Foods with more (or less) of nutrients than you thought

Many people don’t get enough fiber, vitamin D, calcium, or potassium. Others are seeking more protein (whether they need it or not). But we may be looking in the wrong places. Here’s a handful of foods with less (or more) of those nutrients than you might expect. Keep scrolling to see foods with surprisingly high (or low) levels of nutrients we overdo (added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium).

The information for this article was compiled by Kaamilah Mitchell.

Daily Values

  • Vitamin D: 800 IU (20 mcg)
  • Potassium: 4,700 mg
  • Calcium: 1,300 mg
  • Fiber: 28 g
  • Protein: 50 g
  • Added Sugar: 50 g
  • Saturated Fat: 20 g
  • Sodium: 2,300 mg

Vitamin D—LESS than you thought

fried egg
Mara Zemgaliete/

Egg yolks. Vitamin D is a “reason to keep the yolk in your next omelet,” says But one large egg has just 5 percent of a day’s worth of D. That’s a drop in the bucket.

Cheese. Most dairy milk that’s sold in supermarkets has added vitamin D (12 to 20 percent of a day’s worth per cup). But most cheeses are made with unfortified milk.

Yogurt (maybe). Many big brands (like Stonyfield, Yoplait, and Dannon) add vitamin D to all or most of their yogurts. Others—like Chobani, Wallaby, and Brown Cow—don’t.

Vitamin D—MORE than you thought

Few foods are naturally rich in vitamin D, which we get largely from sunlight, supplements, and fortified foods. Exceptions:

Jacek Chabraszewski/

Salmon. Just 3 oz. of salmon can supply half a day’s vitamin D or more. Many other fish have at least 10 percent of a day’s worth. That includes tilapia, barramundi, rainbow trout, rockfish, and herring. (Chicken, turkey, beef, and pork have little or none.)

Sunny mushrooms. Plants have next to no vitamin D. But mushrooms (they’re fungi) make their own when they’re exposed to ultraviolet light...just like we do! The problem: Most mushrooms are grown in the dark. So some growers now treat theirs with enough UV light to add 50 to 100 percent of a day’s vitamin D to every 3 oz. serving.

How to tell if your shrooms got some sun? Look for a vitamin D claim or check the Nutrition Facts label. Of course, pricey foraged mushrooms like morels or chanterelles get a vitamin D boost—roughly 20 percent of a day’s worth per serving—because they grow outdoors.

Potassium—LESS than you thought

coconut milk
Lindsay Moyer/CSPI.

Coconut milk. “Nutrients & electrolytes,” says Vita Coco Coconut Water. And each cup delivers 470 milligrams of potassium, a respectable 10 percent of a day’s worth. Coconut water is the juice inside a young coconut. Coconut milk is a different story. So Delicious Organic Unsweetened, for example, has 0 percent.

Cranberries. Most raw fruits and vegetables are a surefire way to rack up potassium without many calories. But a quarter cup of dried cranberries has virtually no potassium...and most brands contain about half a day’s added sugar. Ditto for a cup of cranberry juice cocktail.

Potassium—MORE than you thought

white beans

Beans. Just a half cup of most beans or lentils has about as much potassium as a small banana (360 milligrams). Beans also have fiber, protein, magnesium, folate, and iron. Nice!

Winter squash. Squashes like acorn (450 mg of potassium per half cup), Hubbard (370 mg), and butternut (290 mg) are in banana territory. Tip: Sweet potatoes (480 mg of potassium per half cup) also have twice the fiber of white potatoes, plus a wallop of beta carotene.

Portobello mushrooms. A cup of portobellos has 530 mg of potassium and will set you back just 35 calories. Wow!

Calcium—LESS than you thought

Chobani greek blueberry yogurt

Greek yogurt. When ordinary yogurt gets strained, it gains protein but loses some calcium (which goes out with the whey). A typical 5 oz. flavored greek yogurt has 10 percent 10 percent of a day’s calcium, versus 15 percent for a flavored non-greek.

Cottage cheese. Like greek yogurt, it’s strained. So a half cup has just 4 to 8 percent of a day’s calcium. A few brands add calcium. Horizon Organic, for example, has 15 percent.

Cream cheese. Unlike other cheeses, it has no more than 2 percent of a day’s calcium and a paltry 2 grams of protein in two tablespoons. It’s more like cream than cheese.

