A healthy diet includes a variety of foods that contain the vitamins and minerals necessary to maintain a healthy body. While most vitamins and minerals are available in supplement form, experts recommend getting them through your diet. Each vitamin and mineral offers multiple benefits for your health. A balanced diet is key to a healthful eating plan, notes the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Benefits of Vitamin C
Vitamin C may be the best-known antioxidant, helping protect your body against free radicals, those substances that attack healthy cells. The Office of Dietary Supplements notes that people who get a high level of vitamin C from fruits and vegetables may lower their risk for some cancers, such as lung, breast and colon. People who eat lots of fruits and vegetables with vitamin C generally have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron from plants and fight disease by supporting your immune system. That’s why many people fighting a cold boost their vitamin C intake, although there's little scientific data to support this.
Sources of Vitamin C
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Most people think of oranges to boost vitamin C in their diets and with good reason. A cup of orange juice supplies 124 milligrams of vitamin C and a cup of the raw fruit provides 95.8 milligrams. Other fruits, such as grapefruit and peaches, are among the top vitamin C foods. Some vegetables, including peppers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, provide high levels, too. A cup of sweet, red, raw peppers has 283.1 milligrams of vitamin C, the most of any food on the USDA list.
Babies up 12 months need 50 milligrams of vitamin C daily. That falls to 15 milligrams for age 1 to 3, then 25 milligrams from 4 to 8 and 45 milligrams from 9 to 13. Boys 14 to 18 need 75 milligrams daily; teen girls require 65 milligrams. Men should get 90 milligrams a day. Women generally need 75 milligrams, 85 milligrams in pregnancy and 120 milligrams when breastfeeding. Too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps and other problems. The daily safe limit for age 1 to 3 is 400 milligrams, age 4 to 8 is 650 milligrams, age 9 to 13 is 1,200 milligrams, teens 1,800 milligrams and adults 2,000 milligrams. No safe upper limit is set for infants.
Benefits of Zinc
Your body needs zinc to grow and remain healthy. Zinc helps your immune system function properly and helps wounds heal. Like vitamin C, zinc can help your body deal with the effects of the common cold, according to WebMD. Zinc also can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration and can help treat acne, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and mood disorders in young women, according to MayoClinic.com.
Sources of Zinc
You can get zinc from meat, seafood and other protein foods, including beans and nuts. The food with the highest zinc content is oysters, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database. For example, a serving of six medium oysters provides 76 milligrams. A 3-ounce serving of beef, the biggest zinc source of most Americans, has 8.73 milligrams of zinc. Zinc is also plentiful in some ready-to-eat cereals and grains, such as barley, bulgur and oat bran.
Infants up to 6 months need 2 milligrams of zinc a day, while children 7 months to 3 years need 3 milligrams. Ages 4 to 8 need 5 milligrams and ages 9 to 13 require 8 milligrams. Boys 14 to 18 need 11 milligrams; teen girls require 9 milligrams. Men should get 11 milligrams. Women generally need 8 milligrams a day, 12 milligrams in pregnancy and 13 milligrams while breastfeeding. The upper safe limits for zinc are birth to 6 months 4 milligrams a day, 7 to 12 months 5 milligrams, 1 to 3 years 7 milligrams, 4 to 8 years 12 milligrams, 9 to 13 years 23 milligrams, teens 34 milligrams, and men and women 40 milligrams.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: It’s About Eating Right
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Zinc
- WebMD: Find a Vitamin or Supplement -- Vitamin C
- WebMD: Find a Vitamin or Supplement -- Zinc
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Zinc
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Vitamin C
- MayoClinic.com: Zinc -- Evidence
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin C
Lucy D'Berry has been a writer for nearly 30 years, specializing in nutrition and health issues, as well as in education and government. She has written for daily newspapers and edits a national magazine. She has earned both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in the communications field.