Providing your family with healthy food can be a daunting task. First, there’s how to sort through the ever-changing recommendations for what to put on (or leave off) the menu. Milk, for instance, used to do a body good. Now, it has been banished from some breakfast tables for its sugar and chemical content. While traditional vices, such as chocolate, coffee and red wine, have been heralded as healthy habits, in limited doses of course. (On second thought, all hail scientific discovery!)
Then there are preservation techniques to extend food’s supermarket shelf life, modern agricultural practices and the dietary desires of the average American, all affecting the nutritional value of common cuisine. Considering these things plus the panic of preparing a meal while managing munchkins, I’m eagerly awaiting times depicted in sci-fi flicks where futuristic families sit down to plates of various-sized pills containing all the necessary nutrients.
Until then, it’s helpful to know the basics of good nutrition. Following is a list of some beneficial vitamins and minerals commonly procured in produce or in supplements designed to fill gaps caused by less-than-optimal diets.
Benefits: Important for vision, healthy skin, red blood cell production and immune function.
Sources: Yellow, orange and leafy veggies, including winter squash, carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach. Also in seafood, such as trout or salmon.
Benefits: The B complex of vitamins (especially B6 and B12) keep blood, nerves and the immune system functioning properly. Also associated with increased energy.
Sources: Fortified foods such as breads and cereals. B6 is also plentiful in bananas, beans, nuts, chicken and fish. B12 is found in beef, pork, poultry, eggs, fish and dairy.
Benefits: Antioxidant shown to fight DNA-damaging free radicals and may help maintain a healthy immune system.
Sources: Citrus fruits, bell peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli, spinach, kale and collard greens.
Benefits: Enhances calcium absorption, possibly accounting for its connection to healthy bone growth and development.
Sources: Some found in fatty fishes, but most from fortified foods, such as cereal and milk. The body also produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.
Benefits: Acts as a disease-fighting antioxidant. Studies also point to positive effects on eye health and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
Sources: Avocados, some vegetable oils, wheat germ, sunflower seeds and most nuts.
Benefits: Helps maintain a healthy liver and blood clotting. Plus promotes bone density and strength.
Sources: Dark green, leafy vegetables and vegetable oils.
Benefits: Promotes bone health and helps prevent osteoporosis when consumed with supporting nutrients such as vitamin D and magnesium.
Sources: Dairy products, fish with bones and dark green leafy veggies.
Benefits: Prevents anemia and facilitates oxygen delivery throughout the body.
Sources: Red meat, clams, egg yolks, chicken and fish. Plus, legumes, fortified grains and cereals.
Benefits: Helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, plus promotes strong bones.
Sources: Nuts, seeds, bran, dark greens and fish.
Benefits: Helps maintain healthy blood pressure.
Sources: Nuts, potatoes, avocado, oranges, yogurt and bananas.
Benefits: Aids in protein production and supports a strong immune system.
Sources: Animal products as well as oysters and nuts.