The Health Benefits of Celeriac

Celeriac, also known as celery root, is an unusual and nutritious vegetable with a wide variety of uses. It is from the same family as celery but is a very different plant.

Celeriac that has been washed and peeled can be eaten raw or cooked using different methods.

This article explores the nutritional content of celeriac, its possible health benefits, and how to use it in recipes.

What is celeriac?

celeriac

Celeriac contains many nutrients and is similar in taste to celery and parsley.

Celeriac has green leaves and stalks that grow above ground, and a root covered in rough, brown skin that grows underground.

The edible part of the celeriac plant is the root. Inside it is pale in color, similar to that of a potato or turnip. Its flavor is similar to celery and parsley.

Celeriac contains multiple nutrients that may offer health benefits, as part of a healthy diet, including:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin K
  • vitamin B-6
  • potassium
  • phosphorus
  • fiber

Celeriac originated in Mediterranean and north European countries. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Italians used it for medicinal and religious purposes. Scientists first wrote about it as food in the 1600s, and it remains popular throughout Europe.

Celeriac vs. celery

While celery is grown for its edible leaves and stalks, celeriac is grown for its roots. Celeriac is sometimes called celery root, but it is not the root of celery stalks.

Other names for celeriac are knob celery and turnip-rooted celery, and it is the same family as carrots and related to celery, parsley, and parsnips.

Health benefits of celeriac

Bone health

Rich in vitamin C, celeriac could help reduce the risk of high blood pressure.

Vitamin K intake may impact bone health. Celeriac is high in vitamin K with a 1 cup of raw celeriac containing 64 micrograms (mcg).

Researchers reviewed studies that looked at the relationship between vitamin K and bone fractures. They found that people with higher dietary vitamin K intake had a lower risk of fractures.

Specifically, they noted that risk of fracture reduced by 22 percent in people with the highest vitamin K intake compared with those with the lowest.

Diabetes

Diabetes affects millions of people around the world. A healthful diet may lower the risk for type 2 diabetes.

In one large study in Europe, scientists examined the association between fruit and vegetable intake, including root vegetables, and risk for type 2 diabetes.

They found that people who ate the most root vegetables had a 13 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who consumed the least amounts.

Eating the root of the celeriac plant is one way to increase intake of root vegetables.

Heart health

In one study, scientists looked at the association between plasma ascorbic acid, a marker of vitamin C in the blood, and risk for high blood pressure. They found that people with higher blood levels of ascorbic acid had a lower risk of developing high blood pressure.

Consuming foods that are high in vitamin C, such as celeriac, could help lower the risk for high blood pressure by improving ascorbic acid levels.

Nutritional information

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, 1 cup of raw celeriac provides:

  • 66 kilocalories (kcal)
  • 2.34 grams (g) of protein
  • 0.47 g of fat
  • 14.35 g of carbohydrate
  • 2.8 g of fiber

Celeriac is a concentrated source of many nutrients. A 1-cup serving of raw celeriac provides the following daily value (DV) percentages:

  • 11 percent of fiber
  • 13 percent of potassium
  • 13 percent of vitamin B-6
  • 18 percent of phosphorus.

Celeriac is high in vitamins C and K, providing 21 and 80 percent of the DV for those nutrients, respectively.

Recipes

celeriac in salad

Celeriac can be used uncooked, sliced, or grated and added to salads.

Celeriac is a versatile vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked.

Raw celeriac is commonly used in salads. It may be best known for its use in a French dish called celerie remoulade.

Cooked celeriac can be prepared by baking, boiling, frying, or steaming. It can also be mashed and served as a side dish, or chopped and added to soups.

See below for a few celeriac recipes:

Substitutes

If celeriac is not available, celery and parsley root can be switched for a similar flavor in soups. For mashing or roasting, parsnips or potatoes could be used in place of celeriac.

Often, celeriac and potatoes are prepared using similar methods, or they can be substituted for one another in recipes. Celeriac can also be used as an alternative to potatoes for people trying to lower their calorie or carbohydrate intake.

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one cup of boiled celeriac pieces provides 42 kcal and 9.14 g of carbohydrate. The same amount of boiled potatoes provides 134 kcal and 31.22 g of carbohydrate.

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Health Benefits of Carrot Juice

Juicing has become increasingly popular in recent years and is now a multi-million dollar industry.

Fresh fruit and vegetable juices can be purchased at most grocers, farmers’ markets, and shops dedicated to fresh juice. They can also be made at home with juicing equipment.

Carrots are a common ingredient in many juices, as they provide a flavor that pairs well with many other fruits and vegetables.

Aside from taste, carrot juice may also provide numerous health benefits. Read on to learn more about the potential health benefits and possible risks of drinking carrot juice.

Nutritional information

Carrot juice in glasses next to raw carrots on chopping board.

Carrot juice is nutritionally dense and a more healthful alternative to many fruit juices.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database, 1 cup of canned carrot juice contains:

  • 94 kilocalories (kcal)
  • 2.24 grams (g) of protein
  • 0.35 g of fat
  • 21.90 g of carbohydrate
  • 1.90 g of fiber

The same amount of juice provides a variety of vitamins and minerals, including:

  • 689 milligrams (mg) of potassium
  • 20.1 mg of vitamin C
  • 0.217 mg of thiamin
  • 0.512 mg of vitamin B-6
  • 2,256 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A
  • 36.6 mcg of vitamin K

Health benefits for carrot juice

Carrot juice is nutritious and may be beneficial for a range of health conditions:

Stomach cancer

Carrots contain antioxidants, which may explain their role in cancer prevention. In a review of studies, researchers looked at the effect of eating carrots on the risk for stomach cancer.

They concluded that eating carrots were associated with a 26 percent lower risk for stomach cancer. However, they did not specify how many had to be eaten to lower stomach cancer risk. More controlled studies are needed to confirm this association.

Leukemia

More research is needed, but carrot juice may have a future role in leukemia treatment.

In one study, researchers looked at the effect of carrot juice extracts on leukemia cells. The carrot juice extracts caused the leukemia cells to self-destruct and stopped their cell cycle.

Breast cancer

Purple, white, and orange carrots in box.

The high levels of carotenoids in carrot juice may help to lower the risk of breast cancer returning,

A study of breast cancer survivors looked at the effect of carrot juice on levels of carotenoids, markers of oxidative stress, and markers of inflammation in the blood.

The researchers reported that higher levels of carotenoids in the blood were associated with a lower risk of breast cancer returning.

During the study, participants consumed 8 ounces of carrot juice daily for 3 weeks. At the end of the study, the women had higher blood levels of carotenoids and lower levels of a marker associated with oxidative stress.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Carrot juice is high in vitamin C. Researchers looked at the association between dietary vitamin C intake and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in Korean adults aged 40 years or older.

They found that people with COPD had significantly lower intakes of multiple nutrients found in carrot juice, including carotene, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C, than people without COPD.

However, people with COPD also ate significantly less food overall than people without COPD.

For people who smoked heavily, the risk of COPD is lower in those who consumed more vitamin C than those who consumed very little.

Possible risks and considerations

People with weakened immune systems — such as those receiving cancer treatment, pregnant women, young children, and older people — may need to avoid certain foods if there is a risk of these carrying food-borne illnesses.

Fruit and vegetable juices that are freshly squeezed or have not been pasteurized may have a higher risk of carrying germs.

The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center state that people who have been told to follow a low-microbial diet should avoid unpasteurized fruit and vegetable juices unless they are made at home.

According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), pregnant women should choose juices that have been pasteurized or treated to have a long shelf life. Freshly squeezed juices, which may be sold at farmers’ markets or juice bars, should also be avoided.

Carrots contain a type of carotenoid called beta-carotene that the body can convert into vitamin A.

Eating large amounts of carotenoids from foods has not been linked with harmful effects. However, the skin can turn yellow-orange if a person consumes large amounts of beta-carotene for a long time. This effect is called carotenoderma.

Juicing tips and recipes

Carrots freshly blended and juiced.

Carrot juice contains less fiber and more sugar than raw carrots.

According to Stanford Health Care, the vitamin and mineral nutrients in 1 cup of carrot juice are almost equivalent to the amounts in 5 cups of chopped carrots.

While fresh fruit and vegetable juices do provide plenty of nutrients, they do not contain as much fiber as fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, they contain more sugar per cup than whole fruits and vegetables.

For example, 1 cup of carrot juice contains 2 g of fiber and 9 g of sugar, while 1 cup of cubed, raw carrots contains 3.5 g of fiber and 6 g of sugar.

Making fresh carrot juice at home requires a juice extractor. These appliances are sold online, in department stores, and at other retail stores that sell small kitchen appliances.

It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for using a juicer and clean it after each use. Juice extractors may also come with recipe suggestions.

Carrots can be combined with other fruits and vegetables to make tasty juices. A person can try the following recipes at home:

Also,

Carrot juice may offer many health benefits due to the concentrated levels of nutrients it contains.

