When it comes to the new year, many of us have set resolutions to get healthy and fit, but that can be extremely difficult, especially if we’ve decided to take part in the latest fad diet. We all need key vitamins and nutrients to feel happy and healthy, and of course help combat the cold and flu during the harsh winter season, so eliminating basic food groups can wreak havoc our bodies. CBS News health and medical contributor, Dr. Holly Phillips and nutritionist, Elisa Zied, MS, RDN, CDN joined me for an interview recently to dish on the key vitamins and minerals we all need in our diet, the secret to looking and feeling our best, and how to obtain these key vitamins and minerals when what we’re eating is not enough.
Candace Rose: What are some of the key vitamins and minerals we need in our diet?
Elisa Zied: “Well, some of the key vitamins and minerals that in fact many of us are lacking according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey are vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and two minerals – calcium and magnesium.”
Dr. Holly Phillips: “Just to add to that, Centrum and Prevention magazine partnered together together and did a survey looking at Americans knowledge and understanding of vitamins and minerals. One of the things they found is that 75% of Americans think that it’s possible to get all the nutrients we need from our food and that’s absolutely right. Food is the best source of nutrients, but 50% of Americans weren’t sure that they were getting all the nutrients they need. Basically it shows we feel like we probably should be eating healthier than we actually are.”
Candace Rose: Why do we feel that we are missing key nutrients?
Dr. Holly Phillips: “About 70% of the people who responded to the survey said it’s faster, it’s easier and it’s cheaper to eat unhealthy food. Frankly, they’re right. If we look at all the processed food on our store shelves and fast food is so easy that you can grab it and go, but I think one of the resolutions we need to make for the new year is to take that extra little bit of time, that extra little bit of effort to eat healthier, fresh food – vegetables, fruits, low fat protein like fish and chicken, get some nuts and beans in our diet. It’s a little bit of extra effort, but it’s well worth it.”
Candace Rose: How can we fill the gaps in our diet?
Elisa Zied: “Well, it’s really important to take a look at your total diet and if you’re like many people dieting excluding certain foods or food groups or following a special diet like a vegetarian or a vegan diet or gluten free or paleo – you name it – it’s important to see if you’re excluding those foods and food groups, you need to fill the gap somehow, so I always say in the new year, a great resolution is just to get the basics into your diet. Make sure to have fruits and vegetables at each meal (for example) or at each snack. That really helps get in a lot of nutrients. Make sure to get foods from all the various food groups and to choose the ones with the least amount of added sugar and solid fat, that also can help.
Watch portions of the foods that are loaded with solid fats and added sugars, those are the junk foods or the nutrient poor foods that aren’t really adding nutrition to your diet. Also, consider getting a multivitamin because many people are not getting those six essential nutrients I talked about earlier, so it’s important to consider a multivitamin, a complete one like Centrum which provides a great mix of vitamins and minerals to not only fill those dietary gaps that so many of us have, but also meet our basic needs depending on our age and stage of life.”
Dr. Holly Phillips: “Also, I tell all of my patients to read all of the nutrition labels on any packaged food they buy. Actually, the survey found most Americans do read nutrition labels, but we look primarily at calories and fat, and very few people actually look at nutrient content whether it’s vitamins or minerals. I think we should focus on (when we read those nutrition labels) look not only to see that it’s low in calories and fat, but that it’s also nutrient rich.”
Candace Rose: When it comes to fruits and vegetables in winter, what’s best fresh or frozen?
Elisa Zied: “I say eat whatever kind you can get your hands on. Keep your freezer stocked with vegetables, keep your pantry stocked with canned vegetables. Look for those that don’t have added fats and sugars and sodium. Those are things that you want to eliminate or avoid or minimize when we’re talking about processed packaged foods. But also load up on fresh varieties that are in season. It’s just important to buy small quantities so that you don’t waste it, but to also make sure that you have some on hand. When you run out just go to your pantry, go to your freezer and you’re set for the day.”
Candace Rose: What are some of the best foods to boost immunity?
Dr. Holly Phillips: “To really boost our immunity, really all of the vitamins and minerals are important, particularly antioxidants and vitamins, A, C, E. Vitamin A is particularly essential for our immune system as we try and fight our way through this cold and flu season. One thing that the Prevention survey found is that Americans aren’t entirely sure which foods are high in which nutrients. It might be a good thing if we can to sort of buff up on our nutrition information and try and remember which foods are high in vitamin E, which foods are high in magnesium and all of the essential nutrients.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us?
Elisa Zied: “I think the key is to think of adding to your diet rather than eliminating or skimping on certain foods and food groups. Many of us give up on certain things whether it’s wheat or gluten or dairy products, whatever. I say eat all the foods from the basic healthy food groups, eat them in their lowest fat, lowest sugar, lowest sodium form and have treats, but keep them small in portion. Exercise and sleep are essential. Exercise/physical activity – just getting up off your chair can make a big difference and going out even 10 or 15 minutes can really add up when you’re talking about walking or jumping in place or even putting some music on. All of it’s essential.”
Dr. Holly Phillips: “It’s a huge immune booster.”
Candace Rose: Well, thank you both so much for the great tips. Where can we go for more information?
Elisa Zied: “For more about the Centrum Prevention survey and to find the multivitamin that may be right for you, visit Centrum.com.”