February 04, 2023

What nutrients are Americans missing?


Even though two-thirds of adults and one-third of children in this country are overweight or obese, the topic of nutrition adequacy is often overlooked.

Many Americans, including children and adolescents, are falling short of the essential nutrients they need. In fact, nine out of 10 Americans are missing key nutrients. How could we possibly be a nation that’s overweight yet undernourished? It’s an ironic paradox.

What America’s Missing explores the nation’s nutrient gap — the discrepancy between what we need and what we’re getting. The report identifies the specific nutrients and food groups we’re missing, and what it will take to help close the gap.

This report was created by the Milk Processor Education Program, with the assistance of the Dairy Research Institute of Dairy Management, Inc. It is based on national food consumption surveys including the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a program of the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Americans are failing to get enough calcium, vitamin D, potassium, fiber, zinc, vitamin B12 and B6, Vitamin A, magnesium, iron and folate in their diets. To consume adequate amounts of these nutrients, Americans need to increase their intake of vegetables, fruits, whole-grains and low-fat milk.

Currently, Americans are consuming only half of what is needed from these food groups. To prevent a calorie increase while eating more of these nutrient-rich foods, reduce fat, especially saturated and trans fat, and sugars in your diet.

Look how easy it is to increase your nutrient intake by adding just one cup of milk each day. One cup of milk provides the following essential nutrients:

• 30 percent Calcium: Helps build strong bones and teeth; reduces the risk of stress fractures and osteoporosis. Plays a role in promoting normal blood pressure.

• 25 percent Vitamin D: New and emerging research reveals that vitamin D, nicknamed the “sunshine vitamin,” may help support a healthy heart, normal blood pressure, healthy aging and help regulate the immune system.

• 20 percent Phosphorus: Works with calcium and vitamin D to help keep bones strong.

• 20 percent Riboflavin: Helps convert food into energy. Plays a vital role in the development of the nervous system.

• 16 percent Protein: Helps build and maintain lean muscle; the high quality protein in milk contains all of the essential amino acids (the building blocks for protein).

• 13 percent Vitamin B-12: Works closely with folate to make red blood cells. Helps maintain the central nervous system.

• 11 percent Potassium: Helps regulate the balance of fluids in your body. Plays a role in maintaining normal blood pressure.

• 10 percent Vitamin A: Supports good vision, healthy skin and maintains integrity of immune system.

• 10 percent Niacin: Helps enzymes function normally in your body. (The niacin in milk is niacin equivalents (NE). 1 NE equals 1 mg of niacin.)

If you are unable to drink milk due to an allergy or intolerance, be certain to replace all of these nutrients —not just the calcium — that you are missing from milk.

Be sure to include a balance and variety of foods every day to obtain the forty-plus nutrients our body needs!