Filed under: Nutrients
If you’re trying to understand the labels on food packaging or articles about nutrition, you might wonder about some of the terms and abbreviations you come across. The “alphabet soup” of acronyms can be confusing, but this article might help.
Nutrition experts at the Institute of Medicine—or IOM—of the National Academies of Sciences developed the Dietary Reference Intakes, or DRI, based on extensive statistics. The following terms and acronyms are from these guidelines.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of a nutrient is the daily amount that essentially all healthy people need, depending on life stage and gender. For example, the RDAs of some nutrients (such as vitamin C) for a 13-year-old boy are very different from those for a 25-year-old pregnant woman. It isn’t always the same as the Daily Value (DV) you see on food labels, but it’s usually close.
The Adequate Intake (AI) is the adequate daily amounts of a nutrient that healthy people of a particular life stage or gender need. AIs are given when there isn’t enough scientific evidence for a stronger recommendation, that is, an RDA. For example, IOM suggests an AI for one type of omega-3 fatty acids—alpha linoleic acid—of 1.6 grams per day for men and 1.1 grams per day for women because scientists don’t know yet how much is optimal.
Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) are the highest daily amounts of nutrients that you can consume without risk of toxicity. Many vitamins and minerals—even essential ones—can be toxic when consumed in excess. For example, because too much vitamin A can cause liver damage, a UL has been established for this essential nutrient.
You generally can meet all your daily nutrient intake goals (RDAs and AIs) by following a healthy diet that includes lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. So try to remember to get your RDAs and AIs every day, but don’t exceed the ULs!
Updated 10 April 2017
Soups can be the perfect solution when you’re trying to eat well and save money. You can “doctor” a packaged or canned soup to make a healthier and tastier version in no time. For example, add low-sodium ingredients to increase the volume and lower the salt content of ready-made soups. Or add veggies to increase your soup’s antioxidant content and make it more colorful. Add leftover beans, fish, or chopped meat to boost protein too. Here are more ideas to get you started.
- Tomato. Swap water for skim milk to add more protein. Top with 1 Tbsp grated, low-fat sharp cheddar cheese for extra calcium too. And add chopped tomatoes for more lycopene, flavor, and texture.
- Minestrone. A handful of greens and your favorite low-sodium beans add protein, fiber, and flavor.
- Chicken noodle. Add a grated carrot plus fresh or frozen green beans.
- Vegetable. Toss in some thyme and cooked tortellini for an Italian flair.
- Split pea. Fry lean ham in a hot pan and add.
- Potato (dried). Add grated potato and frozen corn to make this soup a homemade hit!
- Potato (canned). Add cooked broccoli and a sprinkle of cheese for extra fiber and calcium.
- Onion (dried). Add 1 cup chopped onion and cook for 10 minutes. Divide into oven-safe, single-serving bowls. Top each bowl with thin slices of toasted French bread, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, and a slice of provolone cheese. Broil until bubbly.
- Ramen. Crack one egg into boiling water and stir. Add noodles, cooked mixed vegetables, and ½ the seasoning packet. Flavor with red pepper flakes.
Want to try your hand at homemade soup? Check out HPRC’s soup recipes and use your holiday leftovers to produce delicious results!
Seafood is a good source of protein, healthy fats, and other nutrients that can boost your heart health and performance. It also might reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes, neurological disorders, and even depression.
Aim for two 4-oz servings each week. It can be as easy as opening a can of tuna, sardines, or salmon or thawing a bag of shrimp or fillets. Select fresh when possible, but frozen and canned varieties are often cheaper and more convenient. By varying your choices, you can fit seafood in your budget and find new kinds to enjoy. Remember: If it’s already in your pantry or freezer, chances are you’ll eat it more often!
