Friday, April 26, 2013

Best Foods for Every Vitamin

The foods you eat do more than fill your belly; they give your body the nutrients it needs to survive. What you eat can affect how you feel today, and how you may feel years from now.

Some foods fuel your body’s natural disease-fighting abilities, which can reduce your risk of health problems. Other foods can deplete your energy and impair your digestive system. Click through the slideshow to learn about high-vitamin foods, which can help you get the nutrition you need.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble nutrient that helps form and maintain healthy teeth, bones, soft tissues, and skin. This vitamin can also help ward off bacterial and viral infections, prevent night blindness, and keep hair and nails healthy.

Foods that are particularly high in vitamin A include:

  • sweet potatoes
  • carrots
  • spinach, kale, and collard greens
  • cantaloupe
  • apricots
  • winter squash

Vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid (B9) all assist proper nerve function, the synthesis of DNA, and the formation of red blood cells. They also help maintain brain function, prevent anemia, and are important for metabolism.

Foods particularly high in vitamins B6 and B12 include:

  • meat, poultry, and fish
  • seafood, including mussels and oysters
  • eggs
  • milk

Foods particularly high in folic acid include:

  • leafy green vegetables
  • poultry
  • certain fruit juices, including orange and grapefruit

Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects the health of cells and improves iron absorption. It’s also important in promoting healthy teeth and gums, healing wounds, and helping the body resist infection.

Foods particularly high in vitamin C include:

  • papaya
  • citrus fruits
  • strawberries
  • bell peppers
  • broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • dark leafy greens like kale, mustard greens, and chard

Vitamin D is a unique vitamin because it can also be created by the body from sunlight. It’s critical for bone health, immune system health, and calcium absorption. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), this vitamin is also associated with a possible decreased risk of colorectal cancer. However, whether it helps reduce risks of other cancers remains unclear.

Foods particularly high in vitamin D include:

  • some seafood such as salmon, herring, catfish, oysters, trout
  • milk
  • eggs
  • shiitake mushrooms

Like vitamin C, vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from damage, helps the body use vitamin K, and repairs muscle cells. Studies on vitamin E and cancer have produced mixed results. However, the American Cancer Society says that recent research shows vitamin E found in corn, soybean, and canola oils may have cancer-fighting properties.

Foods particularly high in vitamin E include:

  • sunflower seeds and almonds
  • spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens
  • bell peppers
  • asparagus

Vitamin K is critical for the formation of blood clots. Without it, you could bleed to death from a simple cut. According to the National Institutes of Health, studies suggest that this fat-soluble vitamin also helps maintain bone strength in older adults.

Foods particularly high in vitamin K include:

  • kale, spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard, turnip greens, mustard greens
  • Brussels sprouts, asparagus
  • parsley
  • romaine lettuce
  • broccoli

Even if you want to eat a healthy diet, it can be a struggle to get in all the nutrients you need on a daily basis. It’s tempting to turn to supplements, but according to the American Heart Association, scientific studies aren’t clear if that is the best option. Instead, it may be better to stock up on high-vitamin foods that we know pack a nutritious punch.

Eating a healthy diet overall ensures adequate nutrition. Most nutrients are available in vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, nuts, and seafood. If you incorporate a variety of these options into your diet on a daily basis, you’re likely to get all of the nutrients you need for optimum health and wellness.

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