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Overfed, Undernourished

The committee underscored that "nutrients should come primarily from foods" rather than from supplements, noting that "the more scientists learn about nutrition and the human body, the more they realize the importance of eating whole foods."

Ah, but which whole foods? Here's what the committee advised. (By the way, the group's recommendations form the basis for the next set of Dietary Guidelines, which are slated for release in January):

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Add healthy oils, fish and nuts. What little vitamin E is consumed these days comes mostly from salad dressings, mayonnaise, oils, margarine and potato and corn chips -- in short, from sources that are also high in calories. Better choices, the committee noted, include: fortified ready-to-eat cereals; almonds and sunflower seeds; canola, sunflower and safflower oil; tomato paste and sauce; wheat germ, turnip greens, avocados and pine nuts. And don't forget fish and seafood, which are among the best vitamin E sources. Plus, unless seafood is fried, it's generally low in calories.

More fruit and vegetables. Sure, you've heard it a thousand times before, but "low intakes of vitamins A, C and magnesium tend to reflect low intakes of fruit and vegetables," the committee noted. So a really simple fix is to eat more fruit and veggies. And remember that five servings a day is the recommendation for kids. (A serving is half a cup of chopped fruit or vegetables; a cup of leafy veggies, such as lettuce; a piece of fresh fruit; a quarter-cup of dried fruit or six ounces of juice.)

Women need at least seven servings a day; men need at least nine. Teens and larger adults may need up to 13 servings a day. So add fruit to your whole grain cereal, snack on veggies and fruit whenever possible and add a salad course to dinner. You can even add a bedtime snack of fresh fruit. (Just be sure to brush your teeth before going to sleep.)

Have some daily bread. Just make it whole grain, not the usual low-fiber white bread, rolls, buns and pizza crust. Other high-fiber options beyond whole-grain baked goods include beans, which pack eight to nine grams per half-cup. Whole-grain cereals without added sugar are another smart choice for increasing fiber.

Branch out. Go beyond the familiar standbys. For example, guava is a great source of fiber and vitamin C. Sweet potatoes, clams, beets, potatoes and prune juice are loaded with potassium. Pickled herring provides a good wallop of vitamin A. Many ready-to-eat breakfast cereals now are fortified with calcium. Dandelion greens pack vitamin E. Tofu is a good source of magnesium. And while orange and grapefruit juice are two traditional standbys for vitamin C, the whole fruit has more fiber and fewer calories with the same amount or more of vitamin C. Plus, there are a number of other choices with even richer amounts of this key vitamin, including red peppers. Other foods that pack a hefty amount of vitamin C include kiwi fruit, broccoli, vegetable juice cocktail, strawberries, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, pineapple, kale and mango.

Choose low-fat and nonfat dairy foods. You'll get more calcium and less fat and calories. Skim milk has 16 more milligrams per eight-ounce serving of calcium than 1 percent milk, 21 more milligrams than 2 percent. Ditto for nonfat yogurt vs. low fat or full fat. By the way, yogurt also contains potassium.

Magnify magnesium. Most people get their magnesium from milk, white bread, ready-to-eat cereal, white potatoes, beef and poultry and alcoholic beverages.

But there are plenty of better choices, the committee noted, including pumpkin seeds, bran cereal, Brazil nuts, halibut, spinach, almonds, buckwheat flour, cashews and soybeans. Others include white beans, bulgur wheat, brown rice, oat bran, tuna, pollock, artichokes and soy milk. •

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