Why you need it. Folic acid—or folate, which is the form in which it exists in foods—is one of eight B-vitamins and it helps in maternal tissue growth during pregnancy. This is why it’s so important that women consume adequate amounts both before and during pregnancy. Folic acid contributes to normal amino acid synthesis, has a role in the process of cell division, as well as in normal blood formation.
Where you find it. The words folic acid and folate derive from the Latin word folium, which means leaf, and for a good reason. This vitamin is abundant in green leafy vegetables. You can also find folate in asparagus, broccoli, avocado and citrus fruits, as well as nuts and beans.
Why you need it. A key function of vitamin A is to support maintenance of normal vision. It plays a role the transmission of electrical signals from the eye to the brain*.
Where you find it. Vitamin A is found in its active form (which the body is ready to use) in a few animal foods, such as liver, eggs and butter. Most people get the bulk of their vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, a compound that provides deep green, yellow and orange colour to many fruits and vegetables. The body can easily convert beta-carotene into the active form of vitamin A. Beta-carotene is found in many colourful foods, including carrots, winter squash, peaches, apricots, papaya, sweet potatoes, leafy greens and broccoli.
Why you need it. Most people know how important calcium is in keeping these tissues healthy, but it plays other important roles and it helps in normal neurotransmission, so helps cells in your nervous system to communicate with one another.
Where you find it. Although most people look to dairy products first—and they are the richest sources of calcium—you can also find it in leafy green vegetables, tofu, beans and almonds.
Why you need it. Vitamin D contributes to normal absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the digestive tract, so it is vitally important in helping the body to maintain healthy teeth and bones, where these minerals are stored. Vitamin D is also necessary for proper muscle function and it supports normal activity of the immune system.
Where you find it. Vitamin D is sometimes referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” because the body is able to manufacture this vitamin in the skin when it’s exposed to sufficient sunlight. However, many people may not have adequate sun exposure due to many factors, such as lifestyle to produce adequate amounts. There are only a few natural food sources of vitamin D. The primary ones are fatty fish, egg yolks and liver, which is why milk can be a valuable source. In many countries, milk is fortified with vitamin D.
Why you need it. Potassium helps the normal functioning of the nervous systemit also helps maintain normalblood pressure, And all your muscles, including your heart muscle, need potassium in order to mainatain normal muscle function.
Where you find it. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with potassium. The best fruit sources include melons, bananas, avocados, apricots, citrus fruits and strawberries. The highest potassium vegetables are tomatoes, carrots, spinach and broccoli. Milk, along with its calcium and vitamin D, is also a good source of potassium.
Susan Bowerman is Senior Director of Nutrition Training at Herbalife. Susan is a Registered Dietitian and a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics