When it comes to eating, most of us think about eating less. We think we'd be healthier if we lost weight, exercised more -- and that may be true. But you may be surprised to find out that many of us need to think about getting a few more nutrients in our diet. Depending on lifestyle and eating habits, there are some nutrients that could be lacking in our diets, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Here are a few to focus on as you plan a healthier diet
Vitamin B 6: The many functions of vitamin B 6 include helping to maintain a healthy immune system, preserve normal nerve function and prevent certain types of anemia. People with kidney disease and those who drink too much alcohol are at increased risk of deficiency. If you have an autoimmune condition -- particularly one that affects the intestines, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis -- you may be at higher risk. A classic physical sign is rash and other skin problems, which usually manifest as dandruff or as scaly patches and red skin around oily parts of the body such as the face, chest and back. Depression, confusion and even seizures can be present if the deficiency is too bad, at which point you would need to seek immediate medical attention. To help prevent a B 6 deficiency, eat foods such as fortified cereals and grains, beans, poultry, fish, dark leafy green vegetables, oranges and cantaloupe.
Iron: Iron-deficiency anemia is a major public health concern, especially in women of child-bearing age and children, according to the Academy. The most common sign of a deficiency is fatigue. Other symptoms can include dizziness, headache, chilly extremities, paleness in the skin and under the eyelids, and weakness. An unusual craving for non-food items such as ice is a telltale sign. Children may have poor appetite and lethargy when they're anemic. Early detection helps promote healthy growth and development and lower risk for infection and lead poisoning. The best sources of iron include lean meat, poultry and seafood. If you don't eat a lot of these foods, be sure to get a good plant-based source in each meal -- lentils, beans, spinach or iron-fortified cereals.
Vitamin D: The many benefits of "the sunshine vitamin" are still being studied and include perks such as better bone health and boosted immunity. People at highest risk for deficiency include breast-fed infants, older adults or people with Crohn's or celiac disease or obesity. Fortified dairy products, fortified orange juice, salmon and tuna are rich in vitamin D. Don't forget that spending some time in the sun during the warmer months helps your skin naturally make vitamin D.
Vitamin C: Although sailors of old had to deal with scurvy from not having access to citrus fruits, vitamin C deficiency is not a thing of the past. People who don't eat enough fruits and vegetables are at risk of inadequate intake. If you notice bleeding gums, easy bruising and wounds that seem to heal slowly, you could have an insufficient vitamin C intake. In addition to oranges, pineapple, lemons and limes, other good sources of this vitamin include bell peppers, broccoli, potatoes, guava, papaya, kiwi and strawberries.
Q and A
Q: Is culinary algae oil a good choice in the kitchen?
A: Once upon a time, most people cooked with some kind of mixed vegetable oil or corn oil, both high in polyunsaturated fats. In those days, research supported a switch from saturated animal fats to vegetable polyunsaturated fats. When the heart health benefits of monounsaturated fats were revealed, canola and olive oils -- predominantly monounsaturated -- became popular. Now we have algae cooking oil. This is not made from the algae floating on top of your swimming pool, but algae grown specifically as a food source. Algae oil is higher in monounsaturated fatty acids than canola, soybean and olive oils, and is also very low in saturated fat. The oil has a mild or neutral taste so it can be used for both sweet and savory foods. -- Environmental Nutrition newsletter.
Winter's blast is a great time to get out the slow cooker. This recipe for Sausage Jambalaya is from Cooking Light magazine.
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
8 ounces andouille sausage, sliced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 cups hot cooked rice
Chopped green onions
Combine first 8 ingredients in a 4-quart electric slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 hours. Stir in shrimp; cover and cook on LOW for 10 minutes or just until shrimp are done. Serve over rice. Sprinkle with green onions, if desired. Makes 8 servings (serving size: about 1 cup jambalaya and 1/2 cup rice)