You’ve surely heard that vitamins and minerals are important for staying healthy, but how much do you actually know about them? Read on for an introduction to six essential nutrients.
Calcium is a mineral found mainly in animal-sourced foods such as dairy products and certain fish, but it’s also present in some leafy greens. Though you may have heard that kids should drink milk to build strong bones, calcium supports your skeletal system at every age and also plays an important role in your circulatory and nervous systems, as well as helping your body absorb Vitamin D. Many foods have added calcium (including ones you wouldn’t necessarily expect, like orange juice!), but calcium supplements are also popular.
Magnesium is a mineral that benefits everything from your blood pressure to your nervous system. It’s found in many plant foods: not just leafy greens but also nuts, beans, and whole grains. Tap water in most areas also contains magnesium, although soft water has lower levels. People take magnesium supplements for several reasons. Some want to improve their sleep, others are seeking relief from muscle cramps, and some are looking to reduce inflammation. Non-prescription magnesium supplements are available in several different forms including magnesium complex, magnesium citrate, and magnesium oxide.
Zinc provides support to your immune system and metabolism as well as your senses of taste and smell. Oysters are the go-to food source for this mineral because they have the highest levels, though it’s also found in other shellfish, red meat, cashews, and a few other foods. Zinc’s uses go beyond dietary supplements. It’s been used for centuries in creams and balms to promote healthy skin and reduce healing time for wounds, and it’s a well-known base for mineral sunscreens.
Vitamin A helps support your skin, immune system, and vision. If you’ve ever heard that carrots are good for your eyes, it’s because they’re an excellent source of this nutrient. Other food sources include cheese, eggs, leafy greens, and apricots. Vitamin A is widely available as a supplement, and it’s often a component of gummies meant to improve hair, skin, and nail health.
Vitamin C isn’t just for sailors and pirates at risk of scurvy; this antioxidant helps your body produce collagen and absorb iron and is also an important contributor to your immune system. Citrus fruits are the most well-known food source, but less-tart options include strawberries, bell peppers, and even broccoli and potatoes. You can also find vitamin C supplements in the form of pills, gummies, and liquids.
Vitamin D is unique because one way you can top up your levels is to soak up some sunshine. It works with calcium to keep your bones strong and is beneficial for your immune system as well. If you live in a northern latitude or don’t get at least 15 minutes of sun exposure three or four times a week, you can get your vitamin D from foods such as eggs, fatty fish, and fortified fruit juice or dairy products, or you can take a supplement.
You don’t need to be an expert to understand basic information about vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Here’s to your health!