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In our journey towards optimal health, it’s essential to understand the importance of a well-balanced diet that includes various foods and nutrients. These nutrients, including vitamin C, are critical to maintaining health and well-being. Here, we’ll explore the sources and benefits of various essential nutrients, focusing on how they contribute to our health.

Vitamin C: The Immunity Booster

Sources:

  • Citrus Fruits: Oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and tangerines are well-known for their high vitamin C content. Oranges, for example, provide about 70 mg of vitamin C per medium-sized fruit.
  • Berries: Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are excellent sources. A cup of strawberries offers about 85 mg of vitamin C.
  • Kiwifruit: One medium kiwi contains around 70 mg of vitamin C, almost covering the daily requirement.
  • Papaya: One cup of papaya provides approximately 88 mg of vitamin C.
  • Pineapple: A cup of pineapple chunks delivers about 79 mg of vitamin C.
  • Mango: One cup of sliced mango contains about 60 mg of vitamin C.
  • Guava: A single guava fruit can provide over 200 mg of vitamin C, significantly surpassing the daily requirement.
  • Bell Peppers: Red bell peppers contain more vitamin C than green ones, providing about 190 mg per cup.
  • Broccoli: One cup of cooked broccoli contains around 81 mg of vitamin C.
  • Brussels Sprouts: One cup of cooked Brussels sprouts provides about 75 mg of vitamin C.

Benefits: Vitamin C is renowned for supporting the immune system. It helps produce white blood cells, which fight infections. Additionally, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, protecting cells from damage by free radicals. It also aids in collagen production, which is crucial for skin health and wound healing.

Vitamin A: The Vision Protector

Sources:

  • Carrots: One medium carrot provides about 509 mcg of vitamin A.
  • Sweet Potatoes: A medium sweet potato contains about 1,096 mcg of vitamin A.
  • Spinach: One cup of cooked spinach offers about 943 mcg of vitamin A.
  • Kale: One cup of cooked kale provides approximately 885 mcg of vitamin A.
  • Butternut Squash: One cup of cooked butternut squash contains about 1,144 mcg of vitamin A.
  • Apricots: One cup of sliced apricots offers about 1,926 IU of vitamin A.
  • Liver: Beef liver is an extremely rich source, with a 3-ounce serving providing about 6,582 mcg of vitamin A.
  • Fish Oils: Cod liver oil, for instance, offers about 4,500 IU of vitamin A per teaspoon.

Benefits: Vitamin A is essential for maintaining good vision, particularly in low-light conditions. It also supports the immune system and skin health. Moreover, vitamin A is important for reproductive health and the heart, lungs, and kidneys functioning properly.

Vitamin D: The Bone Strengthener

Sources:

  • Fatty Fish: Salmon, mackerel, and sardines are excellent sources. For example, a 3.5-ounce cooked salmon provides about 570 IU of vitamin D.
  • Fortified Dairy Products: Milk and yoghurt are often fortified with vitamin D, offering about 120 IU per cup.
  • Eggs: One large egg yolk contains about 41 IU of vitamin D.
  • Mushrooms: Mushrooms exposed to sunlight, such as maitake, can offer up to 786 IU per cup.
  • Sunlight Exposure: Depending on skin type and geographic location, about 10-30 minutes of midday sun exposure several times a week can help maintain adequate vitamin D levels.

Benefits: Vitamin D is crucial in calcium absorption and vital for maintaining strong bones and teeth. It also supports immune function and has been linked to mood regulation and protection against chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

Iron: The Energy Enhancer

Sources:

  • Red Meat: Beef and lamb are rich sources of iron, with a 3-ounce serving of beef liver providing about 5.2 mg.
  • Poultry: Chicken and turkey, with a 3-ounce serving of roasted turkey, providing about 1.1 mg of iron.
  • Fish: Tuna, sardines, and mackerel, with a 3-ounce serving of canned tuna providing about 1.4 mg of iron.
  • Lentils: One cup of cooked lentils offers about 6.6 mg of iron.
  • Beans: Kidney beans, chickpeas, and soybeans, with one cup of cooked soybeans providing about 8.8 mg of iron.
  • Spinach: One cup of cooked spinach contains about 6.4 mg of iron.
  • Fortified Cereals: Many breakfast cereals are fortified with iron, providing about 18 mg per serving.

