- The Facts About Nutrition Center
- Fat-Fighting Foods Slideshow
- Food Frauds Slideshow Pictures
- Take the Diet & Nutrition Quiz
Here's how to get the vitamins and minerals you need.
By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column
Good nutrition is much more than something to fill your
The most important feature of a good diet is variety. We all know variety is the spice of life, but did you realize that unless you eat a wide variety of foods, you may be missing out on important vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients? Eating the right mix of vitamins and minerals will help you feel and look your best at any age.
To make sure your eating plan contains all the nutrients you need, choose a rainbow of colorful foods. The pigments that give foods their color are also the nutritious substances that can reduce your risk of cancer and chronic diseases like heart disease.
Of course, foods with the most "pigment power" are mostly fruits and
Vitamins in the News
The hottest vitamins these days are the antioxidants (E, C, and A, along with the mineral selenium) and the "sunshine" vitamin, also known as vitamin D.
Antioxidants help gobble up those nasty free radicals. A diet rich in antioxidants has been linked to a host of health-promoting, disease-fighting activities in the body.
Antioxidant-rich foods include:
- Vitamin A and beta-carotene: pumpkin, squash, carrots, spinach, sweet
potatoes, cantaloupes, dark leafy greens, and mangoes
- Vitamin C: citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and asparagus
- Vitamin E: vegetable oil, almonds, whole grains, wheat germ, sweet potatoes, and yams
- Selenium: salmon and haddock
Vitamin D has been in the news lately as studies have shown that people living in northern latitudes (such as much of the northern U.S.) may not get enough of this nutrient. Without adequate vitamin D, your body can't properly absorb calcium, leading to a higher risk of broken
The best source of this nutrient is sunshine. Other good sources include:
- Fortified milk and some orange juices. Juice manufacturers are now adding both calcium and vitamin D for better absorption.
- Salmon and mackerel
The Calcium Connection
- dark leafy greens and
- fortified products like cereal and orange juice.
Food or Pills?
Supplements are not the secret weapon to better health, nor can they make up for a poor diet. While vitamin and mineral pills can help round out a healthy diet, they cannot take the place of the many nutrients and fiber found in whole foods.
At the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic, we recommend taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement for nutritional "insurance." Depending on your food choices, even the best eating plans can fall short of meeting all your nutritional needs. Taking a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement is safe and may offer additional health benefits. According to a study published in the August 2003 Journal of Nutrition, a daily multivitamin can reduce your risk of having a first heart attack. Other studies have suggested that daily supplements can help maintain good health and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
But remember that more is not always better: When you are choosing your daily multivitamin/mineral, make sure it contains no more than 100% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for any nutrient.
It's a much better idea to get your nutrients from food and take a simple vitamin/mineral supplement once per
Quick GuidePortion Control Tips: Lose Weight and Stick to Your Diet
Every day, scientists are discovering substances in food that promote health and protect against diseases. As time goes on, they will likely uncover even more exciting links between nutrients and health.
In the meantime, here are some basic things we know for sure about vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamins and minerals have no calories.
- All vitamins and minerals can be found in foods.
- If your diet has too little of a vitamin or mineral over a long period of time, you will develop a deficiency.
- The best form of most vitamins and minerals is the kind you get from food.
So go ahead: Add any or all of the foods mentioned in this article to your grocery list. Choosing foods and beverages that are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other healthful substances will help satisfy hunger, ward off chronic diseases, and keep a zip in your step.
Originally published Mar. 3, 2004.
Medically updated July 3, 2008.
SOURCES: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, February 2002. Journal of Nutrition, August 2003. The Journal of the American Medical Association 2002; 287. The New England Journal of Medicine, 2001; 345.
©2004 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Vitamins, Minerals & Nutritional Supplements Related Articles
Canker SoresCanker sores are a common complaint, and are small ulcers on the inside of the mouth. Canker sores aren't contagious (as opposed to cold sores), and typically last for 10-14 days usually healing without scarring. A variety of things cause canker sores, for example, medications (aspirin, beta-blockers, NSAIDs, high blood pressure medication, and antibiotics); injury to the mouth from dental work, braces, or sports accidents; acidic foods; allergies; and diseases or conditions like celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and lupus. Canker sores can be cure with home remedies, and prescription and OTC topical and oral medication.
Cholesterol SlideshowDo you know the different cholesterol levels and what they mean? Learn the alphabet soup of cholesterol testing: LDL, HDL, good, bad, and triglycerides. Pictures show tests, treatments, and critical foods from eggs to avocados.
Fibromyalgia SlideshowWhat is fibromyalgia? Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes pain and stiffness of the tendons, muscles, and joints. Learn about fibromyalgia symptoms, treatment and tender points.
