Enough but Not Too Much

Adequate Nutrients within Calorie Needs

It's common knowledge: many Americans fall short on their nutrition report card!

Many consume more calories than they need—and too much saturated fat, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and salt. On the flip side, both kids and adults often shortchange themselves on calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium, and vitamin E. Many adults don't consume enough vitamins A (as carotenoids) and C, either. And others, too little vitamin B12, folate, vitamin D, and iron.

To improve one's nutrient profile, the Dietary Guidelines advise: (1) eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages within and among the food groups (including more dark-green vegetables, orange vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat milk and milk products) and (2) limit foods with saturated fat, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt, and alcohol. Two tools can help you do that: MyPyra-mid from USDA and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. Both focus on what to eat—and how much.

Why variety? Different food groups—and the nutrients and other substances their foods provide—help keep you healthy in different ways. No one nutrient, food, or food group has all you need, and none works alone. Health benefits come when your overall eating plan is varied and healthful, without excessive calories.

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