- Choose from several varieties. These include fish fillets, shellfish (such as crab, shrimp, and lobster), oysters, mussels, and clams. Fatty fish—rich in omega-3s that boost heart health—include salmon, mackerel, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna. Select shrimp or a mild-tasting fish such as tilapia or flounder if you’re eating seafood for the first time. In addition, young children and women who are pregnant or nursing should consume fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.
- Make it lean. Grill, broil, or bake your seafood instead of breading and frying it. Experiment with different spices and herbs too.
- Cook once and eat twice. Use leftovers to top salads, fill tacos, or toss with whole-wheat pasta. Here are a few quick recipes: Add one cup of fresh or frozen corn to your favorite seafood chowder for an easy meal. Or mix one egg, 2½ cups prepared mashed potatoes, 1 Tbsp parsley (chopped), and ½ cup green onions (chopped). Add 14½ oz canned salmon (drained and flaked). Hint: Use a fork to crush the salmon bones for an extra boost of calcium! Mold into 8 patties, dip in bread crumbs or panko, and cook in a nonstick pan until golden.
Many raw fruits and vegetables are tasty, low in calories and fat, and high in fiber. And eating them might help you feel fuller and consume less, which is especially helpful if you’re trying to lose weight. However, some cooked produce can be just as delicious—and even more nutritious.
Many cooked fruits and vegetables (such as tomatoes, corn, spinach, carrots, and asparagus) provide more antioxidants, which protect cells and help your body function properly. For example, cooked tomatoes and asparagus release vitamin-rich lycopene, which can help lower your risk of heart disease and cancer. And cooked spinach provides greater amounts of calcium, iron, and fiber.
However, broccoli is best eaten raw because myrosinase, a valuable enzyme, is damaged during the cooking process. Vitamin C can be lost during cooking too. But you can find it in citrus and other foods. In the warmer months, eating raw produce can save time as well as keep your kitchen cooler since you won’t be cooking! Still, raw fruits and vegetables might be hard to find when you’re on a mission or in a smaller dining facility. So instead, choose from what’s offered—whether it’s dried, canned, frozen, or dehydrated.
Try to include a variety of produce in your meal plan, aiming for 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of veggies each day. Choose fruits and vegetables from the rainbow of colors (red, blue/purple, green, yellow, orange, and white) to maximize nutrient intake. Eat both cooked and raw varieties to make sure you’re getting nutrients, antioxidants, and more. For example, eat raw carrot sticks one day and cook them on a different day. And enjoy the benefit of obtaining all that nature intended to provide!
Military training and pregnancy increase women’s nutritional needs, specifically for vitamin D, calcium, iron, folate, and iodine. While HPRC always recommends choosing whole foods first, sometimes it can be difficult to get enough of those nutrients through food alone. When nutrient needs are higher than normal or when nutrient-rich foods aren’t available, vitamin and mineral supplements can help women to restore nutrient levels in their bodies. Just remember that you don’t need supplements unless you have known nutrient deficiencies, so talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplement. Read more...
The post-workout recovery phase is just as important as the workout itself. Refueling with the right nutrients can help your body heal damaged muscles, build more muscle, and replace nutrients lost during exercise to prepare you for your next workout or mission. A combination of protein and carbs in a snack is the key for recovery. It’s also important to drink enough fluids for rehydration. The best time to refuel is within 45 minutes after your workout, but if you plan to have a meal within 2 hours, you can skip the snack. Otherwise, you might be eating too many calories, which would spoil all your hard work. For more guidelines and snack ideas, please visit HPRC’s Peak Performance: Refueling.
Fruits and vegetables provide many essential nutrients that benefit health and reduce risk of disease. Juicing provides an easy, convenient way to get more fruits and vegetables into your diet. However, most countertop juicers extract the juices from fruits and vegetables but leave behind the skin and pulp—where most of the performance-enhancing nutrients and fiber are found. To get the most from your fruits and vegetables, add the leftover skin, pulp, and fiber to other foods such as muffins, breads, or pasta sauces so you don’t miss out on the benefits they provide.
