We all know getting proper nutrition is important, but figuring out what to focus on can be confusing – should you worry about iron? Carbs? Vitamin D? Saturated fats? Cholesterol? Healthy Fats? or what? So to keep things simple, we’re going to look at the “big seven” – the nutrients that according to the USDA, tend to be lacking in most American diets.
The 7 “Most Wanted” Nutrients:
- Potassium is an important mineral, which helps regulate blood pressure, supports fertility and maintains muscle and nerve function. Make sure you’re getting enough by including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Good choices include potatoes, sweet potatoes, legumes, avocados, bananas, and milk.
- Magnesium – Low magnesium levels are associated with health problems such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, muscle cramps, and heart disease. The elderly, people who have stomach or intestinal problems, and those who drink regularly drink alcohol are at greatest risk. Make sure you’re getting enough magnesium by eating leafy greens, beans, peas, whole grains, and nuts.
- Vitamin A – Retinol and carotenoids (like beta-carotene) are important for vision, immunity, and healthy skin and tissues. To up your A-game, include dark leafy greens like spinach and broccoli, as well as orange and yellow foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, and winter squash. Vitamin A is also found in liver and fish oils.
- Vitamin D – This nutrient is important in the development of healthy bones, muscles, nerves and a strong immune system. We can produce vitamin D if given enough sun exposure but good food sources such as fatty fish, liver and fortified milk and juice should be consumed regularly. A supplement is often needed.
- Calcium – Most people think of calcium in relation to strong bones and teeth, but that’s not all this mineral does. It is essential to proper muscle and heart function, and plays a role in regulating blood pressure. So drink your milk and eat your cheese and yogurt – as well as salmon, kale, and broccoli.
- Vitamin C – This good guy is found in most fruits and vegetables, so load up on the produce! This antioxidant is important for cell and tissue health, growth, and health protection all over the body. Citrus and peppers are especially rich sources, but so are strawberries and baked potatoes.
- Fiber – Most of America needs to bulk up its fiber game. Fiber helps with gut health, lowers cholesterol and heart disease risk, reduces the risk of diabetes and cancer. Fiber also helps provide satiety and help maintain healthy body weight. To make sure you’re getting enough fiber, eat plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
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*NOTE: Every individual has unique needs depending on genetics, age, gender, and state of health, so always talk to your doctor or dietitian about your own personal nutrition needs.
And there you have it, A Nutritious Dish…in a matter of minutes!