29 September 2015 Why Are My Vitamin & Mineral Totals So Low?

If you have noticed that certain vitamin and mineral totals are always low on your nutrition reports, it may or may not be because your intake is truly low. Out of the 21 vitamins and minerals available for tracking at MyNetDiary, only 4 of those are actually required on U.S. food labels: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Some manufacturers will voluntarily include content for other vitamins and minerals but most do not. Because there is so much missing data for brand name foods, your daily totals for vitamins and minerals (other than vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron) will be underestimated on reports. This is true for tracking on virtually all commercial trackers. So, be aware of this limitation and learn how to minimize the error.

How Can You Make Your Vitamin & Mineral Totals More Accurate?

For foods and beverages that are unprocessed or minimally processed, you can simply choose to enter the USDA’s generic food item in your food record. The USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference is the core database for most commercial trackers (including MyNetDiary) and it contains extensive data for vitamins and minerals. Foods that can easily be logged as generic items are fruits, veggies, meat, fish/seafood, poultry, game, whole grains, and dairy. USDA typically provides nutrient data for raw as well as cooked versions of basic foods. When you log USDA generic foods, your vitamin and mineral intakes will be higher and more accurate than just logging brand name foods.

You can learn how to use keywords to search for basic USDA foods. Although the USDA nutrient database is the base of MyNetDiary’s database, you might find it easier to go directly to the USDA database to learn basic naming conventions for foods – sometimes the naming convention is very detailed. Once you learn how to search for foods, you can find all of those USDA food items at MyNetDiary. For instance, to log just chicken breast meat from my rotisserie chicken, the generic USDA food item I would log is: “Chicken, broilers or fryers, breast, meat only, cooked, roasted.” If you don’t know how USDA names generic food items, it can be difficult to find them. For instance, would you have known to use “Chicken, broilers or fryers” as part of your search string for generic chicken?

When to Log Brand Name Foods

If you consume processed packaged foods then use the barcode scanner to find the item in the database and use that in your food record. Using the processed food item will best account for calories and nutrients from added ingredients (e.g. fat, sodium, and sugar). Yes, you will lose vitamin and mineral content information, but if you are trying to lose weight or limit certain nutrients for health, you’ll get a better picture of your intake if you use the brand name vs. generic item.

How Low is Too Low for Vitamin & Mineral Intake?

Generally, nutritional risk is more likely when average intake over time falls below 2/3 of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (e.g. less than 66% RDA). RDA levels are specific for each vitamin and mineral and are based upon your age, gender, height, and weight. MyNetDiary uses your RDA as the default goal.

If your intake is less than 66% RDA for one day then don't sweat it. If your average intake over weeks and months is below 66% RDA, then you might want to check to see if your dietary intake of foods is high enough to meet your needs. The article Foods to Meet Nutrient Needs provides information on how basic food groups meet nutrient needs. If you routinely take dietary supplements, you can log them in your food record so that they are included in your nutrition reports.

More Resources:

More Tips for Food Logging, MyNetDiary blog, June 2, 2015.

ODS Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets - this site includes both food and dietary supplement sources for vitamins and minerals.

USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference - Nutrients List. This web page allows searching by nutrient of interest (“First Nutrient”) to get a list sorted by highest to lowest content. Tip: Sort by “Nutrient Content” and Measure by “Household” (vs. 100 grams).

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

Tags:

Nutrients/Other Vitamins & Minerals Nutrients/Potassium

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