20 Healthy Foods That Give You Every Nutrient You Need
20 of the Most Nutrient-Packed Foods in the World
Imagine this: It's 5 p.m. and you realize that not a single piece of fruit or veggie has passed your lips. Of course, that's never happened to you. But if you ever find yourself in that situation, don't just throw in the healthy eating towel—instead, load your body with the nutrients it's been missing with just a few bites of these foods. (And feel free to skip these 10 Superfoods You Don't Really Need to Buy (We're Looking at You, Wheatgrass).)
Popeye knew what was up: Spinach is one of best sources of potassium and is also rich in vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, folate, and iron. One cup raw provides over half of your daily recommended value (DV) for vitamin A, which is necessary for healthy vision, immune system, and reproduction. Want even more? Cooked leaves provides over 100 percent! Sauté in a little olive oil and garlic to accompany your dinner or add to a salad. (No wonder spinach scored a spot on our list of The 10 Best Leafy Greens!)
Brussels sprouts get a bad rap, but their nutrient profile will set the record straight: One cup cooked provides 195 percent DV of vitamin K—crucial in helping your body absorb calcium—and 125 percent of vitamin C, which plays an important role in the formation of collagen, the main support system of skin, which helps to reduce wrinkles. Plus, they offer more than 10 percent of your vitamin A, vitamin B-6, folate, potassium, and manganese needs for the day. Try roasting brussels sprouts with olive oil and then tossing in balsamic vinegar or dijon mustard to enhance their flavor.
We might not always think of almonds as produce, but remember they do come from a tree. Almonds are a great source of vitamin E, biotin, manganese, copper, magnesium, phosphorous, fiber, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. They're the perfect afternoon snack to rack up nutrients and help hold you over 'til dinner. Just be sure to stick with a one-ounce serving (shot glass size) or you'll wind up consuming too many calories. (Read up on these 6 Things You Didn't Know About Almonds.)
Turnip greens probably aren't on your regular grocery list, but they definitely should be. These leafy greens are packed with just about every nutrient your body needs, excelling in vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin C, folate, copper, manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin E, and vitamin B6. One cup cooked even provides 20 percent of your daily calcium, which is important for strong bones and is one of 7 Nutrients That Help Increase Muscle Tone. Enjoy turnip greens raw in a salad or sandwich, sautéed as a side dish, or added to soups.
Who ever said that dark leafy greens are the only veggies worth eating? Cauliflower cooked packs 73 percent DV of vitamin C, 19 percent of vitamin K, 14 percent of folate, 12 percent of vitamin B12, 11 percent of choline, and 11 percent of dietary fiber in just one cup—phew! Additionally, it consists of small amounts of thiamine, protein, riboflavin, niacin, and magnesium. And while cauliflower can be eaten raw dipped in hummus, we're inclined to get a little more creative, like with these 25 Can't-Believe-It's-Cauliflower Recipes for Comfort Food Favorites.
They may be tiny, but just a quarter cup of sunflower seeds packs 82 percent of the DV for vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight free radicals in our body and may strengthen our immune system. They're also a very good source of copper and vitamin B1, and good source of manganese, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B6, and folate, which also supports your immune system, heart health, and nerve function. Snack on them raw or toss them into a salad to add a little crunch.
Raspberry season is short in the U.S., but you can enjoy them year-round by grabbing them frozen (it's one of 10 Packaged Foods That Are Surprisingly Healthy). Eating one cup of fresh raspberries will provide 43 percent of your daily vitamin C needs, 32 percent of fiber, and 41 percent of manganese, which plays a role in calcium absorption, blood sugar regulation, and fat and carbohydrate metabolism. Raspberries also contain smaller amounts of folate, vitamin E, vitamin K, biotin, potassium, magnesium, and copper. Enjoy atop Greek yogurt for a pre-workout snack or even after dinner as a healthy dessert.
Want gorgeous, glowing skin? One cup of strawberries provides over 100 percent of the DV for skin-saving vitamin C. Plus, these amazing berries contain potassium, fiber, iodine, folate, copper, potassium, and magnesium. The best part is there are endless ways to eat them. Munch on them alone, blend them into a smoothie, slice and add to a green salad, or cover in chocolate for a decadent dessert.
There's a reason vegetarians love black beans—they're packed with protein and iron, plus crucial minerals like copper, manganese, thiamine, phosphorus, and magnesium. One cooked cup provides 64 percent of the DV of folic acid, which is a crucial nutrient to consume during child-bearing age to keep your potential baby healthy. Add them to a salad, have in a chili or soup, or blend into a dip.
