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Where to get the best nutrients

October 1, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
"Pulling out certain nutrients and fortifying bars and drinks and shakes with them doesn't necessarily mean that those are the nutrients providing us with any good," said dietician Alyse Levine.Levine is talking about misconceptions many share when trying to eat well. One of the biggest is choosing energy bars and drinks over real food, along with a few other choices.

"A lot of coffee, a lot of processed foods, a lot of things they're picking up on the go," Levine said.

Sadly, that means missing out on the nutrients we need, like calcium.

"If you're over the age of 50 you have a one in two chance of breaking a bone in your lifetime, if you're a female, due to osteoporosis," Levine said.

That not only means seeking out dairy fortified with vitamin D, but also vitamin K foods, which allows the proteins that form bone to do their job. Vitamin K is found in kale, broccoli, Swiss chard and spinach. So, think dark green for bone health.

Potassium is another sorely missed component. Much like how fibrous foods clean out the digestive track, potassium sweeps sodium out of our system, which in turn helps lower blood pressure. Sweet potatoes, avocadoes, potatoes with skin, nonfat yogurt and bananas are all great potassium resources.

Alyse Levine also says foods with magnesium can actually help with menstrual symptoms.

If irritability, bloating, cramping is part of your PMS scenario, chow down on a nice piece of halibut, a handful of nuts and cooked spinach. Two blue ribbon foods are baked potato with skin and nonfat yogurt, as both contain a wealth of magnesium and potassium.

You might know pre-menopausal women need iron, but did you know the best iron foods come from animal sources like lean red meat as the body absorbs the iron more efficiently. The iron found in beans, spinach, raisins and whole grains can be better utilized when eaten with a vitamin C food, which beefs up absorption.

And while you hear a lot about omega-3 fats, they aren't all the same. The omega-3 fatty acids primarily found in fish and fish oil are the most powerful of the omega-3 family. So, experts say you should not be satisfied with only flax and walnuts to get what you need.

 

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