Q. What are some important nutrients I should be including in my diet?
A. According to the USDA, Americans are lacking in seven essential nutrients: potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, vitamin C, and fiber. Potassium has been shown to decrease blood pressure naturally, in addition to enhancing fertility, as well as muscle and nerve function. Potassium is readily available in many foods such as: bananas, potatoes, avocados, apricots, walnuts, peanuts, strawberries, oranges, broccoli, tomatoes and squash, just to name a few.
My personal favorite way to consume potassium is pure coconut water- it has double the potassium of a banana and is dee-lish! Just be cautious of ones with added sugar. I’m sure you hear about magnesium in the media, but if you’re like most Americans, you don’t ingest enough of it. Magnesium has been shown to prevent disease and low levels are associated with a myriad of health issues such as diabetes, osteoporosis, muscle cramps, heart disease and high blood pressure.
If you suffer from intestinal issues, regularly consume alcohol, or are elderly, you are at a higher risk of having low magnesium levels; to increase magnesium in the body, make sure you eat nuts (like almonds), peas, beans and spinach. When it comes to vitamin A, focus on yummy beta-carotene foods to improve your immune system, vision, and tissue development. Vitamin A-rich foods can be found in (winter) squash, sweet potatoes, carrots (of course!), some fortified cereals, and spinach. If you’re looking for a reason to eat fat, look no further than vitamin E! This healthy fat is a super antioxidant that aids in healthy skin, eyes, and immunity. It has also been shown to help reduce plaque buildup in blood vessels.
You can find it in a number of healthy fat foods, such as sunflower seeds (be sure to nix the added salt), hazelnuts, almonds, and safflower and sunflower oils. Peanut butter may also contain trace amounts of vitamin E, but I would list it at the bottom of the totem pole. Remember, moderate amounts of fat are beneficial, but if consumed excessively, their benefits are negated (by excess calories that equate to extra body fat).
When it comes to getting enough calcium, I’m sure that the first thing that pops into your mind is milk. I’m going to tell you otherwise; milk is not the best source of calcium, contrary to what the dairy industry pays millions to make you believe (studies have proven that although cow’s milk has calcium present, the body does not absorb it completely into the bones- it actually increases calcium loss in the bones). So what to eat? Lots!
Did you know that two tablespoons of blackstrap molasses contains 400mg of calcium? That’s 100mg more than an 8oz glass of milk! You can find plenty of calcium in collard greens, fortified rice milk, tempeh, calcium-fortified orange juice, turnip greens, kale, okra, bok choy, mustard greens, tahini, broccoli, almonds, and almond butter, just to name a few. Calcium is needed to maintain muscle function and heart rhythm, just make sure you receive enough vitamin D, or your body won’t be able to absorb the calcium you are trying to take in.
Vitamin C is a great antioxidant, helps to form collagen, supports the nervous system and is found in tomatoes, strawberries, red bell peppers, broccoli, and cantaloupe. Last and certainly not least is fiber; found in grains, beans, some cereals, fruit and veggies, it helps lower cholesterol, promotes bowel regularity, and helps to decrease your risk of obtaining deadly diseases, diabetes, and cancers. Bonus! It helps you to lose weight; higher fiber foods help you feel fuller longer and eat less! It’s a win-win situation. Just be sure to start increasing your fiber consumption slowly to off-set gastrointestinal distress (like bloating, diarrhea, gas, etc.).
If you need any help navigating the confusing world of fitness and nutrition- call or email me! I’m here to serve and guide!