Tired of buying expensive vitamin supplements that may or may not provide health benefits? Maybe it’s time to concentrate on getting proper daily nutrition through the real deal – whole foods. Many whole foods provide important vitamins that even the most potent supplements can’t live up to, not to mention the added fiber that comes from food.
But which vitamins are key to healthy living? And what foods are good sources of those vitamins? Here are some important guidelines for eating your vitamins:
Vitamin D – Top Vitamin for Daily Health
Plenty of new research has revealed that vitamin D, especially D3 or cholecalciferol, protects the body against cancer, bone loss, hypertension, weight problems, and numerous other ailments. Although sunshine is the best source of vitamin D, many foods contain decent levels of this important nutrient. Which foods are especially rich in cholecalciferol? Fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, and mackerel. Other vitamin D food sources are fortified juices, milk, egg yolks, and cereals.
Vitamin B – Rich in Many Whole Foods
The B vitamins are important for the nervous system, metabolism, digestion, and numerous other body functions. Although most people get the recommended amounts of B vitamins through their diets, B12 deficiency is fairly common, especially in vegans, vegetarians, and those with anemia and intestinal disorders. Beef liver, clams, and trout all provide high levels of vitamin B12. Other good food sources of the B vitamins include poultry, meats, wheat and whole grain breads, and fortified cereals.
Vitamin C – Fruit and Veggie Vitamin
An antioxidant that’s needed for the growth and repair of tissues, bone and teeth health, and wound healing, vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) isn’t something you want to be deficient in – yet many people are. Eating a diet high in certain fruits and vegetables can combat vitamin C deficiency. Excellent food sources of vitamin C include oranges, strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cauliflower, potatoes, squash, and juices. The best way to consume vitamin C-rich foods? Raw, as vitamin C is sensitive to light, air, and heat.
Vitamin E – Powerful Antioxidant Vitamin
Vitamin E helps prevent oxidative stress that can lead to cancer and other diseases. Like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant. Unlike vitamin C, though, vitamin E deficiency is rare; most people get what they need from vitamin E foods, like sunflower seeds, almonds, pecans, oils, peanut butter, and spinach. There has been some debate about the safety of supplementing with vitamin E, but there is no evidence of adverse effects from consuming vitamin E through whole food sources.
Vitamin K – For Blood and Bone Health
Vitamin K is especially important for healthy blood coagulation and maintaining bone mass. One of the best food sources for vitamin K is cabbage. In fact, just one cup of raw cabbage provides 60 percent of the daily recommended allowance of K. Other good food sources of vitamin K include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, soybeans, kiwi, carrots, and tuna in oil. (Note: Anyone on anticoagulants should check with a doctor before consuming foods rich in vitamin K.)
Vitamin A – Plant and Animal Food Sources
Vitamin A not only helps with eye sight and skin problems, it produces white blood cells, regulates the immune system, and promotes healthy linings of the respiratory and intestinal tracts. Vitamin A comes from both animal and plant sources. Animal food sources of vitamin A include whole milk, eggs, and chicken and beef liver. Carrots, cantaloupe, and kale are all good plant food sources of vitamin A (however, plant sources aren’t absorbed as efficiently as animal sources).
Although the above vitamins are especially key to healthy living, other vitamins and minerals are considered important nutrients for health. Of course, vitamin supplements, especially whole food supplements, can help ensure that proper levels of these nutrients are reached and may be appropriate for pregnant women and people with vitamin deficiencies and certain medical conditions. But for most of us, consuming vitamin-rich foods is a good habit for health – and life.
For more articles on healthy eating, see:
- Best Superfoods for Health and Weight Loss
- Five Cancer-fighting Foods to Include in a Daily Diet
“Healthy Eating & Diet: Food Sources for Vitamins and Minerals.” WebMD (accessed January 6, 2011).
Neff, Cary. “The Delicate Side of Cabbage.” Experience Life (October 2010).
Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health.
“Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid).” University of Maryland Medical Center, www.umm.edu (accessed January 6, 2011.