Best Foods With Vitamins and Minerals

Want to get vitamins and minerals from food instead of supplements?

To run smoothly, your body requires an array of essential nutrients, from disease-fighting antioxidants to bone-building heavy metals. You can get many of those nutrients in a daily supplement. But you can also find nearly all those nutrients in your everyday foods.

Want to get your vitamins and minerals the natural way? Here's a guide that breaks down some of the best foods for 20 essential nutrients and some recipes to try.

Vitamin A

Benefits: The vitamin A family plays a key role in immunity, reproductive health, and especially vision. The A vitamins, which include beta-carotene, help the retina, cornea, and eye membranes function correctly.  

Sources: Sweet potatoes have one of the highest vitamin A concentrations. One medium-sized baked sweet potato contains more than 28,000 international units (IU) of vitamin A, which is 561% of your recommended daily value (DV). Also, beef liver, spinach, fish, milk, eggs, and carrots are good sources.

Here's a recipe for sweet potato and spinach quesadillas.

Vitamin B6

Benefits: Vitamin B6 is an umbrella term for six compounds that have similar effects on the body. Those compounds metabolize foods, help form hemoglobin (part of your red blood cells), stabilize blood sugar, and make antibodies that fight disease.

Sources: Fish, beef liver, and poultry are all good sources of vitamin B6. But in particular, chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, are a rich source of vitamin B6. One cup of canned chickpeas contains 1.1 milligrams of vitamin B6, which is 55% of your recommended DV.

Try this recipe for a slow-cooked chickpea and spinach dish.

Vitamin B12

Benefits: Vitamin B12 is vital for healthy nervous system function and DNA and red blood cell formation. The vitamin helps guard against anemia, a blood condition that causes fatigue and weakness.

Sources: Animal products are some of your best bets for vitamin B12. Cooked clams have one of the highest concentrations of the vitamin, with 84 micrograms—about 1,402% of your recommended DV—in just three ounces. Vitamin B12 also occurs naturally in beef liver, trout, salmon, and tuna. Many breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin B12.

Here are four heart-healthy salmon recipes to try.

Vitamin C

Why you need it: Vitamin C is an important antioxidant. The vitamin is also a necessary ingredient in several key bodily processes, such as protein metabolism and the synthesis of neurotransmitters.

Where to get it: Many people think of citrus when they think of vitamin C. But sweet red peppers contain more than any other food. One sweet red pepper has 95 milligrams of vitamin C, more than oranges. Other good sources of vitamin C include kiwi fruit, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cantaloupe.

Here's how to make vitamin C-packed mini strawberry shortcakes.


Why you need it: Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. The body stores more than 98% of its calcium in the teeth and bones, which the mineral helps fortify. The remaining calcium goes toward blood vessel and muscle function, cell communication, and hormone secretion.  

Where to get it: Dairy products contain some of the highest amounts of naturally occurring calcium. For example, plain low-fat yogurt has 415 milligrams per serving, about 42% of your recommended DV. But dark, leafy greens, such as kale and Swiss chard, are another natural source of calcium. Also, some fruit juices and cereals are fortified with calcium.

Here are some stir-fry recipes, including one with Swiss chard.

Vitamin D

Why you need it: Vitamin D, which our body generates on its own when exposed to sunlight, helps spur calcium absorption and bone growth. Also, vitamin D is important for cell growth, immunity, and the reduction of inflammation.  

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 has about 1,360 IU per tablespoon. And swordfish has bout 566 IU, which is nearly 142% of your recommended DV.

Many people consume vitamin D via fortified foods, such as milk, breakfast cereals, yogurt, and orange juice.

Try this salmon and asparagus salad for a healthy dose of vitamin D.

Vitamin E

Benefits: Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects your cells from harmful molecules known as free radicals. Vitamin E is essential for immunity, healthy blood vessel function, and blood clotting.

Sources: Wheat germ oil packs more vitamin E than any other food source, with about 20.3 milligrams per serving, or 100% of your recommended DV. But some people may find it easy to get their vitamin E from sunflower seeds, which have 7.4 milligrams per ounce (37% DV), or almonds, which have 6.8 milligrams per ounce (34% DV).

