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Why 42 Million Americans Fail To Meet Nutritional Needs

Especially with how fast-paced our world has become, people typically eat out of convenience rather than out of “healthy reasons.”

I don’t know if it’s to your surprise, but a giant portion of America struggles with malnutrition, despite living in a nation overflowing with food. Now, this paradox attributes to a few factors.

The Issues

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Firstly, the issue of “food insecurity” rises, as does the absence of affordable, nutritious food. The Feeding America network shows that over 42 million Americans, including 13 million children, experienced this food insecurity in 2022. This limited access to a variety of healthy foods makes it challenging to meet daily nutritional needs.

Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that most Americans don’t consume enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. So, this translates to deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all necessary for optimal health.

Because processed and frozen foods are so convenient and affordable, people tend to rely on these as substitute meals. These foods are often packed with unhealthy fats, added sugars, and refined carbohydrates, while also lacking essential nutrients. While they may fill stomachs, they don’t provide the body with the proper building blocks.

Clearly, the consequences of malnutrition are far-reaching. They can manifest as deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals, leading to health problems like anemia, weakened immune systems, and even chronic diseases. By understanding what we need to consume in our diet, we will live a healthier, happier lifestyle.

We Need Macronutrients!

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In order to create a balanced diet, we must know what macronutrients are capable of. Often referred to as “macros,” macronutrients are the three main categories of nutrients our bodies need in large amounts.

For energy, growth, and overall function, we need carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Each macro plays a distinct role, and consuming them in appropriate ratios is essential for optimal health.

Many online calculators and mobile apps can help you determine your individual macronutrient needs based on your age, weight, and activity level. At the end of the day, understanding macronutrients allows us to make conscious dietary choices.

i. Why Carbs?

Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of readily available energy. Broken down into glucose, they fuels our cells, muscles, and brain. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommend that carbohydrates make up 45-65% of daily calories.

However, the quality of carbohydrates really matters. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates, providing sustained energy, fiber, and essential vitamins.

Also, limiting simple carbohydrates found in sugary drinks, processed foods, and refined grains helps to maintain good health.

ii. Why Protein?

Protein is another essential macronutrient, responsible for building and repairing tissues, creating enzymes and hormones, and supporting a healthy immune system. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein varies depending on age, sex, activity level, and overall health.

Now, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that the average adult needs 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Again, active individuals or those recovering from injuries may require more.

Lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, and tofu are all excellent sources of protein.

iii. Really, Dietary Fats?

Finally, dietary fats are essential for hormone production, brain function, and nutrient absorption. The misconception that all fats are unhealthy is a myth!

In turn, people have been testing out the ketogenic diet, which emphasizes healthy fats intake. Healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, provide essential fatty acids are good for you.

The USDA recommends that 20-35% of daily calories come from healthy fats. Limiting unhealthy fats, such as saturated and trans fats found in processed foods and fried items, helps to prevent heart disease and other chronic conditions.

As Well As Micronutrients!

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In addition to macronutrients, micronutrients, also known as vitamins and minerals, impact our well-being. Unlike macronutrients needed in large amounts, micronutrients are required in much smaller quantities but are equally essential for various bodily functions.

These tiny powerhouses support everything from enzyme production and immune function to metabolism and cell growth. Micronutrient deficiencies can have severe consequences, so ensure you are eating a well-balanced diet with micronutrient sources.

Micronutrients are quite obtainable. For instance, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources all hold a variety of vitamins and minerals. For a diet that consists of all these food items, check out the pescatarian diet.

However, some individuals may struggle to meet their micronutrient needs solely through diet, especially if they have dietary restrictions or certain health conditions. In such cases, consulting a doctor or registered dietitian about vitamin or mineral supplements would be highly advised.

i. Why Vitamins?

Now, vitamins play a role in countless processes, including keeping our skin glowing, hair healthy, and bones strong. Vitamins also act as the body’s defense team, bolstering our immune system to fight off illness and keep us feeling our best.

Vitamins come in two main categories: fat-soluble and water-soluble.

Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are stored in the body’s fatty tissues and can accumulate over time. Unlike their water-soluble counterparts, this fat-soluble advantage allows them to stick around longer and exert their beneficial effects for extended periods.

  • Firstly, Vitamin A supports healthy vision and immunity.
  • Vitamin D strengthens bones and boosts mood.
  • Vitamin E acts as a cellular antioxidant.
  • Lastly, Vitamin K decreases risks of blood clotting and manages bone health.

Water-soluble vitamins (B complex and C) are not stored by the body and need to be replenished regularly through dietary intake.

  • B vitamins act like co-conductors, assisting in energy production, brain function, and cell metabolism.
  • Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that bolsters our immune system and keeps our skin healthy.

The specific amount of each vitamin needed daily varies depending on factors like age, sex, and pregnancy status. For instance, adult women generally require more iron than men due to menstruation.

ii. Why Minerals?

Minerals are the other essential type of micronutrient. Our bodies require a variety of minerals, including calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, for various functions.

Calcium, for example, impacts our bones and teeth, while potassium helps regulate blood pressure.

Similar to vitamins, the recommended daily intake of minerals really depends on individual needs. It’s recommended that adults aged 19-50 consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily, while adults over 50 need 1,200 milligrams.

Remember, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to micronutrient needs. By understanding the importance of micronutrients and familiarizing yourself with recommended daily allowances, you can ensure your body functions properly!

Questions, Comments, Concerns?

Are you malnourished?

I hope that I gave you a better understanding of what needs to be in your diet, and what will happen if you ignore certain nutrients.

Thank you! See you in the next!