Calcium—MORE than you thought

Nasoya organic tofu

Tofu (sometimes). Nasoya Organic Extra Firm Tofu has 10 percent of a day’s calcium in 3 oz. Hodo Organic Firm Tofu doubles that. Both add calcium sulfate to firm up their soy milk. Other firming agents mean less calcium.

Canned salmon (with bones). Salmon sold in tall cans, not flat tuna-sized ones, comes with small bones. The surprise: they’re soft enough to eat (honest!). The payoff: 15 to 20 pecent of a day’s calcium per 3 oz. serving. Mash the bones into the fish with a fork, then make salmon salad or patties.

Fiber—LESS than you thought

long grain brown rice
Moving Moment/

Brown rice. A half cup has just 2 grams of fiber—7 percent of a day’s worth. Bulgur, farro, spelt, and wheat berries have at least twice that much.

Soba noodles. Japanese buckwheat noodles often have more refined wheat flour than whole-grain buckwheat, so they hover around 2 grams of fiber per cup. Harder-to-find soba noodles made with 100 percent buckwheat can hit 5 grams. Whole wheat pasta has 7 grams.

Fiber—MORE than you thought

Andreas Berheide/

Pears. One pear (with skin) has 6 grams of fiber. That beats an apple (4 grams), an orange (3 grams), a banana (3 grams), or even a cup of blueberries (4 grams), but not raspberries (8 grams).

Jicama. It’s the highest-fiber veggie you may have never tried. A 3 oz. serving has 4 grams (more than a serving of spinach or broccoli) and only 35 calories. Jicama tastes great raw. Peel and slice it for crudités, or use it in salsa or slaw.

Avocado. Beneath that creamy texture, a whole avocado hides 9 grams of fiber. It’ll cost you 230 calories (largely from healthy fat), though, and it’s got just 3 grams of protein.

Protein—LESS than you thought


Eggs. A large egg has 6 grams of protein (and 70 calories). While that makes it a “good source” of protein, eggs are no bargain among animal foods. Just 3 oz. of chicken breast, for example, have 26 grams of protein (for only 140 calories).

Hummus. Don’t confuse hummus with chickpeas. Two tablespoons of hummus have just 1 to 2 grams of protein and fiber. A half cup of chickpeas has about 6 grams of each. The hummus’s tahini and oil crowd out some of the beans.

Plant-based cheese. An ounce of dairy cheese has 5 to 8 grams of protein. Dairy-free cheeses like Daiya, Field Roast Chao, Violife, and Follow Your Heart are nearly protein-free. That’s because they’re largely water, oil, and starches. The exception: nut cheese. Treeline Treenut Cheeses, for example, get 3 to 5 grams of protein from cashews.

Protein—MORE than you thought

red lentil rotini

Lentil pasta. A cup of white pasta has 7 grams of protein. Whole wheat has 8 grams. But pasta made from red lentil flour has a whopping 12 to 15 grams. Try Barilla (13 grams) or Tolerant (14 grams).

Pea milk. A cup of most plant milks has 0 to 3 grams of protein. Exceptions: soymilk (6 to 8 grams) and milks with added pea protein like Ripple (8 grams) and Silk Protein (10 grams).

Pumpkin seeds. Most nuts and seeds range from 4 grams of protein per ounce (hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts) to 6 grams (almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds). But peanuts 6 grams (almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds). But peanuts hit 7 grams, and pumpkin seeds pump it up to 8 or 9 grams.

Edamame. A half cup of most beans offers a perfectly fine 6 or 7 grams of protein. Edamame does a bit better (9 grams).

Added Sugar—MORE than you thought

outshine strawberry frozen bars

Frozen fruit bars. “Made with real fruit,” say Outshine Strawberry Fruit Bars. Yes, strawberries are the top ingredient. But each bar has 14 grams of total sugar, and 12 of the 14 (3 teaspoons) come from added cane sugar. That’s a quarter of a day’s max.

Tonic water. Canada Dry Tonic Water tastes bitter, not sweet. But, like most tonic waters, it’s got nearly as much added sugar as Coca-Cola. Top off your gin & tonic with 7 oz. of tonic water, and you add 5 teaspoons of sugar. Tip: A 7 oz. bottle of Fever-Tree Refreshingly Light tonic water slashes the added sugar to only 1½ tsp. (6 grams) without any low-calorie sweeteners.

