 25 percent of what you need each day. Just make sure the tofu is "calcium-set" (this is usually the kind that is packaged with liquid, not sealed in a box).

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved


Just 3 ounces of sardines with the bones gives you a third of your daily calcium needs, along with a healthy helping of brain-boosting omega-3s. Try it plain on toast or gussied up with sherry vinegar and lemon zest.

Photo by: Joern Rynio ©Joern Rynio

Joern Rynio, Joern Rynio

Vitamin E

Why you need it: Vitamin E describes antioxidants that protect fats in your body (including LDL, the “bad” cholesterol) from oxidizing.

How much you need daily: 15 mg (men and women)

How to get it: Plant oils (particularly sunflower and safflower), nuts and avocado are good ways to get this fat-soluble vitamin.


Why you need it: Magnesium does many jobs in your body. It’s needed to extract energy from food, to keep bones and cells healthy, and to create DNA, RNA and proteins.

How much you need: 400 mg (men 19 to 30); 420 mg (men 31 and older); 310 mg (women 19 to 30); 320 mg (women 31 and older)

How to get it: Leafy greens, nuts and whole grains are some of the best sources of magnesium.

Fruits and vegetables on a supermarket shelf.

Fruits and vegetables on a supermarket

Fruits and vegetables on a supermarket shelf.

Photo by: Deyan Georgiev ©Deyan Georgiev

Deyan Georgiev, Deyan Georgiev

Fruits and vegetables on a supermarket shelf.

Vitamin C

Why you need it: Vitamin C is important for healthy skin and immune function.

How much you need daily: 90 mg (men); 75 mg (women)

How to get it: Citrus fruit, kiwis, strawberries, red bell pepper, broccoli and white potatoes all have good amounts of vitamin C.


Why you need it: Potassium is an electrolyte — it helps your heart to beat! It’s also important for strong bones.

How much you need daily: 4,700 mg (men and women)

How to get it: Fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy are the best ways to get potassium. Since you need a lot of potassium, get a wide variety of whole foods in your diet. One baked potato has 926 mg, a banana has 422 mg and a cup of milk has 366 mg.

Photo by: Janine Lamontagne

Janine Lamontagne


Why you need it: Folate, also called B-9, helps create DNA and metabolize amino acids, which are your body’s “building blocks.”

How much you need daily: 400 mcg (men and women)

How to get it: Green leafy vegetables, citrus fruit and legumes (lentils and beans) are all great ways to get folate. Fortified cereals and flours can also add to your folate intake.


Why you need it: We could sing the praises of fiber forever, but let’s just touch on some highlights: It helps lower your LDL “bad” cholesterol, it keeps you “regular,” and it helps regulate your blood sugar.

How much you need daily: 14 g/1,000 kcal

How to get it: Beans are brimming with fiber, as are whole-grain cereals, fruits, vegetables and nuts. Fiber is found in plant-based foods — generally the less processed an ingredient, the more fiber is left intact.


Just one pear gives you 5 grams of fiber. Snack on them out-of-hand, layer onto an almond-butter sandwich or blend them into a smoothie.


All those little seeds dotting raspberries are responsible for raspberries’ high fiber content. One cup of these low-calorie, sweet-tart berries gives you 8 grams of fiber. Enjoy with yogurt for breakfast, snack or dessert.


Nothing hits the spot on a chilly morning like a steaming bowl of creamy oatmeal. Oats are a great way to get soluble fiber, the kind that can help to lower your cholesterol. Start your day with a cup of cooked oatmeal and you’ll get 4 grams of fiber. Top it with a sliced banana (or better yet, add the banana while you’re cooking the oatmeal — it will add to oatmeal’s creaminess) for an extra 3 grams.

Photo By: Brent Hathaway


With 10 grams of fiber and just 65 calories each, artichokes are a light but filling go-to for dieters. 

Photo By: Valentyn Volkov

Green Peas

Frozen peas are a quick and easy way to add vegetables to a meal. And they’re particularly high in fiber, with 9 grams per cup. 

Photo By: Ionescu Bogdan Cristian

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti

Replacing regular white pasta with whole-wheat will give you more than twice as much fiber — 6 grams in a cup. Going for 100 percent whole-wheat pasta or bread is a simple way to start getting more fiber (and whole grains) in your diet.

Photo By: Caroline Klapper


One ounce of almonds (24 nuts) gives you 4 grams of fiber. Pair them with an apple or pear for a morning snack and you’ll be almost halfway to your daily dose of fiber.


Beans are one of the best sources of fiber out there: 1 cup gives you 12 to 19 grams of fiber. Tuck black beans into a quesadilla, make a white-bean-and-escarole soup or top a green salad with garbanzo beans.


Of all the whole grains, cooked bulgur wheat packs the most fiber, with 8 grams per cup. 

Photo By: Brebca

Winter Squash

A cup of winter squash gives you 6 grams of fiber. Warm up with a bowl of creamy soup or switch up regular pasta for spaghetti squash.

Photo By: Ju-Lee


Popcorn counts as a whole grain and has the fiber to prove it. 3 cups of the crunchy stuff gives you 4 grams of fiber for just 90 calories when air-popped. Don’t have an air popper? Just put 3 tablespoons of popcorn kernels in a paper bag, fold over the top a few times to keep it closed and microwave it until you hear the pops becoming less frequent.

Photo By: Franck Olivier Grondin

*Note: Recommended amounts are based on the recommended dietary allowances and adequate intakes for adult men and women.

Kerri-Ann is a registered dietitian who writes on food and health trends. Find more of her work at kerriannjennings.com or follow her on Twitter @kerriannrd or Facebook.

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