Juices that are mostly fruit-based provide concentrated sources of carbohydrates (“carbs”)—great for when your carb needs are high, such as before or after working out. However, drinking high-carb juices at other times of day can cause your blood sugar to “spike,” setting you up for a “crash” later on. Vegetable-based juices offer an appealing, lower-carb alternative, especially for the veggie-hater. In particular, juices from vegetables such as beets, carrots, and celery that are high in nitrates can naturally increase blood flow and reduce blood pressure—real performance-enhancers. If the flavor of vegetable-based juices doesn’t appeal to you, try adding a small amount of fruit to provide a touch of sweetness without too many carbs. And you can add low-fat yogurt or tofu for a protein boost.
Juicing is a great way to use up fresh fruits and vegetables that are a bit past their prime, reducing waste and saving you money. That’s important because juicers can be expensive, ranging in price from $50 to over $1000! A good-quality blender probably costs less than many juicers, doesn’t remove beneficial fiber, and might offer more versatility.
Keep in mind that fresh, unpasteurized juices can be a food-safety hazard. Harmful bacteria on your hands and on the surfaces of fresh fruits and vegetables can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and in some cases severe dehydration or other health problems. Thoroughly wash your hands, fruits, and vegetables before making fresh juices, and clean juicer parts with hot, soapy water when finished. Drink fresh juices the same day you make them and freeze leftovers in ice-cube trays to add to smoothies or thaw and drink another day.
Whether you get your fruits and vegetables in a glass or on a plate, make sure you’re getting enough for optimal performance.
Beets are often overlooked in the produce aisle, but they have been gaining popularity for their potential cardiovascular health and performance benefits. This is because beets contain a high amount of nitrate, which improves blood flow to your heart and muscles. While the performance-enhancing benefits of nitrates from beets have yet to be fully established, there are many other reasons to include beets in your lunch or dinner menu. Beets are a great source of fiber, antioxidants, potassium, magnesium, folic acid, and vitamin C—all important nutrients to keep you at the top of your game.
If beets aren’t your favorite food, there are plenty of other nitrate-rich (and nutrient-rich) vegetables, including arugula, rhubarb, lettuce, celery, radishes, and spinach. Try eating roasted beets or a salad with dark-green, leafy vegetables two to three hours before your next workout. Keep in mind that eating a variety of high-quality foods is key to optimal performance, so for more information on proper fueling, see HPRC’s “An Athlete’s Guide to Everyday Nutrient Timing.”
You may know that calcium and vitamin D are important for healthy bones, but do you know that magnesium plays an important role too? People who eat enough magnesium in their diet tend to have higher bone mineral density (a measure of bone strength) than those who do not. Not getting enough magnesium can put you at risk for osteoporosis (weak, fragile bones).
So make sure you get at least the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for magnesium, which is 400–420 mg for men and 310–320 mg for women. According to the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Military Nutrition Research, only 30% of military personnel meet or exceed the recommendations. However, this doesn’t mean you need to start taking magnesium supplements. You can easily get enough magnesium from eating a variety of magnesium-rich foods in each food group:
- Vegetables—dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach
- Fruits—bananas, avocados
- Protein—beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds, as well as fish and seafood
- Grains—fortified cereals and whole-grain bread, rice, and pasta
- Dairy—milk, yogurt, and soymilk
As an added benefit, many of these foods are also rich in other nutrients, such as calcium, that help keep your bones strong. For additional information, see the Magnesium Fact Sheet from the Office of Dietary Supplements. And for information on other nutrients related to bone health, see HPRC’s Healthy eating for healthy joints.
A new Air Force guidance, which will be go into effect in a few months, directs all downrange DFACS (dining facilities) to stop buying energy drinks, nutritional shakes, and energy bars. Air Force DFACs in the U.S. do not buy these products either. The new guidance is a result of health concerns from consuming energy drinks and these other products. Read the article in the Air Force Times for more information.