However, carrot juice has less fiber and more sugar than whole carrots. Fiber is associated with weight management and lowering cholesterol levels.

Carrot juice may not be appropriate for everyone, especially pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and people with certain illnesses, depending on how it is prepared.

Carrot juice in moderation can be included as part of a healthy diet. However, drinking juice is not a replacement for eating whole fruits and vegetables.

The Health Benefits of Nopal Cactus

The nopal cactus is more commonly known as the prickly pear cactus. It is native to Mexico and famous for its health benefits due to its high antioxidant, vitamin, mineral, and fiber content.

What is nopal?

Nopal cactus on copping board, cut into pieces for cooking.

Nopales are the pads of the nopal cactus and can be cooked or eaten raw.

Nopales or nopalitos are the pads of the nopal or prickly pear cactus. They are eaten as a vegetable and commonly found in restaurants, grocery stores, and farmers’ markets across the American Southwest and Mexico.

They can be sautéed and used in many dishes, including tacos, scrambled eggs, or as a side dish with tomatoes and onions.

Nopales can also be eaten raw. They resemble a green pepper when diced and are turned into juice, jams, or tea.

Prickly pear fruit or the small, rounded, and often colorful part of the plant can also be consumed.

Juice extracted from the fruit is a popular drink of choice for health-conscious consumers in Mexico.

Nutritional information

One cup of raw nopales contains approximately:

  • 14 calories
  • 1 gram (g) of protein
  • less than 1 g of fat
  • 3 g of carbohydrate
  • 2 g of fiber
  • 1 g of sugar
  • 20 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A
  • 8 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C
  • 141 mg of calcium
  • 4.6 mcg of vitamin K

The prickly pear fruit, which comes in a variety of colors, contains the flavonoids kaempferol and quercetin, which are antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties.

In a study comparing three different juices from various colors of prickly pear — red-purple, white-green, and yellow-orange — the red-purple variety had the most antioxidants.

Health benefits

Prickly pear nopal cactus juice green drink, with nopales by glass.

Nopal juice may help to reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. It can also be used for treating wounds.

Both parts of the nopal plant — the nopales and the fruit — have been used in traditional medicine for disease treatment and prevention.

The cactus has been used to treat:

  • glaucoma
  • wounds
  • fatigue
  • liver conditions
  • ulcers

The purported benefits of fresh nopal juice include lowering blood sugar, healing wounds, and lowering cholesterol.

Human studies on the nopal cactus and its ability to treat or prevent disease are limited. Nevertheless, many studies have confirmed the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the plant.

Diabetes

Cactus plants have been traditionally used in Mexico for the treatment of diabetes.

In a small study of people with type 2 diabetes, two groups of participants were given a high carbohydrate breakfast. One group consumed nopal with their breakfast, while the other did not.

The group who ate the nopal had significantly lower blood sugar levels after the meal, as well as lower insulin levels, compared to the group who did not have nopal.

People with diabetes benefit from including high-fiber foods, such as nopal and prickly pear, in their diet. High-fiber diets can improve blood sugar, lower insulin levels, and improve blood lipids.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend consuming at least 25 g of fiber per day for women and 38 g for men.

Risks and considerations

The juice made from nopal is often mixed with other juices, such as pineapple, orange, or grapefruit, which can have a high amount of sugar.

People with diabetes should monitor the amount of sugar they are consuming. It is best to opt for the fresh fruit instead of juice or squeeze fresh juice at home.

In many parts of Mexico, vendors sell fresh nopal juice after the plant is rinsed with only tap water, without pasteurization or any antibacterial processing.

As cattle manure is often used for fertilizer, researchers tested for food-borne pathogens in unpasteurized nopal juice.

Their study found that 91 percent of their samples were positive for E. coli and 1 percent were positive for Salmonella. These bacteria can cause serious illnesses, so people should be sure to buy nopal and nopal juice only from reputable sources.

Recipes

Nopales from nopale cactus or prickly pear cactus, frying in a pan with onions and chilli.

Nopal cactus is a versatile ingredient, whether using the pads or prickly pear fruit.

Prickly pear can be eaten raw, but the skin must be removed. Prickly pears that are not as ripe tend to be less sweet, while the fruit that is red and purple is sweeter.

All prickly pears have small, hard seeds that can be removed with a juicer or strainer, or simply spat out.

If a person grows or picks their own nopal, they will have to remove the thorns and the thick green skin.

A person should rinse the nopales thoroughly to remove the slimy texture before cooking.

Diced nopal can be sautéed with olive oil, onions, jalapeños, and tomatoes to make this salad.

Nopales make a tasty filling for vegan tacos. Sliced nopales can be grilled like peppers for fajitas. They can also be used in an egg scramble.

Also,

Nopales and prickly pear fruit are high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

They are a healthy addition to a balanced diet and may help decrease blood sugars when eaten with a balanced meal.

What Are the Health Benefits of Wheatgrass?

Wheatgrass is a grass that is closely related to wheat. It is a thick, dry grass that looks like hay or straw. It has played a role in natural and holistic medicine for generations.

Wheatgrass is harvested early in its development before it reaches full size — usually 7-10 days after sprouting. Grown primarily to make hay, or for animals to graze, wheatgrass may also offer several health benefits.

Wheatgrass is sometimes called “green blood” because it contains high levels of chlorophyll that gives wheatgrass products an unusual green hue.

Fast facts on wheatgrass:

  • Wheatgrass first became popular in the United States in the 1930s.
  • Wheatgrass must be processed before being consumed.
  • Some studies suggest that wheatgrass can improve health.
  • There is no evidence that wheatgrass poses health risks unless a person is allergic to it.

What is wheatgrass?

wheatgrass and wheatgrass drink

Wheatgrass has a number of health benefits and first became popular in the United States in the 1930s.

In the 1930s, agricultural chemist Charles F. Schnabel used young grasses to try to save dying chickens. The chickens survived and produced more eggs than other hens.

Quaker Oats and other companies began funding research into the benefits, and soon wheatgrass supplements, juices, and powders were widely available. Proponents of wheatgrass say that it is dense in plant nutrients that can improve health and offer supplemental nutrition.

When people consume the raw grass, they usually do so as part of a juice. Powdered wheatgrass is also available in capsules, liquid suspensions, or as a powder to add to smoothies.

Benefits of wheatgrass

Some of the benefits of wheatgrass include:

Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory

Wheatgrass can be used to help relieve stomach pain and improve symptoms of other gastrointestinal problems.

Some studies have shown that wheatgrass acts as an antioxidant because of it contains vitamins A, C, and E.

Antioxidants reverse the effects of free radicals. These volatile compounds in the body have links to aging and other health issues, including cancer. Antioxidants help fight chronic inflammation, which occurs when the immune system reacts to particular health issues, such as arthritis, stomach problems, skin issues. Antioxidants might even help with mental health concerns, such as depression.

Many health benefits of wheatgrass may be due to its role as an antioxidant. So it may offer benefits similar to many other plant-based foods.

Cancer prevention and treatment

Like other antioxidants, wheatgrass may help prevent cancer. It could also supplement traditional cancer treatments. A 2017 study found that wheatgrass could slow the growth of oral cancer.

Other studies have reached similar conclusions. A 2015 study, for example, found that wheatgrass slowed the growth of colon cancer and caused some cancer cells to die.

Wheatgrass may also improve the effects of chemotherapy. One study has found wheatgrass can reduce side effects associated with chemotherapy.

Fighting infections

Some research has found that wheatgrass can kill or slow the growth of certain infections. This can be especially helpful in the treatment of infections that are resistant to antibiotics, or in people who are allergic to specific antibiotics.

2015 study carried out in a test tube found that wheatgrass has antimicrobial properties that can fight certain types of strep infections, as well as some forms of a bacteria called LactobacillusLactobacillus bacteria play a role in many infections, including dental infections.

Treating gastrointestinal distress

Practitioners of traditional medicine have long used wheatgrass to reduce stomach pain and manage minor gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea.

The purported gastrointestinal benefits of wheatgrass may be partially due to its fiber content. Wheatgrass is gluten-free, making it a good option for people with gluten intolerance.

Some research suggests that wheatgrass may be particularly useful in treating ulcerative colitis. Compared to a placebo, wheatgrass appears to reduce pain and other symptoms in some people.

For people who do not see improvements using traditional medications, wheatgrass might be an alternative remedy.

Preventing and treating diabetes

Research has found that wheatgrass may benefit those with diabetes. A 2014 study on rats, for example, found that wheatgrass could raise insulin levels, helping to lower blood glucose. By fighting inflammation, wheatgrass may also help reduce the side effects of diabetes.

Preliminary research points to the power of wheatgrass to fight obesity. Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes and can intensify the adverse health effects of diabetes.

Nutritional breakdown

In addition to the health benefits, wheatgrass offers a number of nutrients that are essential as part of a balanced diet.

