Vitamins and Minerals: How to Get What You Need

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What are micronutrients?

Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals found in food that nourish your body and help keep you healthy.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), adult Americans do not typically get enough of the following nutrients:

  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Fiber
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamins A, C and E

Try to incorporate more of these nutrients in your daily diet. Keep in mind that it's best to consume a variety of foods, instead of just taking a multivitamin, to make sure that your body is able to absorb the micronutrients properly. If you are unable to get all the nutrients you need from food alone, ask your doctor if dietary supplements are right for you.

Calcium

Your body needs calcium to build strong bones and teeth in childhood and adolescence. As an adult, you need calcium to maintain bone mass. According to the USDA, the average American adult (eating roughly 2,000 calories per day) should get 1,136 milligrams of calcium each day.

The following foods are good sources of calcium:

  • Nonfat or low-fat yogurt (8 ounces = 345-452 milligrams)
  • Nonfat or low-fat cheese (2 ounces = 400 milligrams)
  • Low-fat milk (1 cup = 290 milligrams) or skim milk (1 cup = 306 milligrams)
  • Fish and seafood such as sardines (3 ounces = 325 milligrams), pink salmon (3 ounces = 181 milligrams) and ocean perch (3 ounces = 116 milligrams)
  • Beans such as soybeans (1/2 cup = 130 milligrams) and white beans (1/2 cup = 96 milligrams
  • Spinach (1/2 cup = 146 milligrams)
  • Oatmeal (1 packet = 99-110 milligrams

Potassium

A diet rich in potassium helps your body maintain a healthy blood pressure. The USDA recommends that the average American consume 4,044 milligrams of potassium each day.

The following foods are good sources of potassium:

  • Sweet potatoes (1 sweet potato = 694 milligrams) and regular potatoes (1 potato = 610 milligrams)
  • Beans such as white beans (1/2 cup = 595 milligrams), soybeans (1/2 cup = 485 milligrams), lima beans (1/2 cup = 484 milligrams) and kidney beans (1/2 cup = 358 milligrams)
  • Nonfat yogurt (8 ounces = 579 milligrams) or low-fat yogurt (8 ounces = 531 milligrams)
  • Skim milk (1 cup = 382 milligrams) or low-fat milk (1 cup = 366 milligrams)
  • Fruit such as bananas (1 medium banana = 422 milligrams), peaches (1/4 cup = 398 milligrams), cantaloupe (1/4 medium melon = 368 milligrams), and honeydew melon (1/8 medium melon = 365 milligrams)
  • Fish such as halibut (3 ounces = 490 milligrams), yellowfin tuna (3 ounces = 484 milligrams), rockfish (3 ounces = 442 milligrams) and cod (3 ounces = 439 milligrams)
  • Tomato paste (1/4 cup = 664 milligrams), puree (1/2 cup = 549 milligrams), juice (3/4 cup = 417 milligrams) and sauce (1/2 cup = 405 milligrams)

Magnesium

Magnesium is a nutrient that helps your body produce energy, and helps your muscles, arteries and heart work properly. According to the USDA, the average American adult should get 380 milligrams of magnesium each day.

The following foods are good sources of magnesium:

  • Vegetables such as pumpkin (1 ounce = 151 milligrams), spinach (1/2 cup = 81 milligrams) and artichokes (1/2 cup = 50 milligrams)
  • Bran cereal (1 ounce = 103 milligrams)
  • Beans such as soybeans (1/2 cup = 74 milligrams), white beans (1/2 cup = 67 milligrams), black beans (1/2 cup = 60 milligrams), navy beans (1/2 cup = 48 milligrams) and great northern beans (1/2 cup = 44 milligrams)
  • Tofu (1/2 cup = 47 milligrams)
  • Brown rice (1/2 cup = 42 milligrams)
  • Nuts such as brazil nuts (1 ounce = 107 milligrams), almonds (1 ounce = 78 milligrams), cashews (1 ounce = 74 milligrams) and peanuts (1 ounce = 50 milligrams)

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is associated with vision development and cellular growth and maintenance.

The following foods are good sources of vitamin A:

  • Organ meats such as liver and giblets (3 ounces = 1490-9126 micrograms)
  • Vegetables such as sweet potatoes (1 medium potato = 1096 micrograms), pumpkin (1/2 cup = 953 micrograms), carrots (1/2 cup = 679 micrograms), spinach (1/2 cup = 573 micrograms) and turnip greens (1/2 cup = 441 micrograms)
  • Cantaloupe (1/4 medium melon = 233 micrograms)

Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps the body form collagen (which is the main protein used as connective tissue in the body) in blood vessels, bones, cartilage and muscle.

The following foods are good sources of vitamin C:

  • Fruits such as guava (1/2 cup = 188 milligrams), oranges (1 medium orange = 70 milligrams), kiwi (1 medium kiwi = 70 milligrams), strawberries (1/2 cup = 49 milligrams), cantaloupe (1/4 medium melon = 47 milligrams), papaya (1/4 medium papaya = 47 milligrams), pineapple (1/2 cup = 28 milligrams) and mango (1/2 cup = 23 milligrams)
  • Vegetables such as raw red sweet pepper (1/2 cup = 142 milligrams), raw green sweet pepper (1/2 cup = 60 milligrams), Brussels sprouts (1/2 cup = 48 milligrams), broccoli (1/2 cup 38 milligrams), sweet potatoes (1/2 cup = 34 milligrams) and cauliflower (1/2 cup = 28 milligrams)

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which is a nutrient that helps fight damage to the cells in the body.

The following foods are good sources of vitamin E:

  • Nuts and seeds such as sunflower seeds (1 ounce = 7.4 milligrams), almonds (1 ounce = 7.3 milligrams), hazelnuts (1 ounce = 4.3 milligrams), pine nuts (1 ounce = 2.6 milligrams), peanuts (1 ounce = 2.2 milligrams) and brazil nuts (1 ounce = 1.6 milligrams)
  • Turnip greens (1/2 cup = 2.9 milligrams)
  • Peanut butter (2 tablespoons = 2.5 milligrams)
  • Spinach (1/2 cup = 1.9 milligrams) and avocado (1/2 avocado = 2.1 milligrams)
  • Tomato paste (1/4 cup = 2.8 milligrams), sauce (1/2 cup = 2.5 milligrams) and puree (1/2 cup = 2.5 milligrams)

Other Organizations

Source

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005. 6th Edition by U.S. Government Printing Office Washington, DC (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture January 01, 2005, http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/)

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 12/10
Created: 10/07

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