Last updated: March 11. 2014 8:36AM - 885 Views
Theresa Howard Extension News

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Today, multivitamins and minerals marketing campaigns claiming to improve your health and reduce your risk of chronic disease constantly bombard us. Just look around your stores. Chances are, multivitamins and mineral supplements have their own section.

Dietary supplements are a multibillion-dollar industry. In 2012, dietary supplement sales reached $11.5 billion. In 2013, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported more than half of all U.S. adults have taken a dietary supplement in the past month. The 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed 34 percent of children and adolescents take a vitamin or mineral supplement.

While our food supply in America is abundant, many of us don’t get the recommended nutrients we need, and we tend to consume way too much added sugar, refined grains, sodium and saturated fat. More than 50 percent of Americans suffer from chronic disease because of poor food choices.

Should everyone take a multivitamin for better health? Are vitamins and supplements needed? Which one should you choose?

Many American diets are lacking in potassium, fiber, calcium and vitamin D. Potassium and fiber help with heart health. Fiber is important for health and digestion and helps prevent heart disease, diabetes, obesity and constipation. Calcium keeps our bones strong, and vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium and phosphorus. By consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean sources of protein and fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy, you can increase your intake of the nutrients lacking in the American diet and improve your health.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the best way for you to reach optimal health and reduce your risk of chronic diseases is by eating a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods. The academy also says additional nutrients from supplements may help some individuals meet their dietary needs or treat a diagnosed nutrient deficiency. Multivitamins and minerals can help fill dietary gaps, but if taken excess, may result in the consumption of some nutrients above recommended levels.

We all know that we should eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but many of us don’t get the recommended servings. Fruits and vegetables are important to our diet, because they provide necessary nutrients and are high in dietary fiber and low in calories, fat and cholesterol. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that you make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

Spring is an excellent time to try to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet, as all of them will be in-season at some point in the coming months. In-season produce is the peak of a particular fruit or vegetable’s freshness, which means its flavor is going to be wonderful.

Spring is also a time when many local farmers markets kick off their season. Shopping at a farmers market will not only give you the freshest produce possible but also gives you the opportunity to support local farmers and the local economy.

Incorporating more fruits and vegetables in your diet may seem like an impossible task, but here are some ways to do so.

· Add fresh fruit to either cooked or whole grain cereal.

· Add berries or other fruits to pancake batter.

· Add applesauce to a peanut butter sandwich.

· Try raw vegetables with cottage cheese or yogurt dip.

· Add vegetables to a tortilla to make either a vegetable quesadilla or breakfast burrito.

· Add chopped vegetables to an omelet, quiche or frittata.

· Try baked bagel chips with homemade salsa made from ingredients you purchased at the farmers market.

· If you don’t like the taste of a particular fruit, try preparing it in a different way, as it may actually be the texture you do not like.

For more information and tips on getting more nutrients into your diet, check out the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension publication FCS3-573 “Hungry for Change: Getting More Nutrients into the American Diet,” available online at http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/FCS3/FCS3573/FCS3573.pdf or through your local Extension office.

For more information about health and nutrition activities offered through Extension, contact the Harlan County Extension Office at 573-4464.

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people, regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.

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