We see a lot of commercials and print ads for vitamins that encourage us to take the supplements for what is missing in our regular diet. “Pills might seem like an easy fix, but food provides an abundance of nutrients, as well as fiber, that pills lack”, says Mary Ryan, a registered dietitian in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
With some many people and families going in eight different directions, it can be difficult to have a balanced diet, and many of us take a daily multi-vitamin as nutritional insurance. But, the downside to this is that many multivitamins may contain micronutrients in amounts in excess of those recommended in the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In some cases, these levels may result in unsafe intakes.
So, the best way to get the vitamins and nutrients you need is by eating the right foods in the right amounts. Below we cover some of the vitamins that are needed for a healthy diet and what to eat to get your daily value.
Vitamin A plays a key role in immunity, reproductive system, and especially vision. A vitamins include beta-carotene which helps the retina, cornea, and membranes of the the eye to function properly.
Just one medium size Sweet Potato contains 561% of your recommended daily value of Vitamin A. Beef liver, spinach, fish, milk, eggs, and carrots are also good sources.
Vitamins B6 and B12:
The B complex of vitamins (especially B6 and B12) keep blood, nerves, and the immune system functioning properly. They help stabilize blood sugar, guard against anemia, and make antibodies that fight disease. Deficiency in these may be a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.B6 is found in whole grains, bananas, beans, nuts, wheat germ, chicken, and fish. One cup of canned chickpeas contains 55% of your DV for B6.Animal products are the best way to get your B12. Cooked clams have the highest concentration of all with 1,402% of your DV in just 3 ounces! You can also find B12 in beef, pork, poultry, eggs, fish, and dairy. It’s also added to many breakfast cereals.You can also eat one cup of plain yogurt and a banana, one ounce of sunflower seeds, and three ounces of roast beef to fill your B12 and B6 quotas. B12 is found only in animal products, so vegans should take a supplement.Vitamin C:
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that has been shown to fight DNA-damaging free radicals. It may help to maintain a healthy immune system and boost HDL, the so-called “good” cholesterol.Most people think of citrus when they think about vitamin C, but did you know that sweet red peppers contain more vitamin C than any other food? Orange juice is a close second, but you can also get your DV from foods including kiwi, brocolli, brussels, sprouts, and cantaloupe.
If you eat your recommended five servings a day of fruits and vegetables and you shouldn’t be lacking in C.
Calcium is essential for bone health and plays an important role in preventing osteoporosis. Its the most abundant mineral in your body. More than 99% of calcium is stored in your teeth and bones and the rest is used for blood vessels and muscle function, cell communication, and hormone secretion.
Up to age 50, women should get at least 1,000 milligrams daily; those over 50 should get at least 1,200. The body can’t absorb more than 500 milligrams of calcium at a time, so small doses are best.
An eight-ounce glass of skim milk, one cup of yogurt, one cup of cooked spinach, and one fig will get you to your calcium goal. If you don’t eat dairy, look for calcium-fortified soy milk or orange juice. Dark, leafy vegetables are another source of natural calcium.
Our bodies generates vitamin D on its own when our skin is exposed to sunlight. It helps our calcium absorption and bone growth. It also helps with the reduction of inflammation. A vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis and has been linked to certain cancers, as well as to multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.
Swordfish, tuna and salmon, and mackerel are among the naturally occurring dietary sources of vitamin D. But most people get their vitamin D comes from fortified foods, like milk, cereal. and yogurt.
If you’re under 50, one 3 1/2-ounce serving of salmon or two cups of fortified milk will give you your daily allowance. Ten to 15 minutes of sunlight (with no sunscreen) two to three times a week is usually sufficient, too.
Wheat germ oil has more vitamin E than any other food source, but most people find it easy to get their DV from sunflower seeds or almonds. You will also find vitamin E in avocados, broccoli, vegetable oil (such as safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, canola, and olive), almonds, and most other nuts.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from harmful free radicals. Recent studies point to positive effects on eye health and the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
Folic Acid (Folate)
If you are pregnant, or planning on becoming pregnant, folic acid can help prevent birth defect. Even if you’re not pregnant, it helps new tissues and proteins form. Deficiencies may be a risk factor for some cancers, heart disease, and stroke.You can find Folic Acid in leafy vegetables like spinach which has 33% of your DV, strawberries, wheat germ, broccoli, asparagus, whole grains, beans, and foods that have been fortified with folic acid, such as cereals and breads.A 3/4-cup serving of fortified breakfast cereal contains 100 percent of what you need. A cup of peas, a cup of cooked spinach, and about five spears of asparagus also add up to the RDA.
Proteins in our body use iron to transport oxygen and to grow cells.There’s also evidence that it helps support a healthy immune system. A deficiency may be linked to impaired memory and an inability to focus.
Iron is most plentiful in and best absorbed from red meat, fish and poultry. It’s also found in lentils and beans.
A large spinach salad, a cup of lentil soup, and a small (three-ounce) serving of red meat will give you adequate iron.
Vitamin K helps maintain healthy blood clotting and promotes bone density and strength. Without it, your body would not be able to stop bleeding when you bruise, scratch or cut yourself.
Dark green, leafy vegetables and vegetable oils, such as olive, canola, and soybean. Kale contains the most, but collard greens and spinach are a close second. Eating about a cut of raw broccoli or spinach salad will provide you with what you need.
Magnesium helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, regulate blood sugar levels, and keep bones strong. A lack of it in your diet may contribute to heart disease or high blood pressure.
Wheat bran has the highest amount per serving. Other sources include whole-grain breads and cereals, legumes, spinach, broccoli, dates, raisins, bananas, almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, and pecans.
If you have two slices of whole-wheat toast for breakfast, snack on three ounces of almonds and raisins in the afternoon, and for dinner try three ounces of grilled halibut with a baked potato, you’ll get your daily allowance.
Zinc plays an important role in supporting a healthy immune system. It’s been known to shorten and lessen the severity of cold symptoms, but it’s also important for your sens of taste and smell.
Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food, but you can also get it in red meat and poultry.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your diet. They may recommend certain supplements to be sure you’re getting what you need on a daily basis.