Potassium: Lower Blood Pressure
Potassium is a key one. Studies show that potassium can help keep blood pressure healthy. Potassium also supports fertility and muscle and nerve function. But while potassium is in lots of foods naturally — like milk, potatoes, sweet potatoes, legumes, avocados, and bananas — many people still aren’t getting enough.
Magnesium: Prevent Disease
Low magnesium levels have been linked with health problems like osteoporosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, muscle cramps, and heart disease. Some people, such as the elderly, people with stomach or intestinal problems, or those who regularly drink alcohol, are at risk for having low magnesium levels. So eat your spinach — and your beans, peas, whole grains, and nuts (especially almonds). They could do a lot for your health.
Vitamin A: Up Your Beta-Carotene
There are two types of vitamin A: retinol and carotenoids, like beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a carotenoid found in many orange and yellow foods — like sweet potatoes, carrots, and winter squash — as well as spinach and broccoli. Vitamin A is key in supporting good vision, healthy immunity, and tissue growth.
Vitamin D: Strong Heart and Mind
Vitamin D is important in the development of healthy bones, muscles, and nerve fibers as well as a strong immune system. Though our bodies can make it by exposure to sunlight, experts recommend getting vitamin D in other ways. A few foods naturally contain D, such as fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, mushrooms, liver, cheese, and egg yolks do. Milk, some brands of orange juice, and many cereals are fortified with vitamin D.
Calcium: More Than Strong Bones
You probably know that calcium is good for teeth and bones. But that’s not all. Calcium helps maintain muscle function and heart rhythm. It might even help prevent high blood pressure. Dairy is a good source, but foods like salmon, kale, and broccoli have some calcium too. One tip: Without enough vitamin D, your body can’t absorb the calcium you take in.
Vitamin C: Good for Bones
Vitamin C, found in many fruits and vegetables, boosts the growth of bone and tissue. As an antioxidant, it might also help protect cells from damage. Some studies suggest that high doses (2,000 milligrams a day) can shorten the length of cold symptoms. Many people believe it will prevent a cold, but research doesn’t back that up.
Fiber: Bulk Up
Fiber from grains, beans, and produce has loads of health benefits. It helps lower cholesterol and improve bowel regularity. It might lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. And it’s great for people trying to lose a few pounds. High-fiber foods are often filling and low in calories. If you take fiber supplements, they may keep some medications and other supplements from being absorbed well by your body. So take your fiber two hours before you take anything else. n
(Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD)