Natural Food Sources of the Essential Nutrients
by Ralph Teller
List of Natural Food Sources for Key Nutrients
A growing number of recent studies indicate taking vitamin supplements are ineffective, do no good and actual may shorten lifespan and cause cancer. A new study "shows that vitamin E supplementation can significantly increase the risk for prostrate cancer". Several studies have found a higher risk for total mortality exist with supplements of multivitamins, vitamins B6, and folic acid, as well as minerals iron, magnesium, zinc, and copper. Eating a variety of natural foods and limiting intake of heavily processed foods eliminates the need to take artificial supplements.
Here is a list of key nutrients and their natural food sources. (Sources: National Institute of Health and Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University)
Protein: Protein is an essential nutrient that is needed on a daily basis. Proteins are made up of ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ amino acids. Essential amino acids are not able to be produced by the body, but instead are obtained only by eating high quality protein. Protein sources that contain all the essential amino acids are considered Complete Proteins. Sources: Meat, poultry, fish milk, whey protein, whole eggs, yoghurt, cheese, cottage cheese, whole wheat bread, grains, quinoa, buckwheat, pasta. Non-essential amino acids are produced by the body. Sources: Asparagus, broccoli, peanuts, soy (for women only), cauliflower, beans, walnuts, potato, cantaloupe, avocado, strawberry, orange, banana, peaches, blueberry. Amino acids are composed of nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen molecules. Proteins are essential to (i) repair body cells, (ii) build and repair bones and muscles, (iii) provide an energy source, and (iv) control essential metabolic body processes.
Whey Protein is especially excellent for Athletes as it is the richest source of the ‘Branched Chain Amino Acids ’ leucine, isoleucine and valine. Athletes require higher amounts of BCAA’s during and following exercise as they are absorbed directly by the skeletal muscles instead of first being metabolized through the liver like other amino acids. BCAA’s aid muscle recovery after exercise. Low BCAA contributes to fatigue. Daily protein requirement depend upon age and activity level. Click on the calculator to determine your daily Protein needs:
Carbohydrates: Athletes know that carbohydrates (sugars and starches) play an important role for energy and performance. Carbohydrates are also the brain’s most important fuel source. Carbohydrates in the form of glycogen are stored in the muscles to fuel physical activity and in the liver to fuel brain and other cells. Carbohydrates in the form of glucose reside in the blood stream and play a controlling signal for metabolic regulation. In nature, plant photosynthesis converts the sun’s light energy into carbohydrates and oxygen. That is why carbohydrates from whole grains, vegetables and fruits are excellent carbohydrate sources to be preferred over processes food sources. Carbohydrates prevent fatigue. Sources: Whole grains such as oats, wheat, rice, barley, pasta, milk, yoghurt, cottage cheese, vegetables, (especially, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, corn, beans and peas) and fruits (especially, dates, raisins, banana, grapes, pears, plums, blackberries, blueberries and apples). See Natural Food Sources of Glucose - Our Body's Key Source of Energy
Calcium: Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body, has several important functions. Calcium is needed to build bones and teeth and for muscle contraction, blood vessel contraction and expansion, the secretion of hormones and enzymes, and sending messages through the nervous system. A constant level of calcium is maintained in body fluid and tissues so that these vital body processes function efficiently. Sources: Yogurt, sardines, cheese, milk, salmon, cottage cheese, spinach, kale, broccoli, whole wheat bread.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in very
few foods. It is also produced when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis. Vitamin D is essential for promoting calcium absorption in the gut and enables normal mineralization of bone. Vitamin D has other roles in human health, including modulation of neuromuscular and immune function and reduction of inflammation. Many genes encoding proteins that regulate cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis are modulated in part by vitamin D. Sources: The Sun, cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, milk, eggs, liver, and cheese. See Vitamin D Health Benefits, Vitamin D Synthesis and Food Sources, Risks of Vitamin D Deficiency, and Photoprotection
Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 maintains healthy nerve cells and red blood cells, helps make DNA. Sources: Mollusks, clams, liver, beef, yogurt, milk, eggs, chicken.
Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 performs a wide variety of functions in your body and is essential for your good health. For example, vitamin B6 is needed for more than 100 enzymes involved in protein metabolism. It is also essential for red blood cell metabolism. The nervous and immune systems need vitamin B6 to function efficiently. Hemoglobin within red blood cells carries oxygen to tissues. Your body needs vitamin B6 to make hemoglobin. Vitamin B6 also helps increase the amount of oxygen carried by hemoglobin. Vitamin B6, through its involvement in protein metabolism and cellular growth, is important to the immune system. It helps maintain the health of lymphoid organs (thymus, spleen, and lymph nodes) that make your white blood cells. Vitamin B6 also helps maintain your blood glucose (sugar) within a normal range. Sources: Potato, banana, garbanzo beans, chicken, oatmeal, beef spinach, salmon, wheat bran, peanut butter.
Thiamin: Thiamin, also called Vitamin B1, is important in glucose metabolism and the conversion of food into energy. Thiamin requirements increase with strenuous physical exertion, fever, pregnancy, breast-feeding, and adolescent growth. Sources: Wheat germ, pasta, peas, rice, lentils, milk, whole wheat bread, nuts, pecan, spinach, cantaloupe, rice and eggs.
Riboflavin: Riboflavin enzymes are critical for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein and are part of the electron transport (respiratory) chain, which is central to energy production. Riboflavin is is involved in the metabolism of several other vitamins (vitamin B6, niacin, and folic acid)., factors. Riboflavin deficiency alters iron metabolism. Research suggests that riboflavin deficiency may impair iron absorption, increase intestinal loss of iron, and/or impair iron utilization for the synthesis of hemoglobin. Improving riboflavin nutritional status has been found to increase circulating hemoglobin levels. Sources: Milk, eggs, pasta, almonds, spinach, beef, asparagus, broccoli, salmon, cheese, chicken, and whole wheat bread.
Pantothenic Acid: Pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B5, is essential to all forms of life. Pantothenic acid is found throughout living cells in the form of coenzyme A (CoA). CoA is required for chemical reactions that generate energy from fat, carbohydrates, and proteins. The synthesis of essential fats, cholesterol, and steroid hormones requires CoA, as does the synthesis of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, and the hormone, melatonin. Heme, a component of hemoglobin, requires a CoA-containing compound for its synthesis. Sources: Avocado, yogurt, sweet potato, chicken, milk, lentils, eggs, broccoli, peas, whole wheat bread and tuna.
Biotin: Biotin, a Vitamin B complex, plays a role in DNA replication and transcription, cellular proliferation, amino acid metabolism fats. Sources: Liver, eggs, yeast, wheat bran, whole wheat bread, cheese, avocado, salmon, chicken, cauliflower, raspberries, avocado.
Niacin: Niacin is also known as nicotinic acid or vitamin B3. Nicotinamide is the derivative of niacin and used by the body to form the coenzymes nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP). Living organisms derive most of their energy from oxidation-reduction reactions, which are processes involving the transfer of electrons. As many as 200 enzymes require NAD and NADP, mainly to accept or donate electrons for redox reactions. NAD functions most often in energy producing reactions involving the degradation (catabolism) of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. NADP functions more often in biosynthetic (anabolic) reactions, such as in the synthesis of all macromo fatty acids and cholesterol. NAD also plays a role in cell signaling, DNA repair and use of calcium. Sources: Chicken, turkey, beef, salmon, whole wheat bread, yeast, pasta, peanuts, lentils, and lima beans.
Folate: Folate helps produce and maintain new cells, especially important during periods of rapid cell division and growth such as infancy and pregnancy. Folate is needed to make DNA and RNA, the building blocks of cells. It also helps prevent changes to DNA that may lead to cancer. Folate is needed to make normal red blood cells and prevent anemia. Folate is also essential for the metabolism of homocysteine, and helps maintain normal levels of this amino acid. Sources: Beef, liver, peas, pasta, spinach, asparagus, rice, broccoli, egg noodles, avocado, peanuts, wheat germ, tomato juice, orange juice, whole wheat bread, eggs, cantaloupe, papaya, and banana.
