Published on May 01, 2018

5 “Must Have” Nutrients

Vitamins from fruits and vegetablesVitamins and minerals do a body good, but who has time to figure out which foods offer what benefits? This short list of five essential nutrients gives you a good start.

You might be thinking, “Can’t I just take supplements?” Sure, you can. However, whole foods offer better benefits, and they’re easier for your body to absorb. If you think you don’t have time to pull together a healthy meal, think again. Most of the foods you need are perfect for salads, smoothies and snacks. And, many of them pull double duty.

The List

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, most adult Americans need more:

  • Calcium
  • Fiber
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin A

Break It Down

Calcium helps maintain bone mass, regulate blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels. Try to get about three servings a day.

Good sources are: 

  • Calcium-fortified soy, almond or other milk alternatives
  • Dried figs
  • Green, leafy veggies (kale, broccoli, spinach)
  • Low-fat or non-fat milk, yogurt and hard cheeses
  • Seafood (sardines, salmon and oysters)

Fiber helps lower your cholesterol and manage your blood sugar. It also keeps your digestive tract moving smoothly. Fiber is filling, and because it’s often found in low-calorie foods, it helps you manage your weight. Add high-fiber foods to your meals several times a week.

Good sources are: 

  • Beans (black, lentil, chickpeas)
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Popcorn
  • Whole-grain breads, cereals and crackers
  • Whole grains (quinoa and wild rice)
  • Whole-wheat pasta

Magnesium keeps your body’s systems firing the way they should. It also keeps your bones and heart strong, regulates your blood sugar levels and fights inflammation. Make an effort to add fruits, veggies and whole grains to your daily diet.

Good sources are: 

  • Avocados
  • Beans (chickpeas, white beans, lentils)
  • Green, leafy veggies (kale, broccoli, spinach)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Peas
  • Soy products
  • Whole-grain breads, cereals and crackers

Potassium helps maintain muscle and bone strength, boosts the nervous system and revs up energy levels. It may also help protect against high blood pressure, stroke and kidney disorders. Try to eat 4,200 mg of potassium every day.

Good sources are: 

  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Fat-free yogurt
  • Fish (salmon, halibut)
  • Green, leafy veggies (kale, broccoli, spinach)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • White beans

Vitamin A keeps your eyes healthy and protects your immune system.

Good sources are: 

  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Fish (salmon)
  • Green, leafy veggies (kale, broccoli, spinach)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Vitamin A-fortified milk and cereals

If you’re concerned whether you’re getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals, your primary care doctor can help you make sure you’re getting what you need.