Though low in calories, wheatgrass is a good source of protein. It is not, however, a complete protein. Like most plant-based foods, wheatgrass is an excellent source of fiber, which can help reduce blood glucose. Wheatgrass can also support healthy digestion and help people feel full for longer than they usually would.

Wheatgrass is a good source of vitamins A, C, E, and K, and of vitamin B6, zinc, iron, selenium, and manganese.

Risks

People who are allergic to other grasses may also be allergic to wheatgrass. Likewise, due to cross-contamination and cross-pollination, it is possible for wheatgrass to contain the pollen of other plants.

People with plant allergies should consult a doctor before trying wheatgrass.

Side effects

Some people experience nausea or constipation after consuming wheatgrass, perhaps due to its high fiber content. People with a history of constipation should talk to a doctor before trying wheatgrass.

Sometimes, the raw form of wheatgrass is contaminated by mold or bacteria. If preparing wheatgrass at home, wash it thoroughly to remove contaminants before using.

When consuming wheatgrass supplements, buy only from a trusted source. Consider contacting the manufacturer to ask what steps it takes to reduce the risk of contamination.

Wheatgrass taste and ideas for consumption

Wheatgrass tastes like grass, and it can overpower other flavors.

How to make it taste better

Mixing raw wheatgrass in a smoothie can still produce a drink that tastes like something out of a lawnmower. But combining wheatgrass with other ingredients that have a strong taste, such as pineapple or citrus fruit, can help balance the flavor.

Ways to consume wheatgrass

vegetable and fruit juices

Including citrus fruit or pineapple in a wheatgrass drink can help to improve the taste.

Some people prefer to take powdered wheatgrass in capsule form. This almost eliminates the taste and can make it easier to get a daily dose of the grass.

A few wheatgrass supplement manufacturers offer flavored wheatgrass capsules or tablets that include citrus fruits or other dominant flavors.

For people who prefer not to experiment with smoothie or juice recipes, these may offer a tasty solution.

Also,

Many studies on the benefits of wheatgrass have produced promising results but have not been well designed. This means it is not possible to know for sure whether wheatgrass can treat or prevent any specific medical condition.

Because most people tolerate wheatgrass well, it is safe to use alongside other treatments. Nobody should take wheatgrass as a substitute for medical treatment. To test the benefits of wheatgrass, try a daily wheatgrass smoothie or supplement.

As research evolves, it may become clear that wheatgrass is an effective medical treatment for other medical conditions. For now, however, the research is inconclusive.

The Benefits of Plant-Based Iron

Iron is an essential mineral that your body requires to maintain optimal health. There is a common misconception that iron is only obtained by eating meat and that iron deficiency is more prevalent amongst vegans and vegetarians. Natural, plant-based iron supplements and food can provide the iron your body needs and in some cases may even help prevent iron toxicity. If you need to shore up your iron levels, then consider the benefits of plant-based iron.

Optimal Absorption

There are two primary sources of dietary iron—plant and animal foods. The technical terms for these are heme iron and nonheme iron, respectively. There has been a lot of investigation into the absorption differences between these two types of iron. Although animal, or heme, iron is absorbed faster, it can actually overwhelm your body and even lead to a serious iron imbalance known as iron toxicity. In contrast, the body absorbs plant, or nonheme, iron at a more controlled rate. Slow, regulated absorption helps keep your body’s iron levels optimal and in balance.

Fewer Health Risks

Low iron levels can lead to fatigue, chills, brain fog, or worse: iron deficiency anemia. Too much iron can lead to vomiting, intense abdominal pain, and even organ failure. Plant-based iron is absorbed more slowly and that helps maintain normal iron balance, which translates to fewer health concerns. In contrast, heme iron from animal sources (blood and tissue) has been linked to heart disease, stroke, and colon cancer. One study reported that increasing your heme iron intake by just one milligram per day could increase your risk of heart disease by 27 percent.

Cofactors and Co-nutrients

Your body has a complex set of mechanisms that work together to absorb, store, utilize, and monitor iron. Vitamin C, for example, supports your body’s ability to absorb iron. Likewise, gut health significantly influences iron uptake. By obtaining your iron from dark leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, you will also get the added benefit of vitamins, trace minerals, probiotics, and antioxidants. A healthy and consistent intake of fruit and vegetables ensures you don’t miss out on these vital nutrients.

Environmental Impact

There are reasons that extend beyond health concerns why someone may prefer a plant-based diet or lifestyle. Many people prefer to minimize their environmental impact. A diet that includes meat requires more energy, land, and water resources to support. Sticking with plant-based supplements and food for your nutritional needs reduces your environmental impact.

