Getting Vitamins and Nutrients in Food

Throughout our lifetime, our nutrient needs will shift, and we must make dietary adjustments to cope with the changes in our body.  One of the easiest ways to get the needed vitamins and nutrients is through whole foods.

I wish I could say it was easy to pin point exactly what every single person needs to fulfill their nutrient requirement on a daily basis. The truth is that minerals, vitamins, trace minerals and nutrient requirements vary for every single person, and depend entirely on our absorption abilities, current diet, overall state of (digestive) health and gut flora. The amount of nutrients absorbed from any vitamin will vary from person to person, and what we eat changes our gut flora make up, and also where we live will constitute our flora. We may think we know how much of a nutrient we need by looking at the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of a mineral or vitamin on a supplement label. However the RDA values are based of deficiency and disease. The RDA is what we need to prevent acute illness, so we could be meeting our RDA of nutrients and still end up with chronic disease.

Whole foods are key

As a nutritionist. it’s my goal to make sure the RDA requirements are met in a daily basis, but also to look at the bigger, long term picture through the nourishment and daily consumption of whole foods. Foods are, hands down, the number one way to get all of the nutrients and vitamins that we need at every age.

Nutritional needs shift as we age and experience different life events

Throughout our lifetime, our nutrient needs will shift, and we must make dietary adjustments to cope with the changes in our body. This can be influenced by our jobs, lifestyle, environment, access to food sources, and also illness which can impair our ability to metabolize or absorb the nutrients that we eat.  When we are adolescents we require certain minerals for proper brain and physiological development.  During adulthood we require perhaps the most comprehensive array of whole foods to maintain our health and also for prevention of chronic disease in later life. During pregnancy nutrients and whole foods are essential for the health of the mother developing pre-natal life. In old age, we require not only whole foods, but more often supplementation to address malabsorption issues from a strained digestive tract or weakened gut flora. All of this has the same foundation: a diet of whole foods. There are some foods that are staples across the board as an excellent source of mineral, vitamins and nutrients that can be enjoyed by nearly everyone!

Although not a complete nutrient list, making these a staple in your diet is a great start to maintaining vitamin and nutrient levels at every age:

Vitamin A rich foods:

  • 1 cup turkey
  • 100g beef liver
  • 3oz organic, grass fed beef
  • cod liver oil
  • 1 egg

Beta Carotene rich foods:

carrot juice, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, collards

Vitamin A Benefits:

  • Keeps skin and mucosal barriers healthy and more resistant to infection
  • Essential for vision
  • May reduce dry and inflammatory skin conditions
  • Can reduce incidence of infectious disease in children
  • Can reduce heavy menses
  • May reduce cancer progression, help prevent cervical dysplasia, protect against skin cancer and xenobiotics
Vit E Rich foods

  • Wheat Germ oil
  • Tomatoes
  • Sunflower
  • Hazelnuts
  • Almonds
  • Turnips
Vitamin E benefits

  • Improves wound healing and resistance to infection
  • Greater need in premature infants
  • Reduces hot flashes and vaginal dryness in menopausal women
  • Reduces joint stiffness and inflammation
  • Reduces symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease
  • Indicated in diabetes due to oxidative damage
Calcium Rich Foods

  • Dairy products (cheese, milk)
  • Kale, collards, mustard greens
  • Calcium fortified foods
  • Tofu (if made with calcium carbonate)
  • Canned fish & sardines
  • Sesame seed & tahini
  • Whole grains
Calcium Benefits

  • Builds bone mass
  • Lowers blood cholesterol
  • Needed for blood clotting
  • Essential for muscle function
  • Essential for cell signaling and activating enzymes
  • Prevents kidney stones
Foods that enhance Iron absorption:

  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Green & red peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Animal proteins are a high source of iron
Iron Benefits

  • Highly antioxidant
  • Protects cells against accumulated hydrogen peroxide
  • Essential for optimal cellular energy and ATP synthesis
Selenium rich foods

  • Brazil nuts
  • Wheat (whole grain)
Selenium Benefits

  • Protective against cellular damage
  • Thyroid hormone metabolism
  • Essential for immune system function

Along with other vitamins such as vitamin D, vitamin K, vitamin B’s, zinc, magnesium and essential fatty acids (and many more!), whole foods can provide a complete array of dietary nutrients for nearly every age.

If you’re curious about where you could use the most nutrient support, or if you suspect you may be deficient in something, seeking the guidance of a nutritionist may be beneficial to overview your diet and make all necessary adjustments.  If you are interested in making an appointment with our Nutritionist, Lindsay Kluge, please contact our office at (804) 977-2634.

For further reading:

Nutrients for Metabolic Harmony and Disease Prevention

About the Author:

Lindsay Kluge M.Sc, CNS, LDN

Lindsay Kluge is a Clinical Herbalist & Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist and received her Masters of Science degree in Herbal Medicine from the Maryland University of Integrative Health in 2012. She has been with Richmond Natural Medicine since 2013, and specializes in therapeutic holistic nutrition, circadian rhythm balance and sleep physiology, digestion, and Ayurvedic nutrition. She offers individualized nutrition and herbal medicine consultations that include meal planning support, custom compounded herbal formulas, nutrition guidance and general wellness support.  Learn more about services that Lindsay offers at Richmond Natural Medicine by clicking HERE.