Some foods have greater health benefits and properties than others, providing us with tons of vitamins and minerals that help us to stay healthy. Below are some essential vitamins and minerals and the foods that contain them, so that we can begin including them in our daily diets.
VITAMIN D: The sunshine vitamin. Most people are deficient in vitamin D due to their use of sunscreen to avoid UV rays and related skin problems. Vitamin D, however, is crucial to the absorption of calcium in the body, maintenance of healthy bones and teeth and prevention of osteoporosis. Because we don’t get enough from natural sources, you may want to consider a vitamin D supplement. Sources: fatty fish, cod liver oil, egg yolks, beef liver and dairy products (that have usually been fortified).
VITAMIN C: Antioxidants! Vitamin C protects us against free radicals that damage our cells, helps us resist infection and is a natural antihistamine, which is why we use it for common cold prevention and relief. It also aids in the formation of collagen that is needed by our bodies for the development of bones and teeth and for wound healing. Vitamin C also helps in the absorption of iron from plant foods, so if you are a vegetarian or vegan, this tip is very handy. Sources: oranges, kiwi, berries (all of them!), broccoli, tomatoes and bell peppers.
VITAMIN A: Vital for vision and bone and tissue repair. Its most important function is helping our immune system fight off infections. Sources: whole eggs, milk products (fortified), beef liver, dark greens, and orange and yellow vegetables
VITAMIN B: Turns food into energy. There are many vitamins in this group, which is related to the nervous system, heart, adrenals, blood pressure and energy level. They are found throughout our food supply, except for B12, which is not found in vegetation, so vegetarians and vegans may want to supplement. Sources: meats, green vegetables, dairy, poultry, eggs and liver.
CALCIUM: Builds strong, healthy bones. Calcium supplements have become more popular, and more controversial, with time. We may consume enough (or at least think that we do), but we often do not consume the vitamins and minerals that are needed to absorb it, i.e., vitamin D and magnesium. Overconsumption of calcium can cause bone fractures, so if you take calcium supplements, it is best to check for appropriate vitamin D and magnesium levels. If not, the extra calcium alone could cause more harm than good. Sources: dairy products, dark leafy greens, kale, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, mustard greens, bok choy, parsley, seaweed, watercress, canned fish with edible bones, sesame, almonds and tofu.
MAGNESIUM: Vital to all body systems. The role of magnesium is so diverse that it is difficult to find a body system that is not affected by magnesium deficiency. Found mainly in our bones, it supports nerve and muscle functions and our immune system and helps control blood sugar levels. Deficiency may cause muscle weakness, spasms, headaches, weakening of bones and an imbalanced blood sugar levels. Sources: green leafy vegetables, legumes, spinach, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, whole grains and cashews.
SODIUM: Regulates water and balances electrolytes. It also helps in nerve and muscle activity and is essential for acid-base balance. Almost no one is sodium deficient, as it is found in table salt (which we use in excess), canned and packaged goods, seaweed and soy sauce. The western diet is generally very high in sodium, and most of us should consider reducing its intake. Too much sodium may increase the need for potassium. Try cooking with more with spices and start lowering the amount of salt in your foods.
POTASSIUM: Supports the proper function of all cells, tissues and organs in our bodies and maintains the correct electrolyte and acid-base balance in our systems. It is especially important in regulating muscle and nerve activity. Maintaining the right potassium balance in the body depends on the amounts of sodium and magnesium in the blood. Keep a diet rich in this mineral to counterbalance some of sodium’s harmful effects on blood pressure.Sources: a wide variety of foods such as fresh whole unprocessed foods, vegetables, fruits, some meats, dairy, legumes and grains.
These vitamins and minerals are just a few that our bodies depend on to stay healthy and feel great. The most important thing is to eat a wide variety of foods and be conscious to consume the vitamins and minerals that are harder to get, or too easily over consumed.
Certified Health Coach, Institute for Integrative Nutrition