11 Vitamin-Packed Foods That Really Deliver
Double — and Triple — up on Essential Nutrients
It can be a daily challenge to get the 13 vitamins that are essential for normal cell function, growth, and development. These vitamins include:
- A, which promotes healthy bones, teeth, and skin
- 7 B vitamins, important for metabolism
- C, an antioxidant that helps maintain healthy tissue
- D, the "sunshine vitamin," which aids in calcium absorption
- E, necessary for the body to be able to use vitamin K
- Folate, which assists in DNA production and the formation of new cells
- K, which helps blood coagulate (stick together)
To make it easier to meet your daily nutritional needs, incorporate these 11 foods — which pack more than one vitamin each — into your diet.
Tasty avocados have a substantial vitamin bang for the buck. A serving of avocado gives you B7, B5, folate, and vitamin A. This is also a filling food with a good dose of healthy fats, says Lauri Wright, PhD, RDN, LD, an assistant professor in the community and family health department at the University of South Florida College of Public Health in Tampa and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Beyond using avocados for guacamole, you can also mash them up and make a spread for a sandwich or pita — a healthy alternative to mayo. Fresh avocado can also be added in slices or chunks to salads and tacos or used as soup garnish.
Dried beans and peas offer a range of vitamins, such as B5 and B1. A half-cup of black-eyed peas gives you 26 percent of your daily requirement of folate and 26 percent of vitamin A, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Kidney beans, green peas, and baked beans all provide folate. Beans are great to bulk up chili, stews, and salads, and they also can be seasoned and served with rice.
Beef liver is especially rich in vitamins, including A, K, all the B vitamins, and D. Although you shouldn't eat beef liver every day because it's high in cholesterol, you can get many of the same vitamins from other protein sources — such as beef, chicken breast, and pork — throughout the week. Vegetarians can get some of these vitamins from fortified tofu, Wright says.
Just half a cup of cooked broccoli meets 85 percent of your vitamin C needs for the day, according to The Office of Dietary Supplements. Broccoli also offers vitamins A, E, K, B2, B5, and folate. Fresh broccoli can make a tasty snack when combined with a bean dip or about 1 tablespoon of dressing. You can also steam broccoli or add it in a stir-fry or Asian-style curry.
Brussels sprouts serve up vitamin C, folate, and B2. Although brussels sprouts are one of those vegetables that some adults dislike because they've associated them with negative childhood memories, remember that your taste buds change in adulthood, according to Wright. So trying the foods you disliked as a child could lead to discovering some new favorites. For a fresh take on brussels sprouts, toss them in oil, season with herbs, and roast for 40 minutes at 400 F, Wright says.
These small nutrient powerhouses contain vitamins A, D, B12, B2, B5, B7, and folate. Don't limit yourself to breakfast standards such as scrambled eggs. You can add a chopped hard-boiled egg to salads or use it as a sandwich topping. Also, while you might need to limit the amount of yolks you eat because of their cholesterol, don't skip them altogether. Many vitamins are found in that sunny yellow sphere.
Aim to put grilled or broiled fish on the menu at least twice a week, suggests the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Office of Dietary Supplements reports that trout and salmon deliver vitamin B12 at 90 and 80 percent, respectively, of your daily requirements. Salmon provides B7, B5, D, A, B3, and B6, as does tuna. Swordfish is also a good source of B3 and D. Other fish, such as halibut, offer small amounts of vitamins, including folate.
Mushrooms deliver a healthy dose of vitamin D and B2. Try fresh mushrooms with a low-fat dip for a snack; add them to soups, stews, stir-fries, and sauces; or use them to top open-faced sandwiches and pizza slices. Explore the different varieties available at many markets, such as portobello, cremini, morel, and shiitake.
Nuts and Seeds
A serving of nuts is small — about 1 ounce, or just enough to fit in the palm of your hand — but it's power-packed. Dry-roasted peanuts are a good source of folate and B3. Sunflower seeds also offer vitamin B3. With just a handful of a nut mix, you can get B6 and B2 from almonds; vitamin A from pistachios; and B5 and vitamin E from peanuts, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds.
One medium orange meets your day's vitamin C needs. Oranges and orange juice also provide folate and vitamin B1. You'll get the most benefit — and the most fiber — from the fruit itself (by simply peeling and eating it) rather than from just the juice. You can also toss orange sections into vegetable or fruit salads.
Spinach offers essential vitamins, including C, A, K, folate, B6, B2, and E. Layer fresh spinach on sandwiches or toss it into salads. For a Mediterranean side dish, you can also sauté spinach in olive oil and sprinkle it with a few pine nuts and lemon juice. "Try different preparations to find flavors you like," Wright suggests, adding that you can prepare other dark leafy greens, such as collards and kale, in the same way and get similar nutritional benefits.
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