You are what you eat

The foods you eat do more than fill your belly — they also give your body the nutrients it needs to thrive. What you eat can affect how you feel today as well as how you feel years from now.

Some foods can deplete your energy, impair your digestive system, and raise your risk of health problems. Other foods fuel your body’s natural disease-fighting abilities. Click through the slideshow to learn about high-vitamin foods that can help you get the nutrition you need.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble nutrient. It helps your body form healthy teeth, bones, soft tissues, and skin. It can also help you ward off bacterial and viral infections, prevent night blindness, and keep your hair and nails healthy.

Foods that are particularly high in vitamin A include:

  • carrots
  • sweet potatoes
  • winter squash
  • cantaloupe
  • apricots
  • spinach, kale, and collard greens

Some spices are also high in vitamin A, including paprika, red pepper, cayenne, and chili powder.

Vitamins B-6, B-12, and B-9 are essential for proper nerve function, the synthesis of DNA, and the formation of red blood cells in your body. They also help maintain your brain function, prevent anemia, and support metabolism.

Foods that are particularly high in vitamins B-6 and B-12 include:

  • meat, poultry, and fish
  • seafood, including mussels and oysters
  • eggs
  • milk

Foods that are particularly high in B-9, or folic acid, include leafy green vegetables and poultry. Some breakfast cereals, fruit juices, and other products are fortified with folic acid.

Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid. It’s a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the health of your cells. It improves your body’s iron absorption. It’s also important for promoting healthy teeth and gums, healing wounds, and helping you resist infection.

Foods that are particularly high in vitamin C include:

  • papaya
  • citrus fruits
  • strawberries
  • bell peppers
  • broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • dark leafy greens, such as kale, mustard greens, and chard

Vitamin D is a unique vitamin. On top of absorbing it from foods you eat, your body can also synthesize it from sunlight. It’s critical for the health of your bones and immune system, as well as calcium absorption. According to the National Cancer Institute, it may also help lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Though sunshine is by far the richest source of vitamin D, foods that also provide vitamin D include:

  • some seafood, such as salmon, herring, catfish, trout, and oysters
  • milk
  • eggs
  • shiitake mushrooms

Like vitamin C, vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. It helps protects your cells from damage. It also helps your body use vitamin K and repair muscle cells.

Foods that are particularly high in vitamin E include:

  • sunflower seeds and almonds
  • spinach, Swiss chard, and turnip greens
  • bell peppers
  • asparagus

Vitamin K is critical for your body’s formation of blood clots. Without it, you could bleed to death from a simple cut. It may also help maintain bone strength in older adults.

Foods that are particularly high in vitamin K include:

  • kale, spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard, turnip greens, and mustard greens
  • romaine lettuce
  • parsley
  • Brussels sprouts
  • broccoli
  • asparagus

It may be tempting to turn to supplements to get your fill of vitamins. But according to the Office of Dietary Supplements, popping a pill is no substitute for a well-balanced diet. To get the nutrients you need, stock up on high-vitamin foods that are known to pack a nutritious punch.

If you suspect you may be missing crucial nutrients in your diet, talk to your doctor or dietitian. They may recommend changes to your eating habits. They may also encourage you to add a supplement to your daily routine.

Eating a well-balanced diet can help you get the nutrients your body needs to function properly. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seafood are rich sources of many vitamins. Incorporate a variety of them into your daily diet for optimum health and wellness.