My Opinion About Nutritional Needs For Adults
What could you be lacking or overconsuming in your diet and what impact could it be having? For this blog, I’m talking about nutritional needs for adults. What are men and women in the UK eating in comparison to recommendations? How can you improve your diet? The data discussed are taken from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, the most comprehensive assessment of UK intakes.
What should we be eating more of?
Fruit and vegetables
Only around 30% of adults are meeting the 5-A-DAY recommendation. Fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruit and vegetables all count. To help make sure you are getting your 5-A-DAY, include at least 1 portion of fruit and veg at every meal and snack. This is one of the most important nutritional needs for adults as some fruits contain much more than just one nutrient.
The proportion of adults who eat fish and the average amount eaten are both lower than recommendations. We should aim to eat two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily. Oily fish, which includes salmon, trout, sardines and mackerel, contains important heart-healthy fats.
We should be having 30g of fibre a day. However, the average adult manages only 19 g a day. Fibre helps to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and colon cancer. To help increase your fibre intake, opt for wholemeal and higher fibre varieties of breakfast cereals, bread, pasta and rice and keep the skins on your potatoes. Increasing your fruit and veg intake will also help.
Around a quarter of adult women have iron intakes which are unlikely to meet their needs. Iron is important for making red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. It also helps the immune system to work as it should and helps the brain to function normally. A lack of iron can cause fatigue. Good sources of iron include red meat, pulses, nuts and seeds, some fish (e.g. canned sardines, cockles and mussels), quinoa, wholemeal bread and dried fruit.
Around 1 in 10 women have calcium intakes which are unlikely to meet their needs. Calcium is important for bone health as well as the normal functioning of nerves and muscles. Calcium can be found in milk, yoghurt, cheese, calcium-fortified dairy alternatives, some green leafy vegetables (e.g. kale), canned fish (where soft bones are eaten) and bread.
What should we be having less of?
Average saturated fat intakes in adults exceed the recommendation of no more than 11% food energy. A diet that is high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood. Having high cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease. Try to replace saturated fats (e.g. those found in butter, fatty cuts of meat, coconut oil) with small amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (e.g. those found in olive oil and vegetable oil and spreads).
On average, adults are consuming too many free sugars (sugars added by the manufacturer, cook or consumer and those found naturally in juices, syrups and honey). No more than 5% of our energy intake should be from free sugars. However, the average adult is consuming double this! Try sticking to drinks which don’t contain free sugars, such as water and unsweetened tea and coffee. Foods which can take you over the recommended limit include cereal and cereal products (e.g. cereal bars, cakes, biscuits, pastries), jams, chocolate and sweets.
There is an established relationship between salt intake and the risk of high blood pressure, which is a risk factor in the development of heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure affects around a third of adults. We are recommended to have no more than 6 g of salt per day. However, the average adult consumes 40% more than this. Check the nutritional information on the back of food packets and opt for lower salt varieties. Try to avoid adding salt during cooking or at the table.
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