Here are six alternatives to peanut butter, including sunflower seed butter.


Benefits: For pregnant people, folate—a type of B vitamin—can help prevent birth defects. For everyone else, folate helps new tissues and proteins form.  

Sources: You can find folate in various foods, like dark leafy green vegetables, fruit, nuts, and dairy products. Beef liver has one of the highest concentrations. But if the beef liver isn't your taste, spinach also has plenty of folate.

Boiled spinach packs about 131 micrograms per one-half cup, which is 33% of your recommended DV. Also, some manufacturers added folic acid, an artificial folate, to bread, cereal, and grains.

For a lighter version of a comfort food favorite, check out this healthy spinach and artichoke dip recipe.


Benefits: Proteins in our body use iron, a metal, to transport oxygen and grow cells. Hemoglobin houses most of the body's iron. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to tissues all over the body.  

Sources: 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 some of the most heme iron of any food, with 11 milligrams per serving, which is 61% of your recommended DV.

Try this tarragon chicken and leek slow cooker recipe.

Vitamin K

Benefits: Vitamin K is a crucial ingredient in blood clotting. Without vitamin K, your body would be unable to stop bleeding when you bruise or cut yourself.  

Sources: Green, leafy vegetables are some of the best sources of vitamin K, also known as phylloquinone. Kale leads the pack, followed by collard greens, spinach, and more exotic varieties like turnip, mustard, and beet greens.

Here's a fresh juice recipe for a vitamin K boost.


Benefits: Lycopene is a chemical pigment in red fruits and vegetables that may have antioxidant properties. Some evidence suggests that lycopene helps guard against heart disease and cancer.

Sources: Tomatoes are one of the best sources of lycopene. And sure enough, tomato products—such as sauces, pastes, and purees—contain the most. Raw, unprocessed tomatoes don't have as much lycopene as those products. In fact, watermelon actually contains more lycopene per serving than raw tomatoes.

Try this no-cook recipe for heirloom tomato gazpacho.


Benefits: Lysine, also known as l-lysine, is an amino acid that helps the body absorb calcium. Lysine also helps the body form collagen for bones and connective tissue. Also, lysine helps produce carnitine, a nutrient that helps regulate cholesterol levels.  

Sources: Protein-rich animal foods, especially red meat, are good sources of lysine. Nuts, legumes, and soybeans also pack lysine.

Here's a healthier, better-than-takeout beef and broccoli recipe to try.


Benefits: The body uses magnesium in more than 300 biochemical reactions. Those include maintaining muscle and nerve function and a steady heart rhythm. Magnesium also helps with strengthening bones.  

Sources: Wheat bran has one of the highest amounts of magnesium per serving. One-quarter cup of wheat bran has 89 milligrams, which is about 22% of your recommended DV. But you have to eat unrefined grains to get the benefit. Grains lose their magnesium when processors remove the germ and bran from wheat, as in white and refined bread. 

Other good sources of magnesium include:

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Green vegetables, such as spinach

Try making tropical trail mix, which includes cashews, at home.


Benefits: Niacin, like its fellow B vitamins, helps convert food into energy. Also, niacin helps the digestive system, skin, and nerves function correctly.  

Sources: Dried yeast is a good source of niacin. But for something flavorful, try peanuts or peanut butter. Beef and chicken liver are particularly niacin-rich, as well.

Feeling nutty and in need of niacin? Here's a twist on a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Benefits: Fats get a bad rap. But certain types of fats—like omega-3 fatty acids, a kind of polyunsaturated fat—are healthy in moderation. Omega-3 fatty acids contribute to brain health and may help reduce inflammation.  

Sources: 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. And eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are found in fatty fish.

One tablespoon of flaxseed oil contains more than seven grams of ALA. And three ounces of farmed Atlantic salmon contain almost two grams of DHA and EPA.

Here's a salad idea to help increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake.


Benefits: Potassium is an essential electrolyte that controls the heart's electrical activity. Your body also uses potassium to build proteins and muscle. Potassium also helps break down carbohydrates into energy.