Best Sources of Plant-Based Iron

There are several options when it comes to plant-based sources of iron. Spinach, kidney beans, and pumpkin seeds are just a few that are good sources of iron and other vital micronutrients. However, when it comes to iron supplements, there are fewer plant-based choices. Global Healing Center is trying to change that. We’re in the final stages of development of a new vegan supplement that provides an ideal serving of plant-based iron from organic curry tree leaves.

What Are Micronutrients?

Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals required by your body. Unlike macronutrients, you only need minuscule amounts of micronutrients to maintain good health. Micronutrients are essential to the production of enzymes, hormones, proteins, and other products created by your body. Some micronutrients have a specialized role, while others fulfill a broad range of functions.

Micronutrients are incredibly important for health and wellness. Mineral deficiencies can have lasting, detrimental health consequences in children and adults of all ages. Unborn children and older adults are especially susceptible to micronutrient deficiencies, which is why many nutritional supplements are optimized for specific age groups and many staple foods, like flour, are fortified with vitamins and minerals.

However, you might be surprised to learn that food fortification can be misleading as it’s often accomplished with synthetic vitamin variants. These manufactured vitamin forms often lack the cofactors and nutrients required for proper absorption in the body. As always, it’s best to obtain naturally occurring vitamins and minerals from quality, whole-food dietary sources to ensure your body can properly utilize these essential nutrients.

What Are Vitamins?

Vitamins are organic compounds primarily derived from food that the body needs in small amounts. With the exception of vitamin D, vitamins cannot be produced by the organism that requires them. Vitamins serve a variety of purposes. Some, like vitamins A, C, and E, are antioxidants. Others, like the B vitamins, are vital for fetal brain development and healthy brain aging. There are two categories of vitamins—fat-soluble and water-soluble.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins. Your body stores fat-soluble vitamins in fatty tissues for reserves in case you don’t meet your daily recommended intake. These vitamins are best consumed with healthy fats to ensure absorption.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for eye and brain health. It also regulates growth and keeps the immune system healthy. Plant sources are the safest method of meeting your daily vitamin A requirement. Consumption of vitamin A from animal sources could lead to vitamin A toxicity.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is both a hormone and a micronutrient. Though it’s famous for its role in preserving and promoting bone health, it also helps keep your respiratory system healthy, enhances your mental and emotional well-being, and keeps your immune system functioning at peak efficiency.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerhouse antioxidant. The various forms of the vitamin all have similar antioxidant properties, but one in particular, alpha-tocopherol, is what the body prefers most. Vitamin E protects delicate lipids from oxidation and, in the case of food, rancidity. Its actions protect your DNA by stopping free radicals from damaging the fragile structure of your chromosomes.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is named after the German spelling of coagulation (coagulation) because it activates the proteins in the blood that are responsible for clotting.

Water-Soluble Vitamins

In humans, the water-soluble vitamins are limited to the B-complex vitamins and vitamin C. These vitamins need to be replaced on a daily basis because they are not easily stored in the body. Rather, the body excretes excess water-soluble vitamins in urine.

B-Complex Vitamins

The B-complex vitamins include thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid (B9), and cobalamin (B-12). These vitamins regulate the release of energy in cells (metabolism), serve as cofactors, and affect mood and immune health. Additionally, a healthy microbiome is essential because some probiotics actually generate B-vitamins in the gut.

Vitamin B-12 and B9 are vitally important to brain health. Research into the role of vitamin B-12 suggests it’s a powerful force in preserving memory and cognitive function as you age.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C’s role as an antioxidant is well known (and highly marketed), but it has other roles, too. Vitamin C is incredibly important for growth and healing. The strength of connective tissue and bones and skin elasticity all depend on sufficient levels of vitamin C. It also enhances the absorption of iron from food in the small intestine.

What Are Minerals?

In general, minerals are inorganic, naturally occurring substances. In your diet, they are important nutrients that enable your cells to carry out essential functions. Minerals are divided into macrominerals and trace minerals, also known as microminerals. Predictably, your body requires macrominerals in much larger amounts than the trace minerals.

Macrominerals

The macrominerals include magnesium, sulfur, and the electrolytes: potassium, calcium, sodium, chlorine, and phosphorous. Most people get much more sodium chloride (table salt) than they need—to the detriment of their health. While some salt is essential, you don’t need nearly as much as most Americans consume. Try to limit your salt intake whenever possible.

Magnesium

Magnesium is not one of the celebrity micronutrients, but it is essential to many vital processes. It plays an important role in metabolism, acting as a cofactor in hundreds of chemical reactions in the body. Magnesium is also vital to the proper bone formation and the synthesis of genetic material.