Benefits: Iron is a key component of haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Adequate iron intake helps prevent anaemia, which can cause fatigue and weakness. Iron also supports muscle metabolism and overall energy levels.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: The Heart Protectors

Sources:

  • Fatty Fish: Salmon, mackerel, and sardines, with a 3-ounce serving of salmon providing about 1,500 mg of omega-3s.
  • Flaxseeds: One tablespoon of ground flaxseeds offers about 1,597 mg of omega-3s.
  • Chia Seeds: One ounce of chia seeds provides about 4,915 mg of omega-3s.
  • Walnuts: One ounce of walnuts contains about 2,542 mg of omega-3s.
  • Algal Oil: A plant-based source offering 300-600 mg of omega-3s per serving.

Benefits: Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for heart health. They help reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and decrease the risk of heart disease. Omega-3s also support brain health, contributing to cognitive function and reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

Magnesium: The Muscle Mender

Sources:

  • Almonds: One ounce of almonds provides about 80 mg of magnesium.
  • Spinach: One cup of cooked spinach offers about 157 mg of magnesium.
  • Avocado: One medium avocado contains about 58 mg of magnesium.
  • Black Beans: One cup of cooked black beans provides about 120 mg of magnesium.
  • Whole Grains: One cup of cooked quinoa offers about 118 mg of magnesium.
  • Dark Chocolate: One ounce of dark chocolate (70-85% cocoa) contains about 64 mg of magnesium.

Benefits: Magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It supports muscle and nerve function, regulates blood sugar levels, and helps maintain a steady heartbeat. Magnesium is also important for bone health and energy production.

Zinc: The Immunity Enhancer

Sources:

  • Meat: Beef and pork, with a 3-ounce serving of beef chuck roast providing about 7 mg of zinc.
  • Shellfish: Oysters, crab, and lobster, with six medium oysters offering about 32 mg of zinc.
  • Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, and beans, with one cup of cooked chickpeas providing about 2.5 mg of zinc.
  • Seeds: Pumpkin and sesame seeds, with one ounce of pumpkin seeds offering about 2.2 mg of zinc.
  • Nuts: Cashews and almonds, with one ounce of cashews containing about 1.6 mg of zinc.
  • Dairy Products: Milk and cheese, with one cup of milk providing about 1 mg of zinc.
  • Whole Grains: Quinoa and oatmeal, with one cup of cooked quinoa providing about 2 mg of zinc.

Benefits: Zinc is essential for immune function, wound healing, and DNA synthesis. It also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence. Adequate zinc intake helps prevent infections and supports the body’s ability to heal.

Calcium: The Bone Builder

Sources:

  • Dairy Products include milk, cheese, and yoghurt. One cup of milk provides about 300 mg of calcium.
  • Leafy Green Vegetables: Kale and spinach, with one cup of cooked kale offering about 94 mg of calcium.
  • Fortified Plant Milks: Almond, soy, and rice milk, with one cup of fortified almond milk providing about 450 mg of calcium.
  • Almonds: One ounce of almonds contains about 76 mg of calcium.
  • Sardines: One can of sardines in oil provides about 325 mg of calcium.

Benefits: Calcium is vital for maintaining strong bones and teeth. It also affects muscle function, nerve transmission, and hormonal secretion. Adequate calcium intake throughout life helps prevent osteoporosis and supports overall skeletal health.

Conclusion

A diverse diet rich in these essential nutrients is key to optimal health. Incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and whole grains ensures that your body receives the vitamins and minerals it needs to function efficiently. Remember, the benefits of a balanced diet extend beyond just physical health—they also support mental well-being and overall quality of life. Embrace the power of nutrients and nourish your body with the right foods to thrive.

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London Osteoporosis Clinic,
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E: elizabeth@youoptimised.com