What's missing from my diet?

From iron to fibre, let’s tuck right in!

Lured by the latest ‘quick fix’ fad diet? We’ve all been there. From swerving sugar and cutting carbs through to ditching dairy, there’s so many headlines out there telling us what we ought to exclude, rather than include. Not here, though!

From nailing your daily dose of protein to hitting your iron quota, it’s time to hone in on what could be missing from your diet. You might be surprised!


The basics

Before we get started, it’s time for a quick refresher! Each and every day we should be aiming to maintain a balanced and varied diet. Try to:

• Eat plenty of fruit, veg and salad – up to seven servings a day

• Limit your intake of fatty, sugary and salty food and drink

• Use the food pyramid as a guide for serving sizes

Sounds simple enough, right? If only! We know it can be tricky to gauge whether you're having precisely enough of each food group to fend off symptoms of deficiency or illness. That’s why we’re here to help.


Protein

Why is protein good for me?

Protein is a pretty hot topic, and for good reason! This multi-tasking macronutrient supports the growth and maintenance of every (yep, every) cell in the body.

Am I getting enough protein?

Ah, the age-old question.

The recommended protein intake for the average healthy adult is 0.75g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day. If you’re not up to mental maths right now (we don’t blame you), a rough guide would be around 45g of protein per day for women and 56g for men.

What’s more? From bodybuilding and swimming through to dancing and running, those who are super active may consider having extra protein to help support muscle growth.

That’s not all! The PROT-AGE study group recommends that seniors increase their daily intake to 1.0g-1.2g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day. Phew, that was a lot of info to digest.

Sources of protein

Good news! Protein is found in lots of everyday foods, so it should be easy to clock up your daily requirement. From red meat (we’re talking beef, lamb and pork) to white meat (think chicken and turkey) through to fish, egg, milk, yoghurt and cheese, there’s plenty to choose from.

Follow a vegan or vegetarian diet? Don’t panic, you can find good sources of protein in things like beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds and grains (think oats, pasta and bread).

Struggling to hit those numbers when you’re on the go? Let’s whey up your options! PhD’s Triple Choc Cookie Whey Bar packs 21g per bar, and MyVegan’s Double Chocolate Baked Cookie clocks 13g. Talk about convenient!


Iron

Why is iron good for me?

Put simply, iron is super important when it comes to making red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body.

Am I getting enough iron?

There’s no one size fits all when it comes to iron, but it’s recommended that men have 8.7 milligrams (mg) a day, and women have 14.8mg a day.

Data from The National Adult Nutrition Survey suggests that almost half of Irish women aged 18-64 have inadequate intake of iron. Plus, women who lose a lot of blood during their period may be at greater risk of iron deficiency anaemia, and therefore may need to take iron supplements. It’s best to chat to your GP or pharmacist if you’re worried about this.

Sources of iron

You should be able to get all the iron your body needs from your daily diet. Red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, dried fruits, fortified cereals, green leafy vegetables and beans (including kidney beans, edamame beans and chickpeas) are all great sources of iron. Ready to cook up a storm?


Calcium

Why is calcium good for me?

Remember at school when they told you that calcium was a big deal? They were right! As well as helping to build strong bones and teeth, calcium helps regulate muscle contractions (including your heartbeat) and helps ensure your blood clots normally. Talk about multi-tasking!

Am I getting enough calcium?

Adults need 700mg of calcium each and every day.

A lack of calcium (or vitamin D) could lead to rickets (weak or soft bones) in children. It can also lead to osteomalacia (soft bones) or osteoporosis (weak bones prone to breakage) in later life, so check in with your GP if you’re worried.

Sources of calcium

You should be able to get all the calcium you need from your daily diet. Dairy foods (like milk and cheese) and green leafy vegetables (including kale, okra and spinach) will give you a great calcium boost. What’s more? Bread, soya drinks with added calcium and fish where you eat the bones (such as sardines and pilchards) are all great sources.


Fibre

Why is fibre good for me?

Eating enough fibre is linked with a lower risk of stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. That’s not all! Choosing foods with fibre can also help prevent constipation.

Am I getting enough fibre?

Adults should be clocking up 24-35g of fibre every day as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Sources of fibre

There are plenty of tasty foods you can incorporate into your diet to help ensure you’re not skimping on your fibre. Oats, wholemeal bread, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice are all great options. Not to mention potatoes with their skins on, pulses (like beans, lentils or chickpeas), vegetables and fresh or dried fruit. No excuses now!


Vitamin D

Why is vitamin D good for me?

The vitamin on everyone’s radar – vitamin D helps to control the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies to help keep our bones, teeth and muscles in tip-top condition. It’s also great for supporting our immune system.

Am I getting enough vitamin D?

In general, adults can get enough vitamin D from sunlight on their skin and eating a balanced and nutritious diet.

Our main source of vitamin D comes from the sun, however it can be tricky to find sunshine during autumn and winter (unless you’re spending time in tropical climates, of course). In cases where you’re not getting enough vitamin D from a combination of sunlight and diet, a supplement may be appropriate for you.

Sources of vitamin D

You can find vitamin D in cheese, egg yolks, foods fortified with vitamin D (like orange juice, soy milk and cereals) and oily fish (think mackerel and salmon). If you’re concerned that you’re low in vitamin D and require a supplement, why not consider Boots Vitamin D 10 µg 90 tablets? Your pharmacist and healthcare colleagues will be happy to talk you through the options available to you.

So, there you have it. Rather than focusing on what you could strip out of your diet, why not focus on what you could put in? Try to make sure you’re having a varied, balanced diet – your body will thank you for it!