The 4 Nutrients Most of Us Are Lacking (and What to Eat to Fix That)

Good news: You can snack your way to a stronger, longer life. Here's how.

Despite recent interest in wellness, we have some unfortunate news: As a result of eating habits that are low in fruit, veggies, and dairy (and high in saturated fat, sodium, and sugar), the average American diet is more unbalanced than ever. According to the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services' 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs), " chronic disease rates have risen to pervasive levels and continue to be a major public health concern." Oof.

The publication cited four nutrients typically consumed in amounts dangerously below recommended levels. It identified these commonly under-consumed nutrients—potassium, calcium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D—as a public health concern because their low intake are associated with chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Suggested Daily Values

To break it down further, here are the DGA's suggested daily values for adults and children over 9 years old (with slight variations for age and gender) of the nutrients most of us are most lacking:

  • Potassium: 2600 mg
  • Calcium: 1000 mg
  • Fiber: 25 g
  • Vitamin D: 600 IU

Eat More of These Foods

Let's counter with some uplifting news: We can dramatically lower our risk of chronic illness with a few small lifestyle changes: mainly by picking better foods to eat every day. The DGA's overall advice on what to eat is this: "...relatively higher intake of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, lean meats and poultry, seafood, nuts, and unsaturated vegetable oils, and relatively lower consumption of red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, and refined grains."

Luckily, there are plenty of delicious foods packed with potassium, calcium, fiber, and vitamin D. Consider adding one or more of the following foods to your daily diet for a healthier you.


Most yogurt contains three nutrients of concern: calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Calcium is naturally found in dairy, and most of the U.S. dairy supply is also supplemented with vitamin D because they work together in the body. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, but most foods don't provide a meaningful amount, which is why most dairy in the U.S. is voluntarily fortified.

If you have a lactose intolerance or are looking to include less dairy in your diet, don't fret. Many plant-based dairy-free yogurt alternatives—like Silk Almond—are also fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

Most yogurt also has potassium (an average 6-ounce serving of low-fat, fruit-flavored yogurt provides about 6% of the daily value for potassium). Though it typically doesn't contain fiber, yogurt pairs well with fiber-rich foods like fresh fruit and whole grains. One of the best (and easiest) healthy breakfast combos is Greek yogurt with fresh berries and high-fiber bran cereal.


While most commonly touted for its omega-3 content, salmon is an excellent source of vitamin D. A 3-ounce serving of cooked salmon also offers about 8% of the daily value for potassium. Salmon is a delicious, high-quality protein source that can be added to salads or paired with cooked veggies to add more fiber to your meal.

Cooked Lentils

Cooked lentils pack a whopping 8 grams of fiber per ½ cup—almost 30% of the daily value. They also contain potassium, accounting for around 8% of your daily needs. Keep lentils on hand as an easy, affordable protein source that accommodates many eating patterns, exemplified by our vegan-friendly lemony lentil soup.

Sweet Potato

A medium sweet potato offers about 4 grams of fiber and almost 10% of the daily value of potassium. They're so tasty and versatile; great in sweet and savory dishes. There's lots of nutrition in the skin, so don't forget to scrub your sweet potatoes well and leave the skin on when you eat them. For a delicious snack hack, mix vanilla Greek yogurt with a tablespoon of nut butter and cinnamon, and then spoon it onto half of a cooked sweet potato (or as a topping on slices of "sweet potato toast").

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