From fighting pain to keeping you young, the right nutrients can help your body stay strong and healthy. But rather than reaching for a bottle of pills, get the nutrients you need from the most natural source: food.
“Nutritionists are always looking for a ‘food first’ solution to get as much of what we need from food before supplements,” says David Grotto, RD, president of Nutrition Housecall in Chicago and author of The Best Things You Can Eat. In his book, Grotto spells out the healthiest, most nutrition-packed foods everyone should be eating. Here, he gives us a sneak peek plus food tips you can use right now.
Two Nutrients You Need
Calcium is the all-star in ensuring our bones stay strong as we age. “Our very structure depends on it, as 99% of all calcium stored in the body can be found in the bones,” Grotto writes. As we get older, sedentary lifestyles and vices like caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco can deplete our natural calcium stores. Both women and men should get about 1,000 mg of calcium a day. You can get calcium from milk—but there are other tasty ways to eat it. Try 1.5 oz Parmesan (300 to 468 mg), 1 cup cooked collard greens (357 mg), or 1 cup yogurt (452 mg).
For women, it’s also important to maintain high levels of iron, which plays a big part in sustaining energy levels. With menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and the aging process, women naturally lose iron stores that need to be replenished by diet. Women between the ages of 19 and 50 should strive for 18 mg of iron a day. While red meat is often the go-to option, it’s not the only one. You can also have a 3-oz serving of cooked liver (5.24 to 9.5 mg), or go meatless with 1 cup cooked white beans (7.83 mg) or soybeans (8.8 mg).
Fix It with Food
Nutrients can even help heal our bodies. For example, Grotto believes an apple a day may really keep the doctor away. “The pectin in apples has antiviral properties,” Grotto writes. Quercitin, a flavonoid in apple skins, also has antiviral and anti-inflammatory powers. For common health issues, try these natural food solutions:
- To Battle Colds: 1 clove garlic, 1 small apple, or 1 cup chicken soup
- To Lower Cholesterol: 2 tablespoons flaxseed, 1 oz almonds, or 1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal
- To Numb Pain: 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1 cup cherries, or 1 cup hot peppers
- To Slow Aging: 1 tablespoon olive oil, 3 oz cooked salmon, or 1 cup grapes