For many Americans, getting the recommended daily amount of nutrients can be challenging - particularly when it comes to dietary fiber and calcium.
The National Academy of Sciences and the National Osteoporosis Foundation report that adult men and women require a daily calcium intake of 1,000 milligrams to 1,200 milligrams a day, the equivalent of four 8-ounce glasses of milk, to ensure good bone health.
However, according to the National Institutes of Health, a large percentage of Americans fail to meet the recommended guidelines for optimal calcium intake - putting them at increased risk for osteoporosis, a significant health threat for both women and men and the major underlying cause of bone fractures in postmenopausal women and the elderly.
Americans also face a troubling national "fiber deficit." According to Columbia University, typical consumption of fiber averages 10 grams to 15 grams daily - less than half the recommended allowance. Leading health experts and members of the National Fiber Council, whose Web site is www.national fibercouncil.org, encourage Americans to consume at least 32 grams of dietary fiber per day.
Fiber keeps the digestive system running smoothly and may help prevent many diseases. In fact, "soluble" fiber has been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by lowering cholesterol and some research indicates fiber may help prevent Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
Here are some tips from Pat Baird, member of the National Fiber Council and registered dietitian, on adding fiber and calcium to the diet:
* Start off the day by combining fiber and calcium-rich foods, such as a bowl of whole-grain cereal with milk, yogurt sprinkled with fresh berries or calcium-fortified orange juice.
* Choose healthful snacks such as string cheese, nuts, air-popped popcorn or cottage cheese
* Calcium can be found in foods such as broccoli, dry roasted almonds and dried figs - all of which also are sources of dietary fiber.
* Supplements, such as Metamucil Capsules Plus Calcium, which provides 3 grams of psyllium fiber and 300 milligrams of elemental calcium per serving, are a viable option for those unable to meet their daily calcium and fiber requirements through food and drink intake alone.