When it comes to healthier eating, most of us have a sense for what foods deliver the goods. Nutrients such as calcium, vitamin C and potassium all have common sources many people are familiar with, but what about lesser known nutrients? Would you be able to spot the hidden gems of the vitamin and nutrient world?
Calcium is a mineral that maintains strong bones and helps to carry nerve impulses throughout the body. This nutrient is also responsible for assisting the release of certain hormones and enzymes that are critical to life.
Common Source: Cottage Cheese- 1 cup contains ~138 mg calcium
Surprising Source: Sardines- 1 can (3 ounces) ~325mg calcium
Sardines are cost effective and can easily be added to salads with a squeeze of fresh lemon or mixed into tomato sauce to top your favorite pasta dish.
Vitamin C serves as an important anti-oxidant. It’s a key component in collagen production and is needed by the body for a number of enzyme reactions. This nutrient also enhances the absorption of iron from the food we eat.
Common Source: Orange- 1 medium contains ~82mg vitamin C
Surprising Source: Bell pepper- 1 medium contains ~95.7mg vitamin C
Bell pepper can be added to pasta dishes, sliced for easy, on-the-go snacking and grilled alongside your favorite barbequed meal. Try it chopped and added to scrambled eggs for a great way to start the day.
As an electrolyte, potassium is responsible for sending electrical signals throughout the body which is key to maintaining healthy heart and nervous system functioning. This nutrient also helps stabilize blood pressure, which is important for maintaining normal kidney function and reducing your overall risk of cardiovascular disease.
Common Source: Banana- 1 cup (mashed) contains ~400mg potassium
Surprising Source: Lima beans- 1 cup contains ~1000mg potassium
Lima beans can be added to soups, stews and salads. You can also try blending it with garbanzo beans and olive oil for a new twist on your favorite hummus dip.
Fiber is defined as a plant nutrient that is resistant to enzymes in the human intestinal tract. Research indicates that a diet rich in fiber may help lower LDL cholesterol, reduce our risk of certain cancers and help us feel full on much less food for weight management purposes.
Common Source: Whole Wheat Bread- 1 slice contains ~1.2g fiber
Surprising Source: Raspberries- 1 cup contains ~ 8g fiber
Raspberries can be enjoyed fresh or frozen and make wonderful additions to cottage cheese, smoothies and cereal. Try a bit of nondairy whipped topping over a bowl of frozen raspberries for a cool summer dessert.
Power nutrients are contained in a number of foods, many of which we consider common additions to our diet and many we may not. Stepping outside the box to discover these hidden gems may prove to be delicious ways to enjoy better health.
By Gina Crome
Gina M. Crome, M.S., M.P.H., R.D.Gina Crome is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer through the American Council on Exercise. She holds a dual Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology as well as a Masters in Public Health Nutrition from Loma Linda University whereby she received the Selma Andrews Award for Excellence and Professionalism.
Over the past 20 years, Gina’s mission has focused on guiding individuals towards gaining a better quality of life. She has previously struggled with her own weight issues and has since lost a total of 172 pounds, driving her passion home to promote healthier lifestyles. Gina is available for media interviews and community appearances and she is the author of various online nutrition and fitness columns.