Food is fuel for your body and the type of nutrients you consume determines how well your body performs. Some meals can turn your body into a sputtering, clunker that barely makes it a mile down the road before shutting off. Alternatively, other meals can turn your body into a supercar hugging every turn and zipping down the highway with ease.

A healthy diet consisting of fruits, vegetables and lean protein is a great start to achieving a sports car body, but strategically eating the right nutrients together will ensure Formula One performance.

Iron and Vitamin C

Iron is an essential mineral that performs many duties and is a part of all cells in our bodies. For example, iron carries oxygen from our lungs throughout our bodies and helps our muscles store and use oxygen. Also, iron is a fundamental part of many enzyme functions such as digestion. When our bodies do not have enough iron, many parts of our bodies are affected.

Besides regularly eating iron-rich foods, you can also consume foods that help your body absorb iron better. Vitamin C is one nutrient proven to increase iron absorption when consumed at the same time as iron. Most animal protein contains heme iron, a type of iron that your body easily absorbs. Iron from plant sources is called non-heme iron and its absorption is greatly increased when combined with vitamin C.

Sources of non-heme iron:

  • Beans (kidney, lima, pinto, black, chickpea, etc.)
  • Fermented soy-based products (tofu, tempeh)
  • Nuts and seeds (walnut, almond, cashew, sunflower seed)
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Fortified cereals

Sources of vitamin C:

  • Bell peppers
  • Citrus (orange, grapefruit, lemon)
  • Pineapple
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Onion

Suggestions for meals to increase your iron intake:

  • Eat an orange with your breakfast cereal each morning, or top your cereal with fresh berries.
  • Top a fresh spinach salad with sliced bell pepper, onions, and fresh fruit.
  • Use lemon juice in marinades for meat.
  • Experiment with different fruit-based salsas like pineapple or mango and make exotic chicken dishes.

Fats, Oils, and Vitamins

Vitamins come in two different varieties: water- and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water and are not stored in the body. Examples of water-soluble vitamins include B-complex and vitamin C. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your body for long periods of time and include vitamins A, D, E, and K.

While fat-soluble vitamin deficiencies are rare in the United States, it is important to ensure you consume a proper amount of these necessary nutrients. Vitamin D deficiency is quickly becoming an issue as people stay inside more often and use sunscreen when outdoors.

Dietary fat is essential for fat-soluble vitamin absorption. To increase absorption, combine healthy fats with foods that contain vitamins such as A, D, E, and K.

Sources of fat-soluble vitamins:

  • vitamin A: dairy products, fish, carrots, pumpkin, winter squash, sweet potatoes, and dark green leafy vegetables
  • vitamin D: fortified dairy products, 10-15 minutes in the sun, oily fish (salmon, tuna, etc.), and mushrooms
  • vitamin E: sunflower seeds, almonds, leafy greens (spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens, etc.), asparagus, and bell peppers
  • vitamin K: kale, spinach, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, parsley, romaine lettuce, broccoli, and Swiss chard

Sources of healthy fats:

  • Avocados
  • Eggs
  • Olive Oil
  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, and pistachios
  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, and trout

Suggestions for meals that incorporate healthy fats and fat-soluble vitamins:

  • A leafy green salad with fresh bell peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, and carrots topped with oil vinaigrette.
  • Fish tacos with fresh leafy greens and guacamole.
  • Nut-crusted chicken or fish (replace breadcrumbs with ground pecans, almonds or pistachio) served with a fresh vegetable side dish.
  • To learn more about nutrients and the USDA’s daily recommendations, visit the ChooseMyPlate website.

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