Sources: One medium-sized baked sweet potato contains nearly 475 milligrams of potassium. Other good sources of potassium include:

  • Tomato paste
  • Beet greens
  • Regular potatoes
  • Red meat
  • Chicken
  • Fish

If you're keen to try a new sweet potato dish, here's how to make spicy wedges.


Benefits: Riboflavin—yet another B vitamin—is an antioxidant that helps the body fight disease, create energy, and produce red blood cells.  

Sources: At nearly three milligrams per three-ounce serving, beef liver is one of the richest sources of naturally occurring riboflavin. Also, fortified cereals, like Total or Kellogg's All-Bran, provide nearly as much of the vitamin.


Benefits: Selenium is a mineral with antioxidant properties. The body only requires small amounts, but selenium plays an outsized role in preventing chronic illnesses. Selenium also helps regulate thyroid function and the immune system.  

Sources: Just six to eight Brazil nuts provide 544 micrograms of selenium, which is 777% of your recommended DV. Too much selenium can be harmful, so stick with the mineral's number-two food source, canned tuna. One three-ounce serving of canned tuna packs 68 milligrams, which is 97% of your recommended DV.

Check out this recipe for a Mediterranean twist on tuna salad.


Benefits: Thiamin, also known as vitamin B1, helps the body turn carbohydrates into energy. Thiamin is also essential for keeping the brain and nervous system running correctly.  

Sources: As with riboflavin, dried yeast is one of the best sources of thiamin. But you may find getting your fill of thiamin with pine nuts and soybeans easier than dried yeast.

Pesto is a sauce made with pine nuts. Here's how to use pesto in a salad.


Benefits: Research has found that zinc plays a role in immune function. And zinc is also essential for your senses of taste and smell.  

Sources: Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food. One serving of oysters has about 74 milligrams per serving, which is nearly 500% of your recommended DV. More often, people consume zinc in red meat and poultry. Three ounces of beef chuck roast, for example, contains seven milligrams. Alaska King crab is a good source of the mineral, as well.

You can get your zinc fix with a healthy taco salad.

A Quick Review

You can take a daily supplement to add vitamins and minerals to your diet. But getting your nutrients from whole foods is better than supplements.

Healthy, whole foods also contain fiber, macronutrients like protein and healthy fats, and in many cases, phytonutrients from plants that can further benefit your body.

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  1. National Institutes of Health. Vitamin A and carotenoids - consumer.

  2. National Institutes of Health. Vitamin B6 - consumer.

  3. National Institutes of Health. Vitamin B6 - health professional fact sheet.

  4. National Institutes of Health. Vitamin B12 fact sheet for consumers.

  5. National Institutes of Health. Vitamin B12 - health professional fact sheet.

  6. National Institutes of Health. Vitamin C - health professional fact sheet.

  7. National Institutes of Health. Calcium - health professional fact sheet.

  8. National Institutes of Health. Vitamin D - health professional fact sheet.

  9. National Institutes of Health. Vitamin E - health professional fact sheet.

  10. National Institutes of Health. Folate - health professional fact sheet.

  11. National Institutes of Health. Iron - health professional fact sheet.

  12. National Institutes of Health. Vitamin K - health professional fact sheets.

  13. National Library of Medicine. Lycopene.

  14. Imran M, Ghorat F, Ul-Haq I, et al. Lycopene as a Natural Antioxidant Used to Prevent Human Health DisordersAntioxidants (Basel). 2020;9(8):706. doi:10.3390/antiox9080706

  15. National Library of Medicine. Lysine.

  16. National Institutes of Health. Magnesium - health professional fact sheet.

  17. National Institutes of Health. Niacin - health professional fact sheet.

  18. National Institutes of Health. Omega-3 fatty acids - consumer.

  19. National Institutes of Health. Potassium - consumer.

  20. Department of Agriculture. Sweet potato, cooked, baked in skin, flesh, without salt.

  21. Department of Agriculture. Beef, variety meats and by-products, liver, cooked, braised.

  22. National Institutes of Health. Riboflavin - consumer.

  23. National Institutes of Health. Selenium - health professional fact sheet.

  24. National Institutes of Health. Thiamin - consumer.

  25. National Institutes of Health. Zinc - health professional fact sheet.

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