Food High in Nutrients
You’ve probably heard the term, “antioxidants.” And you may know that they’re good for you and that you can find them in food. You can also find them in beauty products, vitamins, and nutritional products. What you may not know is exactly what they are, and what they do for you and your body.
What Are Antioxidants?
In technical terms, an antioxidant is a substance that inhibits or stops the oxidation of other molecules. Okay, great – right? What’s oxidation and why does that matter? Well, when something is oxidized it loses electrons. It’s now called a free radical which means that it can, and wants to, bind with something. There’s room. And it can wreak havoc and cause damage to your tissues.
These radicals can start chain reactions. These oxidized elements actually steal electrons from other molecules, which damages them.
Now your body can handle some free radicals. It’s used to it and it’s generally prepared to deal with it. However, our lifestyle has changed enough that we now tend to have many more of these little buggers running around in our bodies. They’re caused by environmental problems like pollution, pesticides, and even exposure to cigarette smoke.
Antioxidants Neutralize Free Radicals
Antioxidants, as mentioned, negate the damage of free radicals. They protect your cells and help ensure you don’t suffer the damage from free radicals. So what damage can free radicals cause?
Some of the problems include (but aren’t limited to)
- Neural degeneration, which can lead to Alzheimer’s
- Premature aging
- Coronary heart disease
- Some cancers
Antioxidants are found in some specific foods. There are three major antioxidants that you want to include in your diet every day. They are beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E. You can find antioxidants in abundance in colorful veggies and fruits. Look for purple, red, blue, and orange produce.
You can also find them in interesting sources like coffee and tea, chocolate, and onions and garlic. The good news is that essentially if you eat a diet that is generally prepared from whole foods rather than processed foods, you’re probably getting an abundance of antioxidants with every meal.
Focus on making sure that you’re getting enough fruits and vegetables and you’ll be well on your way to preventing excess damage caused by free radicals.
Foods High in B Vitamins
Did you know that there are eight B vitamins? They often work together but each one has a few specific jobs. For example, thiamin or B1 is necessary to make energy for your cells from the food that you eat.
It’s also an important part of making DNA and RNA. You really cannot do without this vitamin. So let’s take a look at each of the eight and provide a short description about what it does and what foods provide that specific B vitamin.
You can find this B vitamin in beans and lentils. You can also find it in many meat products, including read meat and pork. Vegetarians will be happy to know that it’s in many nuts and seeds as well as spinach, cauliflower and cruciferous vegetables.
B3 is also an important part of creating energy for the cells. In addition, it synthesizes fatty acids and is important for your cardiovascular health. You can find niacin in fish, beef, and chicken as well as peanuts and beans and lentils. It’s also in whole grains.
Very important for children and their development, B2 is required for energy production, growth, and controlling free radicals in the body. Salmon, beef, eggs, and green leafy and cruciferous veggies contain riboflavin. Also known as vitamin B2, riboflavin is a basic building block for normal growth and development.
B5 aka pantothenic acid, supports your body to produce energy. It’s found in lots of different sources, including both meat and vegetables. Avocados, organ meats, nuts and seeds, are all great sources of B5.
This is a vitamin that your body simply cannot do without. It’s essential for just about every cellular function in your body, including your hormones, your nervous system and your metabolism. If you eat meat, you won’t have a problem getting this nutrient. Don’t eat meat and you’ll have to look for fortified foods and dark leafy greens for B6.
B7 is also known as biotin. It’s found in yeast, dairy products and strawberries. It’s important for hair, skin, and nail health, as well as metabolism.
Folic acid, or B9, is needed for the formation of red blood cells. It’s important in the development of fetuses, and you can find it in fortified foods and dark leafy greens.
This vitamin helps produce cellular energy and DNA synthesis as well as the formation of your red blood cells. It’s important. You can find it in animal products almost exclusively, including milk and eggs. If you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, look for fortified foods to get your B12.
B vitamins are important for optimal health and there are many B vitamins that you just cannot live without. Also, there are minerals that are essential for survival. We’ll explore those next and talk about how you can embrace mineral-rich foods into your daily diet.
How to Consume More Foods That Are High in Minerals
When you think about complete health and a well-rounded diet, you probably think about vitamins first. After all, we often hear words like “antioxidants” and “plant sterols” and “phytochemicals” before we hear words like “electrolytes” and “minerals.” Yet minerals are just as essential to your health and vitality as vitamins.
What Do Minerals Do?
Minerals actually play a very large role in a number of metabolic processes. At the cellular level they are an integral part of the energy production process. Your body cannot make energy from your food without minerals.
Minerals are also required for carrying nutrients to your body, as well as the hydration and elimination process. You probably already know that minerals are required for bone health, but did you know that minerals impact your hormones and your immune system too?
The bottom line is that minerals are equally important to your health and this is often overlooked. Let’s list the most important minerals first and then talk about adding them to your diet. The top three were mentioned earlier.
Getting Minerals into Your Diet
- Dairy or fortified dairy alternatives
We’ve already discussed how dairy provides calcium for a healthy diet. If you cannot have dairy products, try dairy alternatives that have been fortified with calcium. They may also have some additional mineral fortification.
- Dark leafy greens
Dark leafy greens are one of the most powerful superfoods that you can add to your daily diet. This includes kale, spinach, and collards. Add them to smoothies, enjoy salads, and you can also sauté and even bake some greens. They’re packed with minerals and vitamins.
- Bone broth
Bone broth has become all the rage and if it hasn’t hit your community yet, just wait. Bone broth is made from boiling bones for long periods of time, up to 12 hours. It releases the minerals and an abundance of flavor. You can make soup from it or drink it as is. It’s super healthy and a great source of minerals.
Finally, don’t forget that sea salt, kelp and fortified cereals can also provide an abundance of minerals. While you don’t need a large amount of minerals on a daily basis, it is important to make sure that you’re eating foods that give you the mineral nutrition that your body needs.
We’ve talked about minerals and a few vitamins specifically. Now let’s take a look at a broader category, antioxidants, and talk about what they are, why they’re important, and how to make sure you’re getting them into your diet.
We’ve talked a lot about the nutrients that people generally consider to be healthy – vitamins and minerals. However, your body cannot even metabolize many vitamins and minerals without two other important nutrient categories. We’re talking about protein and fat.
What about Protein and Fat?
Your body is protein. It’s in every cell and tissue. Enzymes are made from protein, as are your hormones and components of your blood. Your hair, nails and of course your muscles all are made from protein.
Protein isn’t stored in your body. You have to consume it and this is where many people get into trouble. Vegetarians often don’t get enough protein, though many other people don’t either. There’s a misperception that Americans often get too much protein. The IOS has the following recommendation:
Adults need to get a minimum of 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you’d want to get at least 60 grams each day. Athletes and active individuals may need more protein.
The challenge when you’re talking about complete health is to find sources of protein that come from foods that also provide other nutrients. For example, salmon is a protein that comes with omega-3 fatty acids, lentils are packed with protein and an abundance of vitamins and minerals, and eggs come with minerals too.
When it comes to fat, it is true that your body need fat. However, what it needs are fats from plants rather than fats from fatty cuts of meat. Sure, you can have the occasional hamburger but you may not want that to be the norm. Studies have shown that food that’s high in saturated fat does cause heart disease and cardiovascular problems.
Strive to get your fats from plants. For example, avocados, nuts and seeds are all high in fat, but it’s fat that is good for you. When you’re looking at your plate of food, the majority of it should be vegetables and plants. However, you do want to have some room devoted to both fats (a small amount) and protein. A balanced diet is the best way to get complete nutrition.