What you eat—your NUTRITION—will affect virtually every aspect of how your body functions. Weiss dietitian Paulette West calls nutrition “the science of the human body and how it uses compounds that the body must have to maintain life.” She adds, “Eating too much or not enough of the nutrients may contribute to various diseases, especially if there is a family history of such diseases.”
Focus on fruits, vegetables and lean proteins; cut out foods high in fat, sugar and salt. Watch your portions, and keep healthy snacks around like nuts, dried fruit, yogurt and baby carrots.
Here are two lists—one of vitamins and one of minerals—that are necessary to a healthy life. Bon appétit!
Vitamin A—prevents eye problems, strengthens your immune system, is essential for cell growth and keeps skin healthy. Eat lots of milk, eggs, liver, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, kale, cantaloupe, apricots, peaches, papayas and mangos.
Vitamin C—forms collagen and contributes to healthy bones, teeth, gums and blood vessels. It also helps absorb iron and calcium, heals wounds and keeps your brain functioning! Find it in red berries, kiwi, bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, guava, grapefruit and orange juices.
Vitamin D—strengthens bones by absorbing calcium. Our bodies absorb vitamin D from the sun, but it also comes from egg yolks, fish oils and fortified foods.
Vitamin E—an antioxidant that helps protect cells. Try vegetable oils, nuts, leafy greens, avocados, wheat germ and whole grains.
Vitamin B12—makes red blood cells and contributes to nerve function. You can find it in fish, red meat, poultry, milk, cheese and eggs.
Vitamin B6—important to brain and nerve function, it helps break down proteins and make red blood cells. Add potatoes, bananas, beans, seeds, nuts, red meat, poultry, fish, eggs and spinach to your diet.
Thiamin—converts carbohydrates into energy and helps the heart, muscles and nervous system function well. Look for it in fortified breads, cereals and pasta, as well as meat, fish, dried beans, soy, peas and whole grains.
Niacin—turns food into energy, maintains healthy skin and contributes to nerve function. Eat plenty of red meat, poultry, fish and peanuts.
Riboflavin—turns carbs into energy and produces red blood cells. It’s also important for vision. Find riboflavin in meat, eggs, legumes, nuts, dairy, leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, and fortified cereals.
Folate—creates red blood cells and DNA. Try incorporating liver, dried beans, leafy greens, asparagus and orange juice into your diet.
Calcium—vital to strong bones and teeth. Weak bones are susceptible to osteoporosis, which causes them to become brittle and break. You can find calcium in yogurt, cheese, milk, broccoli, leafy greens and soy.
Iron—assists red blood cells with carrying oxygen throughout the body. You may not be getting enough iron if you experience, weakness, fatigue, light headedness and shortness of breath. Eat plenty of red meat, pork, fish, poultry, lentils, beans, soy, leafy greens and raisins.
Magnesium—does a lot, simply put. It steadies your heartbeat, maintains strong bones, creates proteins, and assists with muscle and nerve function. Find magnesium in whole grains, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, potatoes, beans, avocados, bananas, milk and chocolate.
Phosphorus—forms healthy bones, and helps the body create energy. It exists in every cell membrane, and you can find it in virtually all foods. The best sources, however, are dairy, meat and fish.
Potassium—contributes to muscle and nervous system function, and helps balance the amount of water in blood and body tissues. Eat broccoli, potatoes, leafy greens, citrus, bananas, dried fruit and legumes.
Zinc—key to normal growth, immunity and wound healing. It’s in red meat, poultry, oysters, nuts, dried beans, soy, dairy and whole grains.
Remember, West says, “It is best to get vitamins and minerals from food. Most of us, however, do not eat a perfectly well-balanced diet. A very basic multiple vitamin/mineral supplement is probably beneficial to most of us on a daily basis.”