Ensuring proper consumption of vitamin-rich foods in the average diet can be difficult, but these nutrients ensure that all of the body’s systems, down to the cells, function properly. Understanding which foods carry the most nutritional benefit can go a long way to improving health and longevity.
Peanuts are a popular snack for any occasion. They are an abundant source of vitamin B3 or niacin, for the brain and skin, and folate or vitamin B9, which plays a role in both cell division and the production of genetic material. Because they are loaded with protein and fiber, peanuts also curb cravings by diminishing feelings of deprivation.
Lentils are the cousins of chickpeas and peanuts. The many types are a great base for a myriad of flavor profiles. Half a cup of green lentils, which have a nutty taste that makes them great in salads, has 10 percent of the daily requirements (RDI) of folate, along with about 9 percent of dietary fiber. Split red lentils are great for thickening stews and have 15 percent of the RDI of folic acid.
Guavas contain at least twice as much vitamin C as oranges and are also a significant source of vitamin A. This preformed vitamin, which eventually becomes retinol, not only improves eyesight but may even prevent its degradation. Also, a single fruit has as much potassium as a banana, and the leaves of the guava plant are rich in antioxidants that fight free radicals.
Cottage cheese is a creamy, fresh cheese containing niacin, folate, pyridoxine — a B6 vitamin that plays a significant role in metabolism — and B12 to keep nerves and blood cells healthy. The plain, low-fat varieties made with 2 percent or less milk fat are rich in calcium and phosphorus, a key player in energy production.
A close relative of salmon, trout is not only a great source of protein but also rich in niacin and vitamin D. The latter is an essential partner to calcium and helps with the development of bones and teeth. What makes trout a great brain food is its levels of vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Both influence brain health and function, including memory formation and overall performance. Doctors recommend 8 ounces of trout per week.
A longtime staple of many dinners, spinach is low in calories but rich in vitamins, making the associated list of health benefits pretty long. One cup is loaded with vitamins B6, B12, C, A, K, E, and folic acid, making it a certified superfood. It’s also worth noting that cooked spinach has more than 1.5 times the potassium in a banana.
Sunflower seeds are a favorite snack and a great source of over 80 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin E. This fat-soluble vitamin comes in a few forms, including alpha-tocopherol, which is known mostly for protecting the brain and eyes. It also slows or stops the production of free radicals, preventing associated chronic diseases.
Whether fermented, boiled, or raw, cabbage is an anti-inflammatory and an immune booster. Half a cup has about 33 percent of the daily recommended vitamin C, along with folic acid, vitamin A and vitamin K. Like vitamin E, vitamin K comes in several forms, and all help maintain normal blood clotting function. This is why individuals who take blood thinners should monitor themselves when consuming this leafy green.
Lean pork is an excellent source of protein and B vitamins, especially for those looking to lose weight. One 3-ounce serving contains 54 percent of the daily recommendation of vitamin B1. B1 or thiamine assists in converting carbohydrates to glucose so the body can use them for energy. Pork also has more than a third of the daily recommended niacin, B3, B12, B2, and pyridoxine.
Portobello mushrooms are a large, meaty option and a popular meat substitute for burgers. They are low in calories and contain choline and vitamin B4, which aids in metabolizing fats. Portobello mushrooms also have a third of the daily recommendation of niacin and vitamin B2, which assists in carbohydrate, fat, and protein breakdown and helps the body use oxygen better.