What we eat is central to our well-being. The food we eat gives our body the essential building blocks to keep our internal systems functioning at their highest capacity. Food acts as medicine to maintain, prevent and treat diseases.
What does this really mean?
The nutrients in food enable the cells in our bodies to perform their necessary functions. In other words nutrients give our bodies instructions about how to function. Here are some examples of nutrients essential for specific body functions.
Immune function: vitamin A, vitamin E, zinc, folic acid, vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, selenium, vitamin C
Nerve Impulses: sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12, copper, vitamin C
Tissue repair and formation: vitamin A, vitamin E, copper, riboflavin, magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin C
Metabolism: potassium, thiamin, niacin, vitaminB6, magnesium, riboflavin, folic acid, vitamin C.
Thinking of food in this way gives us a view of nutrition that goes beyond calories or grams, good foods or bad foods. This view leads us to focus on foods we should include rather than foods to exclude.
What kinds of food have these essential nutrients?
Here are a few examples:
Broccoli and Cauliflower: these type of veggies have vitamin K and phytonutrients to help decrease inflammation, vitamin C to boost your immune system, vitamin A for eye health, fiber and protien.
Avocados: this fruit is a great source of vitamins C, E, K, and B6, as well as magnesium and potassium. These nutrients can decrease cholesterol, improve heart health, helps you to feel more full, and helps you absorb vitamins found in other foods. They are also a great source of healthy fats!
Citrus fruits: Think oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes and grapefruits. These fruits are a great source of Vitamin C to help boost your immune system. They are packed with potassium to help with hydration regulation, mineral balance and muscle contractions. By eating plenty of potassium rich foods, you can lower your risk of heart disease.
Have we sparked your interest yet?
Try this activity “Guess this Plant” created by our friend Christina Pappas, Registered Dietician Nutritionist. See if you can identify many other types of healthy fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and spices. The more you know about foods and how they grow, the more likely we are to eat them. There is a word bank and an answer key to check your work.
Answer key: 1.) Asparagus 2.) Arugula 3.) Bananas 4.) Avocado 5.) Broccoli 6.) Black Pepper 7.) Brussel Sprouts 8.) Cashews 9.) Celery 10.) Chickpeas 11.) Kiwi 12.) Pineapple 13.) Chocolate 14.) Peanuts 15.) Sesame Seeds 16.) Vanilla Bean