ABCs of Vitamins and Minerals

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How to get your nutrients naturally

A healthy diet is the best way to obtain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you need to maintain your health and keep chronic diseases at bay. Most people do not need supplements. A supplement may be recommended when patients are:

  • Not consuming a wide variety of nutrient rich foods
  • Following a restrictive diet less than 1600 calories per day or
  • Eliminating entire food group such as vegans or vegetarians
  • Over the age of 50
  • Pregnant
  • Have a certain medical condition

VIP Vitamins and Minerals

Here are some of the most important vitamins and ways to obtain them in your diet:

A

Vitamin A helps good vision, cell growth, reproduction and breast feeding.Vitamin A comes from two sources. One group is found in animal-based foods, like eggs, meat, milk, cheese, cream or liver. These are called retinoids. The other group is found in plant-based foods. These are called carotenoids and includebeta-carotene. Beta-carotene in the body is converted to vitamin A. You can find that in bright orange and yellow produce, like cantaloupe, carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and squash.

B

Vitamin B and folate

Thiamin (pork, green peas, whole grains), riboflavin (milk, dairy, lean meats, eggs), niacin (peanut butter, beef, poultry, fish, avocado), B6 (baked potato, banana, beef, fortified cereals, nuts), B12 (milk, dairy, meat, salmon, eggs) and folate (OJ, spinach, broccoli, fortified cereals) are all essential for producing energy and maintaining your metabolism. This group helps you fight disease and infection. Folic acid is essential for a healthy pregnancy by reducing the risk of some serious birth defects.

C

Calcium

Essential for bone health. If you do not have enough serum calcium in your blood, your body will pull calcium from your bones. Consume low fat milk, dairy, and calcium fortified foods.

D

Vitamin D

This aids in calcium and phosphorus absorption in our bodies. Vitamin D aids in muscle function and nerve communication. You can get Vitamin D from the sun but it takes about 10 minutes of direct exposure (no sunscreen). Dietary sources include fatty fish like salmon or tuna, cheese, mushrooms and egg yolks.

F

Fiber

Found in whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. Your goal is 25 grams a day for women and 38 grams for men. Fiber helps protect against heart disease. It can help control blood sugar levels for people with diabetes. Fiber can help with weight loss as fiber fills you up. Fiber can also prevent constipation.

I

Iron

Iron carries oxygen in red blood cells throughout your body so your cells can produce energy. In foods, iron exists in 2 forms: heme and non-heme. Animal foods (meat, poultry, and fish) provide heme wish is use most effectively in your body. Non-heme is found in plant foods like spinach and beans. Vitamin C can help you absorb more.

M

Magnesium

This mineral helps maintain healthy bones and heart but is also involved in over 300 enzymes (chemicals that help regulate many body functions). Magnesium is found in green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts.

P

Potassium

This mineral helps muscles to contract, helps regulate fluids in the body and helps maintain normal blood pressure. Potassium is found in leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, pumpkins, potatoes, carrots, beans, nuts and dairy.

Getting your nutrients from fresh food is best. Here are some easy ways to bump up your nutrition:

  • Start each day with breakfast. This is an easy way to incorporate whole grains, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin C rich foods. Think high fiber cereal with low fat milk topped with sliced fruit. Or whole grain frozen waffle with nut butter spread topped with sliced berries.
  • Replace white bread, white rice and pasta with whole grains (these are packed with fiber and B vitamins).
  • Take the time on Sundays to pre wash and chop up veggies for the week.
  • If fresh isn't available, opt for frozen or canned fruit and veggies.
  • Color your plate (a variety of different colors of fruit and vegetables offers you a wealth of nutrition).
  • Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies.

If you think you're nutrient-deficient, check with a doctor before starting a supplement.

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