When it comes to getting the right amount of vitamins, grabbing a quick pill might seem like the easiest option. But what most people don’t know is that there’s almost no proof that multivitamin pills offer any long-term health benefits.
A well-balanced diet is the best way to get the nutrients your body needs but can’t make on its own. Fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains offer key vitamins and minerals that keep you functioning at your peak. Plus, adding more healthy foods to your daily rotation can help ward off things like the common cold and aid the health of your immune system. Here’s a brief guide to some of the most important vitamins and the easiest, most delicious ways to get them.
Why we need it: Calcium helps build healthy bones and teeth, and it aids in blood clotting and muscle contraction. The human body does not produce calcium on its own, yet this mineral is essential for keeping us alive.
Where to get it: Your best bets are lean dairy products, like milk, cheese, and yogurt. Because these foods can be high in both fat and sodium, make sure you’re not eating too much! Also, caffeinated drinks like coffee and soda can pull the calcium out of your body, so watch how many of these beverages you consume.
Why we need it: Iron is another powerhouse mineral that makes life possible. If you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t make enough red blood cells. This can lead to a condition called anemia. Lack of iron can leave you feeling fatigued and dizzy. Pregnant women who don’t get enough iron are more likely to give birth to underweight or premature babies.
Where to get it: The good news is there are plenty of tasty foods that can help you get enough iron. The best sources are animal proteins: chicken, fish, beef, and especially liver are rich in iron. You can also find iron in lentils, beans, cereal, tofu, and even dried apricots.
Vitamin B6 and B12
Why we need it: Vitamin B6 is important for your metabolism, or how your body breaks down your foods for energy. It’s also been shown to promote brain health and cut the risk for Alzheimer’s. B12 helps keep the nerves and blood cells healthy. When its lacking in the body, you may feel fatigued and dizzy – in severe deficiencies, you could experience muscle and coordination problems.
Where to get it: Foods like turkey, chickpeas, tuna, salmon, potatoes, and bananas as well as fruit (other than citrus) are B6 rich. B12 is naturally found in animal products (meat and dairy products) and is added to fortify plant-based foods like veggie burgers. Beef liver and clams contain the highest amount of B12, with 3,460% of the recommended daily allowance in one serving.
Why we need it: Vitamin C protects our cells from damage caused by free radicals which are harmful compounds found in air pollution, the sun’s UVA rays, and cigarette smoke. It’s also vital in the production of collagen and helps the immune system fight off diseases.
Where to get it: Vitamin C’s impressive health benefits can come from many fruits and vegetables like strawberries, kiwi fruit, bell peppers, kale, and spinach. The most popular source of Vitamin C is, of course, oranges. A single orange delivers almost your entire daily dose.
Why we need it: Vitamin D has numerous benefits related to cancer prevention, bone health, mental health, and your immune system. Vitamin D helps your body better absorb calcium, which helps prevent osteoporosis and decreases the risk of bone fractures in older adults. There’s even been a study that suggests vitamin D may help fight depression.
Where to get it: Dairy products, nut milks, and cereals are often fortified with vitamin D, giving them an extra helping of this important vitamin. Fatty fishes like tuna, salmon, and cod rank high on the list of nutrient-filled foods. Rare mushrooms and egg yolks also contain small amounts.
Reaping the Benefits
Supplements can be an added bonus to our daily diet but should be considered as a secondary option when it comes to sourcing the proper nutrients for our bodies. Incorporating foods that nourish our bodies and are loaded with minerals is essential to a long and healthy life. Even if you’re eating at a restaurant, you can still make smart choices and meet your nutritional goals. Check back regularly for more healthy living tips and ideas!