Iron: Iron is essential to normal human physiology, and is an integral part of many proteins and enzymes that maintain good health. Iron is an essential component of proteins involved in oxygen transport. It is also essential for the regulation of cell growth and differentiation. A deficiency of iron limits oxygen delivery to cells, resulting in fatigue, poor work performance, and decreased immunity. Sources: Chicken livers, oysters, beef, Turkey, chicken, halibut, tuna, shrimp, pasta, oatmeal, soybeans, lentils, beans, molasses, spinach, peas, grits, raisins, whole wheat bread. See Iron, Health, Iron Deficiency, Peak Athletic Performance, and Natural Sources of Iron
Potassium: Potassium is an essential dietary mineral and electrolyte (a substance that dissociates into ions (charged particles) in solution, making it capable of conducting electricity. Potassium is the principal positively charged ion in the fluid inside of cells, while sodium is the principal ion in the fluid outside of cells. A cell's membrane potential is maintained by ion pumps in the cell membrane, especially the sodium, potassium-ATPase pumps. These pumps use ATP (energy) to pump sodium out of the cell in exchange for potassium. Their activity has been estimated to account for 20%-40% of the resting energy expenditure in a typical adult. The large proportion of energy dedicated to maintaining sodium/potassium concentration gradients emphasizes the importance of this function in sustaining life. Tight control of cell membrane potential is critical for nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and heart function. Sources: The richest source of Potassium is fruits and vegetables: banana, potato, prune juice, plums, orange, tomato, artichoke, lima beans, acorn squash, spinach, sunflower seeds, almonds, and molasses. Milk is also an excellent source of Potassium. See Hydration and Electrolytes - Impact on Athletic Performance
Vitamin E: Vitamin E acts to protect your cells against the effects of free radicals, which are potentially damaging by-products of energy metabolism, and been shown to play a role in immune function, in DNA repair, and other metabolic processes. Sources: Wheat germ, almonds, sunflower seeds and oil, hazelnuts, peanut butter, spinach, kiwi and mango.
Vitamin C: Humans do not have the ability to make their own vitamin C which is obtained through diet. Vitamin C plays an important role in the synthesis of the neurotransmitter critical to brain function and are known to affect mood. Vitamin C is required for the synthesis of carnitine, a small molecule that is essential for the transport of fat to cellular organelles called mitochondria, for conversion to energy. Sources: Orange, grapefruit, strawberries, tomato, red pepper, broccoli, and potato.
Vitamin A: Vitamin A plays an important role in vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division, and cell differentiation (in which a cell becomes part of the brain, muscle, lungs, and blood. Vitamin A helps regulate the immune system, which helps prevent or fight off infections by making white blood cells that destroy harmful bacteria and viruses. Vitamin A also may help lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) fight infections more effectively. Vitamin A promotes healthy surface linings of the eyes and the respiratory, urinary, and intestinal tracts. Vitamin A also helps the skin and mucous membranes function as a barrier to bacteria and viruses. Sources: Chicken liver, beef liver, carrots, spinach, kale, cantaloupe, apricots, papaya, mango, oatmeal, milk, cheese, eggs, peas, tomato, peaches, and pepper.
Magnesium: Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is essential to good health. Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis. There is an increased interest in the role of magnesium in preventing and managing disorders such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Sources: Halibut, almonds, cashews, spinach, oatmeal, potato, peanuts, peas, yogurt, rice, lentils, avocado, beans, banana, milk, whole wheat bread, and raisins.
Zinc: Zinc is an essential mineral that is found in almost every cell. It stimulates the activity of approximately 100 enzymes that promote biochemical reactions in your body. Zinc supports a healthy immune system, is needed for wound healing and development of testosterone, helps maintain your sense of taste and smell, and is needed for DNA synthesis. See How to Increase Testosterone Naturally. Zinc also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence. Sources: Oysters, beef, chicken, yogurt, beans, cashews, pecans, almonds, walnuts, milk, cheese, peas, and oatmeal.
Chromium: Chromium is a mineral required in trace amounts. Chromium is known to enhance the action of insulin, a hormone critical to the metabolism and storage of carbohydrate, fat, and protein in the body. Sources: Broccoli, grape juice, potato, garlic, basil, turkey, apple, banana, whole wheat bread, and green beans.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids: These fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids not produced by the body. These essential fatty acids are important for visual and neurological development, reductions in cardiovascular disease risk, and may be beneficial to individuals with diabetes. Sources: Herring, salmon, sardines, walnuts, flaxseed, oysters, trout, and shrimp. See Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Selenium: Selenium is important but required only in small amounts. Selenium is incorporated into proteins to make selenoproteins, which are important antioxidant enzymes that help prevent cellular damage . Other selenoproteins help regulate thyroid function and play a role in the immune system. Sources: Brazil nuts, tuna, beef, pasta, cod, turkey, chicken, eggs, cottage cheese, oatmeal, rice, whole wheat bread, walnuts and cheese.
Vitamin K: Vitamin K is important in blood clotting, bone mineralization and cell growth. Sources: Kale, broccoli, spinach, olive oil, canola oil, parsley, and lettuce. See Vitamin K Function, Health Benefits, Deficiency, Natural Food Sources of Vitamin K
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