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6 Important Nutrients and How to Get Them

“Eat your greens” is an age-old piece of advice that few of us manage to escape hearing. But did you ever understand why it was so important to eat your broccoli and spinach? Aside from the vague explanation that they were somehow “good for you”, not many of us were told why we should eat our greens.

The same goes for many other important foods. To find out why these six nutrients are essential for your body, and for information on how to get them, read on. (And if you are wondering why you should eat your greens, notice how many times "green leafy vegetables" come up as sources for these nutrients!)

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Why it's important
Muscle contraction, immune system protection, and the transmission of nerve impulses are all dependent on proteins. Proteins in your skin and bone provide structural support for your body. Protein can also provide a source of energy.

Protein deficiency in children can impair growth, and can cause loss of hair and muscle mass and abnormal accumulation of fluid in adults.

Typical non-vegetarian diets contain well-above the actual daily protein requirements, so - contrary to popular myth - a carefully-chosen vegan/vegetarian diet can generally still provide sufficient protein.

Where to get it

  • Lean meats
  • Poultry
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Grains
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Yellow fruits and vegetables
  • Tofu
  • Soy milk
  • Milk products
  • Eggs
  • Fish


Yoghurt is a good source of calcium

Why it's important
Calcium plays a vital role in nerve and muscle function, clotting of blood, enzyme regulation, insulin secretion, and overall bone strength.

When insufficient calcium is obtained from food, the body draws calcium out of the bones. This bone loss over a period of years may lead to osteoporosis - thinning of the bones (porous bones). The bones become weak, brittle and easy to fracture, particularly the ones of the wrist, hips and spine.

Loss of height and curvature of the spine may also develop from lack of calcium, as may periodontal disease - the deterioration of the jaw bones that support the teeth.

Where to get it

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yoghurt
  • Ricotta
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Tofu (if processed with calcium)
  • Oranges
  • Orange juice (fortified)
  • Enriched bread
  • Sesame and sunflower seeds
  • Canned salmon with bones; sardines

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