Tomatoes' fiery red is a dead giveaway they're chock full of the pigment-making nutrient lycopene, but the fruit also contains vitamins A, C, and K, folic acid, copper, potassium, beta-carotene, lutein, and biotin. Biotin is needed for normal cell function and primarily helps the body to metabolize and use the food we eat. Simply pop grape or cherry tomatoes into your mouth or enjoy in a salad or homemade tomato sauce (we like this Whole-Wheat Linguine with Cherry Tomato Sauce). When not in season, a low-sodium canned variety can still be a healthy choice.
You may not have listened when you were little, but heeding mom's advice to finish your broccoli will serve you well. One cup of cooked broccoli provides over 100 percent of your DV for vitamins C and K and is a great source of vitamin A, folate, chromium, riboflavin, potassium, fiber, and copper—copper helps our body to make red blood cells and keep our immune system healthy. Munch on it raw with your favorite salad dressing or steam, roast, or sauté in garlic and oil. (Try Heather Graham's Favorite Broccoli Salad.)
Sweet potatoes are, of course, best known for being a great source of beta-carotene (hence the deep orange color), which may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer, decrease heart disease, protect against asthma, and slow down the aging process. But one medium sweet potato also provides over 100 percent of your daily needs for vitamin A, 37 percent for vitamin C, 16 percent for vitamin B6, 15 percent for potassium, and 28 percent for manganese. You'll also find small amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, and folate in the bright veggie. Whip up one of these 10 Healthy Sweet Potato Recipes.
Good things do come in small packages: One cup of cooked peas provide over 25 percent of our daily needs for manganese, fiber, thiamine, copper, vitamin C, phosphorus, and folate. They are also a good source of vitamin B6, niacin, riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, iron, potassium, and choline. Toss them into a salad or pasta sauce, blend into a soup, or sauté with mushrooms and slivered almonds.
Asparagus are packed with nutrients. One cup cooked provides over 100 percent of the DV for vitamin K, 67 percent for folate, 33 percent for copper, and 20 percent for selenium, which is important for cognitive function, strengthening our immune system and potentially playing a role in fertility. The green stalks also contain potassium, vitamins A, C and E, B vitamins, phosphorous, and magnesium.
Kale may be trendy, but it definitely lives up to the hype. The green is mega-packed with essential vitamins A, C, and K, as well as minerals like copper, potassium, manganese, calcium, phosphorus, and iron. Inadequate iron intake can lead to anemia, causing weakness and fatigue. With a low oxalate content—a naturally-occuring molecule found in plants and humans that binds to calcium—the calcium and iron in kale are highly absorbable by our body. Tired of green smoothies and kale chips? Try one of these 10 New Ways to Eat Kale.
One cup of boiled collard greens contains 858 percent of the DV for vitamin K—yes, you read that right. Since vitamin K helps our blood to clot and body absorb calcium, that means collards are great for building strong bones and preventing heart disease, among others. Plus, the green packs 80 percent of the DV for of vitamin A, 49 percent for manganese, 46 percent for vitamin C, 27 percent for cacium, and 17 percent for choline, an important nutrient that may help with sleep, muscle movement, and memory. Try these Savory Collard Greens or this Collard Green Wraps with Roasted Yams and Chipotle Black Beans.
Well, hello little legume. Lentils contain over one-third of your daily iron needs in one cup cooked, which means they can boost your energy and even aid your workout. They are also rich in folate, fiber, copper, phosphorous, thiamine, zinc, vitamin B6, manganese, and potassium, which is important in helping to maintain a healthy blood pressure. Lentils are delicious in a soup or salad, or with a meat dish.
Mushrooms aren't just for an omelet or topping on your pizza. They have a a killer nutritional package that includes copper, selenium, riboflavin, potassium, zinc, thiamine, manganese, choline, folate, and phosphorous, which works closely with calcium to help strengthen our bones. As with most veggies, it is important not to overcook them to retain their nutrition (soft and mushy is too far). A few of our favorite ways of prepping? In a risotto, stuffed with cheese, or crisped to perfection.
There's no doubt that cruciferous vegetables are super stars, and bok choy, also known as Chinese cabbage, is another such example. It's a nutritional powerhouse that's high in vitamins A, C, and K and also contains potassium, folate, calcium, manganese, iron, B vitamins, phosphorus, choline, copper, zinc, and magnesium, which is needed for your heart, kidneys, and muscles to function properly. Eat the whole thing—stalk, leaves, and all—raw in a salad, added to a soup, or quickly seared and stir-fried. (It's even one of 10 Super Greens to Add to Smoothies and Juices!)
Most of us think of soybeans for their protein—which we should, seeing as how they offer our entire daily count in one cup. But they're also crazy-rich in minerals like copper (78 percent of the DV), manganese (71 percent), phosphorous (60 percent), and iron (49 percent), as well as more than one-quarter of our daily needs for riboflavin, magnesium, vitamin K, and potassium. The only concern with soybeans is that the calories can add up quickly, so be sure to limit yourself to one cup only. They're fun to eat from the pod as a snack or out as edamame mixed into salads.