We all know that a healthy diet is a balanced diet, rounded out with a nice mix of fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, dairy, etc.
But there’s a little bit more to it than that. That’s because our body needs specific vitamins and minerals to stay healthy and function optimally. You don’t need to become a dietician or study nutrition to know some healthy eating basics.
Keep reading to learn what your body needs on a daily basis and why.
The Down Low on Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals. Brands use them to market and sell their products, but what are they really? We’ve all learned about them at one time or another, but here’s a refresher if you need one.
Vitamins are organic substances, 13 of which are essential to your body’s growth, development, and cellular function. There are four fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your body’s fat to be used later. So, it’s important to not overeat foods with these fat-soluble vitamins. They can remain inside your fat stores and lead to toxic levels if you overdo it.
The other nine vitamins are water-soluble. This means that if you consume too much of them (like Vitamin B or C), your body will naturally excrete it through urine, etc.
Minerals, on the other hand, are inorganic substances, and they’re divided into two categories: macrominerals and trace minerals. Your body needs large amounts of macro minerals, but less of the trace minerals. Their very names make this distinction easy to remember.
Should You Get Your Vitamins and Minerals From Your Diet or Supplements?
It’s always better to meet your body’s nutritional needs through whole foods.
That’s because it’s easier for your body to absorb these necessary nutrients via food. If you suspect that you are deficient in key nutrients, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor. There, they can test you for deficiencies and recommend either a different diet or appropriate supplements to get you back on track.
Key Vitamins for Every Day
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that American adults usually don’t get enough A, C, D and E vitamins. So, let’s cover those and a couple of other essential vitamins.
Biotin (B7) and All B Vitamins
Biotin helps your body metabolize food and is super important for cellular growth. It’s hard to become deficient in Biotin, but it’s good to be aware of it. You can get vitamin B7 from eating cooked salmon, eggs, avocado, and whole grains.
Other B vitamins, especially B12 and folic acid, play a huge role in your health. B12 supports the nervous system as well as the formation of blood cells. You can get B12 from animal sources like fish, chicken, beef, eggs, and milk.
Folic acid (B9) is important for pregnant mothers since it supports the baby’s development in utero. But it’s important whether you’re pregnant or not! Good sources of folic acid include spinach, asparagus, beets, liver.
Vitamin B Daily Recommended Amount: 400 micrograms (mcg). For pregnant women, bump it up to 600 mcg.
Vitamin E is a fighter, and it protects you against free radicals and guards your essential lipids.
Unfortunately, almost all Americans are deficient in Vitamin E, so be sure to include almonds, avocados, hazelnuts and olive oil into your daily diet.
Vitamin E Daily Recommended Amount: 15 milligrams (mg)
This vitamin is necessary for strong vision, immunity and healthy skin. Without enough vitamin A, your eyesight can suffer, diarrhea increases, and so does the chance of getting sick with infectious diseases.
Reach for some kale, carrots, eggs, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, and eggs to nourish your body with this essential vitamin.
Vitamin A Daily Recommended Amount: 700 mcg
Everyone knows that vitamin C is easily found in citrus fruits. But why does your body need it?
It supports the production of collagen, it helps prevent certain cancers, and it can boost your immunity with the help of antioxidants. Citrus, tomatoes, strawberries, and broccoli are all great sources of vitamin C.
Vitamin C Daily Recommended Amount: 75 mg
This vitamin is absolutely essential for your bone health, nervous system and immunity. It also helps your body metabolize calcium.
The sunshine helps your body produce vitamin D, and fortified foods such as milk and cereal, as well as salmon and egg yolks, provide this vitamin, too.
Vitamin D Daily Recommended Amount: 1,000 to 2,000 IU
If we’re not careful, we can easily become deficient in minerals. Magnesium and potassium are usually what American adults are low on.
If you want strong bones (including your pearly whites!) as well as a robust nervous system, keep calcium in your daily meal plans. Dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheeses are good sources.
If you’re lactose intolerant, don’t worry. You can choose from collard greens, kale, broccoli, figs, okra, as well as canned salmon and sardines. These are all perfectly adequate substitutes for dairy products.
Calcium Daily Recommended Amount: 1,000 mg
To keep your immunity strong and an adequate amount of red blood cells, make sure you’re friends with iron. You can get your daily dose with fortified cereals, red meats, poultry, and leafy greens.
Iron Daily Recommended Amount: 18 mg
Magnesium works together with calcium to support muscle function, to regulate blood pressure and to keep your bones strong and healthy. Enjoy spinach, brown rice, molasses and almonds to get your magnesium – just not all together!
Magnesium Daily Recommended Amount: 310 mg
Potassium supports all muscle function, including your heartbeat, and it might help lower your blood pressure, too. Without it, you can feel weak and fatigued.
So, be sure to include bananas, artichokes, baked potatoes and plums into your diet.
Potassium Daily Recommended Amount: 4,7000 mg
Understanding MCG and MG
These measurements are only helpful if you know what they mean, right? Here’s an easy way to understand them:
- 1 microgram (MCG) : 0.001 milligrams (MG)
- 1 milligram (MG) : 1,000 micrograms (MCG)
- 1 gram (G) : 1,000 milligrams (MG)
So, for example, if you need 4,700 milligrams (MG) of potassium each day, that’s approximately 4.7 grams of potassium each day.
If you’re ever not sure about these numbers, you can always use this calculator to get accurate conversions.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it’s fun and gives you a great reason to eat a variety of foods each and every day.