Pad Thai. Most restaurant chains disclose numbers for only total—not added—sugar. But judging by many supermarket pad Thai sauces and entrées, at least three-quarters of the dish’s total sugar may be added. In the hefty portions at P.F. Chang’s, Pei Wei, and Noodles & Company, the pad Thai has roughly 40 to 50 grams (10 to 12 teaspoons) of total sugar, along with 1,000 to 1,500 calories. How much of that total is added sugar? Our guess: plenty.

Nutella. The so-called “hazelnut spread” is more like chocolate frosting than nut butter. Two tablespoons have more palm oil and added sugar (19 grams, or 4 1⁄2 teaspoons) than nuts.

Added Sugar—LESS than you thought

Peanut butter. Two tablespoons of regular Jif or Peter Pan have just 2 grams (1⁄2 teaspoon) of added sugar—4 percent of a day’s max. Skippy has 3 grams.

Pasta sauce. “You won’t believe how much sugar is in these supermarket pasta sauces,” says “Your tomato sauce shouldn’t taste like dessert.” But the 4 to 7 grams of sugar in a half cup of most marinaras is naturally occurring (from slow-cooked tomatoes). Plenty of great-tasting sauces skip the added sugar. But even marinaras that add sugar typically only tack on another gram or two. You call that dessert?

Saturated Fat—MORE than you thought

ground beef
Lindsay Moyer/CSPI.

80 percent “lean” beef. Why do beef labels list “% lean” along with “% fat”? Because it sounds good. But a 3 oz. cooked patty of 80 percent lean beef delivers roughly 6 grams of saturated fat—30 percent of a day’s limit. That’s not “lean.” It’s McDonald’s Quarter Pounder territory.

Stick margarine. Land O Lakes margarine sticks say “80% vegetable oil.” But that oil is mostly palm and palm kernel. That’s why you get 5 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon—not much better than butter’s 7 grams. Spreads sold in tubs, on the other hand, need less palm oil to stay solid. Many have just 1 to 3 grams of sat fat.

“Yogurt” nuts or fruit. The coatings have more palm kernel oil (and sugar) than yogurt powder. That’s why two table-spoons of Ocean Spray Greek Yogurt Cranberry Bites, for example, deliver nearly a quarter of a day’s sat fat (4 1⁄2 grams).

Saturated Fat—LESS than you thought

Mayonnaise. “It’s the quintessential ‘bad’ food laden with artery clogging saturated fat,” says Huh? Mayo may look creamy, but it’s mostly oil and water. So a tablespoon has just 11⁄2 grams of saturated fat. Laden with calories? Yes (90 per tablespoon). Sat fat? No.

Sodium—More than you thought

good and gather boneless skinless chicken breast
Good & Gather.

Poultry with solution. Target’s Good & Gather frozen raw “all natural” chicken breasts have 300 mg of sodium in 4 oz. But only 50 of those milligrams are naturally occurring. What’s up? The chicken “contains up to 15% solution of water & salt.” Translation: Chicken (or turkey) that looks plain may be pumped with saltwater.

Shrimp or scallops with solution. Four ounces of salt-soaked raw scallops may have double the usual 180 mg of sodium. Salty shrimp often has double or triple the usual 140 mg. And both can taste rubbery and be harder to sear. At the seafood counter, ask for “untreated” shrimp or “dry-pack” scallops. In the freezer aisle, avoid ingredients like sodium tripolyphosphate, not just salt.

Sodium—LESS than you thought

Salted nuts. Don’t like snacking on unsalted nuts? Don’t sweat it. Nuts don’t need much salt to taste salty, since it’s sprinkled on top. Take Blue Diamond roasted salted almonds. An ounce has just 4 percent of a day’s sodium (85 mg). And their “lightly salted” almonds have just half that.Fresh mozzarella. An ounce of most cheeses (like cheddar, provolone, or shredded mozzarella) has 150 to 250 mg of sodium. But fresh mozzarella—often sold in tubs of water—has just 80 to 100 mg. Swiss cheese is even lower (40 to 60 mg).

a bowl of oatmeal granola with peanuts blueberry and banana


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