The Best Foods for Every Vitamin and Mineral
Vitamin A to zinc
Want to get your vitamins and minerals the natural way? Our guide breaks down the best foods for 20 of the most important nutrients (and the accompanying recipes offer healthy and tasty ways to enjoy them).
Where to get it: The highest concentration of vitamin A is found in sweet potatoes; just one medium-sized baked sweet potato contains more than 28,000 international units (IU) of vitamin A, or 561% of your recommended daily value (DV). Beef liver, spinach, fish, milk, eggs, and carrots also are good sources.
Try this recipe: Oven-Roasted Sweet-Potato Wedges
Related video: Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries
Where to get it: Fish, beef liver, and poultry are all good sources of B6, but the food richest in this vitamingood news for vegetariansis the chickpea, or garbanzo bean. One cup of canned chickpeas contains 1.1 milligrams (mg) of vitamin B6, or 55% of your DV.
Try this recipe: Lentil and Chickpea Salad
Where to get it: Animal products are your best bet for B12. Cooked clams have the highest concentration of any food, with 84 micrograms (mcg)a whopping 1,402% of your DVin just 3 ounces. (One milligram equals 1,000 micrograms.) Vitamin B12 also occurs naturally in beef liver, trout, salmon, and tuna, and is added to many breakfast cereals.
Try this recipe: Spaghetti and Clams
Where to get it: Most people think citrus when they think of vitamin C, but sweet red peppers actually contain more of the vitamin than any other food: 95 mg per serving (well ahead of oranges and just edging out orange juice, at 93 mg per serving). Other good sources include kiwi fruit, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cantaloupe.
Try this recipe: Stuffed Roasted Red Peppers
Where to get it: Dairy products contain the highest amounts of naturally occurring calcium; plain low-fat yogurt leads the pack with 415 mg (42% DV) per serving. Dark, leafy greens (such as kale and Chinese cabbage) are another natural source of calcium, which can also be found in fortified fruit juices and cereals.
Try this recipe: Yogurt Crunch Parfait
Where to get it: Fatty fishes—including swordfish, salmon, and mackerel—are among the few naturally occurring dietary sources of vitamin D. (Cod liver oil is tops, with 1,360 IU per tablespoon, while swordfish is second with 566 IU, or 142% DV.) Most people tend to consume vitamin D via fortified foods such as milk, breakfast cereals, yogurt, and orange juice.
Try this recipe: Swordfish Mexicana
Where to get it: While wheat germ oil packs more vitamin E than any other food source (20.3 mg per serving, or 100% DV), most people will find it easier to get their vitamin E from sunflower seeds (7.4 mg per ounce, 37% DV) or almonds (6.8 mg per ounce, 34% DV).
Try this recipe: Breakfast Barley with Banana & Sunflower Seeds
Where to get it: Folate is found in a wide variety of foods, including dark leafy green vegetables, fruit, nuts, and dairy products. Beef liver has the highest concentration, but if liver's not to your taste, spinach also has plenty: 131 mcg per half cup (boiled), or 33% of your DV. Folic acid, a man-made form of folate, is also added to many breads, cereals, and grains.
Try this recipe: Apple-Spinach Chicken
Why you need it: Proteins in our body use this metal to transport oxygen and grow cells. Most of the body's iron is found in hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to tissues all over the body.
Where to get it: There are two forms of dietary iron: heme iron (found in animal foods such as red meat, fish, and poultry) and nonheme iron (found in plant sources like lentils and beans). Chicken liver contains the most heme iron of any food, with 11 mg per serving, or 61% of your DV.
Where to get it: Green, leafy vegetables are the best source of this vitamin, also known as phylloquinone. Kale leads the pack with 1.1 mg per cup, followed by collard greens and spinach (about 1 mg per cup), and more exotic varieties like turnip, mustard, and beet greens.
Try this recipe: Tuscan Kale with Almonds, Plums, and Goat Cheese
Where to get it: Tomatoes are the best-known source of lycopene, and sure enough, tomato products—such as sauces, pastes, and purees—contain up to 75 mg per cup. Raw, unprocessed tomatoes aren't as lycopene-rich, however, and watermelon actually contains more per serving: about 12 mg per wedge, versus about 3 mg per tomato.
Try this recipe: Tomato and Bread Soup
Where to get it: Protein-rich animal foods, especially red meat, are good sources of lysine, as are nuts, legumes, and soybeans.
Try this recipe: Autumn Cranberry Beef Stew
Where to get it: Wheat bran has the highest amount of magnesium per serving (89 mg per quarter-cup, or 22% of your DV), but you have to eat unrefined grains to get the benefit; when the germ and bran are removed from wheat (as is the case with white and refined breads), the magnesium is also lost. Other good sources of the mineral include almonds, cashews, and green vegetables such as spinach.
Try this recipe: Morning Glory Muffins
Where to get it: Dried yeast is a top source of niacin, but for something more appetizing, try peanuts or peanut butter; one cup of raw peanuts contains 17.6 mg, more than 100% of your DV. Beef and chicken liver are particularly niacin-rich, as well.
Try this recipe: Chocolate Peanut-Butter Energy Bars
Omega-3 fatty acids
Where to get it: There are two categories of omega-3 fatty acids: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in plant sources such as vegetable oil, green vegetables, nuts, and seeds, while eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)the second categoryare found in fatty fish. One cup of tuna salad contains about 8.5 grams of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Try this recipe: Apple and Cheddar Tuna Pitas (with walnuts!)
Where to get it: One medium-sized baked sweet potato contains nearly 700 mg of potassium. Tomato paste, beet greens, and regular potatoes are also good sources, as are red meat, chicken, and fish.
Try this recipe: Sweet Potato Casserole With Marshmallows
Where to get it: At nearly 3 milligrams per 3-ounce serving, beef liver is the richest source of naturally occurring riboflavin. Not in the mood for liver? Luckily, fortified cereals (like Total or Kellogg's All-Bran) provide nearly as much of the vitamin in a far more convenient (and palatable) package.
Try this recipe: Wholesome Morning Granola
Where to get it: Just six to eight Brazil nuts provide 544 mcg of seleniumthat's 777% of your DV. Too much selenium can actually be harmful, however, so stick with the mineral's number-two food sourcecanned tuna (68 mg per 3 ounces, or 97% DV)except on special occasions.
Try this recipe: Sicilian Tuna and White Bean Bruschetta
Where to get it: As with riboflavin, dried yeast is the best food source for thiamin, containing 11 mg per 100-gram serving. However, you may find it easier to get your fill of thiamin with runners-up pine nuts (1.2 mg per serving) and soybeans (1.1 mg).
Try this recipe: Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan and Pine Nuts
Where to get it: Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food (74 mg per serving, or nearly 500% of DV), but people more often consume zinc in red meat and poultry. Three ounces of beef chuck roast, for example, contains 7 mg. Alaska King crab is a good source of the mineral, as well.
Try this recipe: Spicy Beef and Kimchi Stew