Hair LossThere are many causes of scalp hair loss. This featured article covers the common ones such as patchy hair loss (alopecia areata, trichotillomania, and tinea capitis), telogen effluvium, and androgenetic alopecia (male-pattern baldness, female-pattern baldness).
HemodialysisThe most common method used to treat advanced and permanent kidney failure is hemodialysis. Hemodialysis allows your blood to flow through a special filter that removes extra fluids and waste products. Most patients have treatments three times a week. Tests to measure treatment success are performed about once a month. Anemia, erythropoietin, renal osteodystrophy, itching, sleep disorders, and amyloidosis are all complications from dialysis. A proper diet can help improve dialysis and daily health.
Elevated homocysteine levels in the blood called hyperhomocysteinemia, is a sign that the body isn't producing enough of the amino acid homocysteine. is a rare and serious condition that may be inherited (genetic). People with homocystinuria die at an early age. Symptoms of hyperhomocysteinemia include developmental delays, osteoporosis, blood clots, heart attack, heart disease, stroke, and visual abnormalities.
There are other causes of hyperhomocysteinemia, for example, alcoholism.
Supplementing the diet with folic acid and possibly vitamins B6 and B12 supplements can lower homocysteine levels. Currently there is no direct proof that taking folic acid and B vitamins lower homocysteine levels and prevent heart attacks and strokes. Talk to your doctor if you feel you need to have your homocysteine blood levels checked.
Lap Band Surgery (Gastric Banding)Lap band (gastric banding) surgery, also referred to as laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (LAGB) is a surgical procedure in which an adjustable belt is placed around the upper portion of the stomach. Candidates for lap band surgery are generally individuals with a body mass index over 40 kg/m2, or are more than 45 kilograms over their ideal body weight. Side effects, risks, and complications from lap band surgery should be discussed with a surgeon or physician prior to the operation.
Natural Home Remedies for Sunburn Treatment
There are many natural and home remedies that are thought to relieve the symptoms ofa sunburn. Check out our top 30 tips to cool that sunburn, for example drink lots of water, juice, or sports drinks; apply a cool compress containing Burow's solution; coconut oil can be used as a moisturizer after sunburn pain has stopped; apply topical over-the-counter (OTC) 1% hydrocortisone cream; and take OTC pain relievers like NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve).
Vitamin D SlideshowWhat does vitamin D do? Learn about vitamin D benefits and discover foods that are high in vitamin D. Explore vitamin D deficiency symptoms and the safest ways to get enough vitamin D.
Obesity (Weight Loss)Obesity is the state of being well above one's normal weight. A person has traditionally been considered to be obese if they are more than 20% over their ideal weight. That ideal weight must take into account the person's height, age, sex, and build.
OsteoporosisLearn about osteoporosis, a condition characterized by the loss of bone density, which leads to an increased risk of bone fracture. Unless one experiences a fracture, a person may have osteoporosis for decades without knowing it. Treatment for osteoporosis may involve medications that stop bone loss and increase bone strength and bone formation, as well as quitting smoking, regular exercise, cutting back on alcohol intake, and eating a calcium- and vitamin D-rich balanced diet.
Osteoporosis SlideshowOsteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and density. Osteoporosis causes symptoms of weak, thin, fragile bones. Learn the treatments and medications used to fight osteoporosis, as well as prevention tips.
Signs and symptoms of pregnancy vary by stage (trimester). The earliest pregnancy symptom is typically a missed period, but others include breast swelling and tenderness, nausea and sometimes vomiting, fatigue, and bloating.
Second trimester symptoms include backache, weight gain, itching, and possible stretch marks.
Third trimester symptoms are additional weight gain, heartburn, hemorrhoids, swelling of the ankles, fingers, and face, breast tenderness, and trouble sleeping.
Eating a healthy diet, getting a moderate amount of exercise, also are recommended for a healthy pregnancy. Information about the week by week growth of your baby in the womb are provided.
Superfoods QuizTake our Superfoods Quiz! Get to know how unprocessed, raw, organic foods and healthy drinks are rich in nutrients and dietary benefits.
Vitamin D DeficiencyVitamin D deficiency has been linked with rickets, cancer, cardiovascular disease, severe asthma in children and cognitive impairment in older adults. Causes include not ingesting enough of the vitamin over time, having limited exposure to sunlight, having dark skin, and obesity. Symptoms include bone pain and muscle weakness. Treatment for vitamin D deficiency involves obtaining more vitamin D through supplements, diet, or exposure to sunlight.
Vitamins QuizTake the Vitamins & Supplements Quiz to learn just how many essential vitamins your body needs to function!