5 Essential Nutrients for a Healthy Diet
Allison Bush | June 5, 2014
Your body needs calcium to help muscles and blood vessels contract and expand, to secrete hormones and enzymes, and to send messages through the nervous system. Not enough calcium can lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures. You can find calcium in leafy greens, dairy products and calcium-enriched foods, such as breakfast cereals, and fish with soft bones, like salmon.
Potassium is a mineral that the body needs to be able to function normally. It helps nerves and muscles communicate. It also helps move nutrients into cells and waste products out of cells. If you don’t get enough potassium, you may experience muscle cramping, fatigue and constipation. You can find potassium in leafy greens, bananas, root vegetables and citrus fruits.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, one of the main building blocks of your bones. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone diseases, such as osteoporosis or rickets. Vitamin D also has a role in your nervous, muscle and immune systems. You can get vitamin D in three ways: through your skin (sun), from your diet and from supplements. Your body forms vitamin D naturally after it has been exposed to sunlight.
Iron is a mineral that our bodies need for many functions. If you have too little iron, you may develop iron deficiency anemia. Iron from meat, poultry and fish is absorbed two to three times more efficiently than iron from plants. If you’re vegetarian, try a snack of cashews and dried apricots.
Dietary fiber adds bulk to your diet and makes you feel full faster, helping you control your weight. It also helps digestion and prevents constipation. Soluble fiber, which is found in oats, beans, lentils and some fruits, can reduce the risks of stroke and type 2 diabetes, while insoluble fiber, like whole wheat, brown rice, legumes and vegetables, can help treat digestive problems.