Calcium

Of all the minerals, you may be most familiar with calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body. Far beyond bone strength, calcium is responsible for muscle and blood vessel relaxation and contraction, nerve firing, and communication between cells.

Potassium

Most Americans, an astounding 98 percent, fall woefully short on potassium intake. Potassium is responsible for muscle and nerve function, a steady heartbeat, and cell detoxification. It acts as the inverse of sodium, which is why it’s vital to balance your sodium and potassium intake.

Trace Minerals

The body requires significantly fewer essential trace minerals (microminerals) than macrominerals. Macrominerals are measured in grams, while trace minerals are measured in milligrams and micrograms. The top microminerals you need are chromium, iron, iodine, selenium, manganese, zinc, molybdenum, and copper. You also need exceptionally small amounts of nickel, silicon, vanadium, and cobalt.

Though you need less of these micronutrients, they are extremely important to your health. Many of the most pernicious health conditions are related to deficiencies in trace minerals like iodine and iron. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 1.6 billion people worldwide have a reduced ability to work due to iron deficiency anemia. Annually, nearly 20 million children are born to mothers with insufficient iodine levels—a condition that leads to severe cognitive impairment.

Micronutrients and Nutrition

There are only a few ways to meet your micronutrient needs: a nutrient-rich diet, quality supplementation, and, to a lesser degree, eating some types of clay or cooking in cast iron. Vitamins and minerals are easily synthesized in labs and pressed into tablets, but it’s always best to obtain your nutrition naturally from plant sources like fruits and vegetables.

At Global Healing Center, we focus on isolating the best micronutrients from natural, organic, and wildcrafted plant sources. Some of our favorite micronutrient supplements include:

  • Our Selenium supplement is sourced from organic mustard seeds. It provides the selenium that is essential to the thyroid and overall health.
  • Detoxadine® is an essential nascent iodine supplement produced from natural salt deposits. It’s nutritional support for immune health and the thyroid, and it promotes the detoxification of halogens such as fluoride and bromine.
  • Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, is sourced from the sesbania plant; it supports healthy hair and nails at the cellular level.
  • Suntrex D3™ is a vegan, lichen-derived vitamin D3 that supports the nervous system, calcium absorption, and a healthy mood.

What Are Macronutrients?

Macronutrients are the largest class of nutrients the body requires and include protein, carbohydrates, and fats. If you’ve heard anyone talking about “macros,” they’re referring to these major nutrients. The amounts and ratio of macronutrients a person needs every day vary by age, lifestyle (sedentary, active, or very active), gender, health status, and health goals.

The USDA provides general recommendations for how Americans should allocate calories per macronutrient.The nutrition facts label included on food packaging echoes these ratios and is based on a 2,000 calorie diet for the average American, including children and adults. Many diets try to optimize macronutrient ratios to produce certain results, like consuming protein (along with weight training) to gain muscle mass, or consuming fewer carbohydrates to help lose weight.

What Are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates include starches, sugars, and fiber. Carbohydrates contain four calories (kcal) per gram. Your body uses carbohydrates to fuel your body. Carbohydrates come in two forms: complex and simple. Simple carbohydrates include sugars like table sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Technically, honey and maple syrup also fall into this category. Complex carbohydrates are usually only described as starches that contain fiber, but this simplistic definition includes foods like whole wheat pasta and white potatoes.

How Many Carbohydrates Do You Need?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans should get between 45-65% of their daily calories from carbohydrates.

Humans don’t produce the necessary enzymes to digest fiber, but it’s nonetheless required by the body. Your microbiota breaks down fiber by fermenting it and using it as their energy source. Your health relies on a balanced, well-nourished microbial gut community for many different functions, so make sure you get plenty of fiber-rich foods in your diet every day.

Sources of Carbohydrates

The best carbohydrates are micronutrient-dense whole foods that contain sugars or starches along with fiber. This definition leaves no room for confusion about whole fruit, which is considered a simple carbohydrate under some definitions. Fruit is an essential part of a healthy diet and 76% of Americans don’t eat enough. Other excellent sources of carbohydrates include winter squash, beans, and ancient grains like quinoa.

What Is Protein?

Protein is the building block responsible for the growth and maintenance of your eyes, skin, hair, nails, organs, and muscle tissue. During digestion, protein is broken down into smaller chains called peptides and individual units called amino acids for absorption. Of the 22 amino acids, nine are essential to humans. These include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Histidine is unique in that it’s only required during infancy.

