We are constantly bombarded with conflicting messages about how to eat right: What foods should we
embrace and which should we avoid? The advice can become overwhelming. How are we supposed to sort
through it all and understand, once and for all, what we should be eating?
The answer is closer at hand than you might think! Thanks to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we know what eating patterns and food choices provide all the nutrients you and your family need. These recommendations represent the ideal whole foods diet: a wide variety of colorful vegetables—dark green, red and orange, green (legumes: beans and peas, as well as cruciferous veggies like broccoli and Brussels sprouts)— and whole fruits. Whole grains are also an important part of a varied diet for nutrients and fiber. The Dietary Guidelines recommend low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, and cheese, or fortified soy, as well as protein from a variety of plant and animal sources.
Finally, a whole foods diet includes oils. Don’t fear fats, especially oils like olive, which is great on salads, and avocado, which has a more neutral taste, and is excellent for cooking. According to the Dietary Guidelines, oils can be part of a healthy eating pattern because they are a major source of essential fatty acids and Vitamin E.
Vitamin D is one of many nutrients that the Dietary Guidelines recommends incorporating into our diets. Most people regularly get enough of the other fat-soluble vitamins from their diet, but food sources of Vitamin D—mainly fatty fish like salmon—are rarely enough. That doesn’t mean you necessarily need to supplement, but without them you do need to get some regular sunlight.
Fiber is another under-consumed ingredient. If you aren’t eating a variety of vegetables and fruit every day, at every meal, you probably aren’t getting enough fiber in your diet. One-third of a medium avocado (50 g) contributes 11 percent of the daily value for dietary fiber. The Dietary Guidelines recommend adults get at least 20 to 30 grams per day of dietary fiber.
AVO TIP: It’s not just guacamole that can introduce avocados to your plate — there are lots of other recipes, too. Try this avocado-pineapple-cucumber salad for some fabulous flavor!
The Dietary Guidelines found that adolescent girls and women aged 19-50 are short on iron. This nutrient is found primarily in lean meats, poultry, and seafood. The type of iron in these foods is called heme-iron, and is more readily absorbed by the body. You can also find iron in legumes and dark-green vegetables, as well as fortified foods like breads and cereals. If most of your iron is coming from these non-heme sources, be sure you are getting plenty of Vitamin C, which helps with absorption.
Avocados contribute a small amount of both — 2 percent iron and 6 percent potassium per 50 g serving — but a number of great sources include this vital mineral, too. Potassium can be found in potatoes and other root vegetables, beans, seafood, leafy greens, and fruits. Eat a lot of different plants to be sure to get enough.
Insufficient calcium, another important mineral, seems to be a problem associated with low dairy intake. If you can’t eat dairy, be sure to work dark leafy greens into your diet.
The Dietary Guidelines are called “eating patterns” because they are about creating regular habits that can influence your health long-term. Ensuring you and your family eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruits —including avocados—is your best bet for meeting all your nutrition needs!