Proteins do a lot of work throughout the body. They embed themselves in your cells to regulate what goes in and out. They even envelop and transport some molecules to other locations in the body. Enzymes that catalyze the various chemical reactions in your body are made of folded chains of amino acids. The body creates hormones like leptin, immune proteins like interferon, and antibodies using amino acids.

How Much Protein Do You Need?

The USDA recommends that Americans get 5-35% of their calories from protein. This range is set to cover 97-98% of the population, and your needs may vary based on age and health status. Protein, like carbohydrates, provides four calories (kcal) of energy per gram.

Sources of Protein

Whole, nutrient-dense foods are the best sources of protein. Notice I did not say they are the most concentrated sources of protein. So-called “high-quality” sources are very concentrated sources of peptides that share similar amino acid ratios with humans. Essentially, the more a source of protein resembles human tissue in amino acid composition, the better its “quality.” Regularly eating meat, just like regularly consuming concentrated sources of sugar, leads to several serious, and completely preventable health consequences. If you think eating organic, free-range, grass-fed meat is significantly better than factory farmed meat, then wouldn’t it also follow that soda with 100% organic high-fructose corn syrup is equally healthy when compared to regular soda? That’s clearly not the case. It’s important to understand that some foods have few redeeming qualities, organic or not. Just because something is less bad for you than the standard option doesn’t mean that it’s good for you. Many people believe that plants only supply “incomplete proteins.” The need for protein complementation is a myth perpetuated in poorly researched literature. To be clear, all plant foods contain the nine essential amino acids. You won’t develop a protein deficiency on a plant-based diet. In fact, protein deficiencies only occur in those who have gone long periods without eating anything at all.

What Is Fat?

Weighing in at nine calories (kcal) per gram, fat is the densest source of energy in the diet. In the body, fats make up cell membranes, steroids, cholesterol, and 60% of your brain. Fats support the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, cushion your organs, and act as your largest form of energy storage.

Dietary fats include saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats tend to come from animal sources, while most plant fats are unsaturated. There are also important essential fatty acids, namely omega-3 and omega-6.

There’s another type of fat, an unnatural type, known as trans fats. Trans fats are a product of food manufacturing and are created by hydrogenating less stable unsaturated fats to be more shelf stable. This process prolongs the life of processed food products. Trans fats are often described as poison, and it’s a description that’s fairly accurate. Trans fats raise your “bad” LDL cholesterol and have no place in a healthy diet.

How Much Fat Do You Need?

Like carbohydrates, the popularity of fat waxes and wanes with public opinion and even medical opinion as new diets and research emerge. Currently, according to the USDA, fats should account for 20-40% of your daily calories. Essential fats are undoubtedly a necessary component of a healthy diet. Some of the best sources of healthy fats are nuts, seeds, coconuts, avocados, and olives. Like the most healthy sources of proteins and carbohydrates, the fats in nuts and fatty fruits contain fiber, beneficial micronutrients, and phytonutrients that keep you healthy.

Sources of Fat

Just like with carbohydrates and protein, the best sources of fat are plant-based and nutrient dense. Nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, coconut, and unsweetened dark chocolate are all excellent sources of fat that come with a healthy serving of phytonutrients and fiber. As always, I recommend whole foods over processed.

However, if you’re looking for healthy oils you have quite a few options: flaxseed, hemp seed, avocado, grapeseed, sunflower, walnut, sesame, and coconut oils. I highly recommend flaxseed oil for room temperature or colder dishes like salad dressings or hummus. For cooking, use oils that have a higher smoke point like grapeseed, coconut, avocado and sesame oil. When purchasing oils, always make sure the label says “expeller-pressed” and “unrefined.” Otherwise, the oil may have been extracted using chemicals and subjected to extensive processing, which disturbs the delicate essential fatty acids in the oil.

The Problem With Focusing on Macros

When you focus on optimizing the ratios or percentages of your macronutrients, you might forget to concentrate on the quality of the food itself. Make sure to eat a balanced combination of whole, plant-based foods that contribute to your health. Your macros may vary from one day to the next, but your body’s needs may differ based on your activity level, health status, schedule, or other factors. If you’re trying to make a big change in your diet and lifestyle, consider working with a certified dietician or nutrition counselor that can evaluate your needs, help you set achievable goals, and create a personalized diet plan for you.

The ultimate goal of any good diet is to fuel your day-to-day activities while keeping yourself properly nourished. Make sure the foods you chose are micronutrient dense. These nutrients are required in significantly smaller amounts, but they have a much larger impact on your health.