What the nutrients found in many fruits and vegetables do for your body

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From Metro Creative Services

A nutritious diet can serve as a strong foundation for a long, healthy life. Fruits and vegetables are the building blocks of nutritious diets, as they’re loaded with nutrients that serve the body in myriad ways.

• Calcium: Dark, leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli, and bok choi contain calcium. Calcium also is found fruits, including papaya and orange. According to the National Institutes of Health, the body utilizes calcium to build and maintain strong bones. In fact, the NIH notes that almost all calcium in the body is stored in the bones and teeth, where this vital mineral provides structure and hardness. Calcium also helps nerves carry messages from the brain to every part of the body.

• Dietary fiber: Dietary fiber is found in various fruits and vegetables. The Cleveland Clinic notes that berries like raspberries and blackberries contain significant amounts of dietary fiber. Pears, artichoke hearts and Brussels sprouts are packed with fiber as well. A high-fiber diet helps stabilize bowel movements and maintain bowel health, and WebMD notes that studies have found a link between high-fiber diets and a lower risk for colorectal cancer. Studies also have linked fiber-rich foods with heart-friendly outcomes like reduced inflammation and lower cholesterol.

• Magnesium: The Mayo Clinic reports that magnesium supports muscle and nerve function and energy production. Individuals with chronically low levels of magnesium could be at increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis. The NIH notes that magnesium is widely distributed in plants. That means it can be found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including spinach, edamame, black beans, bananas, and broccoli. Magnesium levels vary significantly in these foods, so anyone concerned about magnesium deficiency can speak with their physicians about the best and healthiest ways to include more in their diets.

• Vitamin A: According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, vitamin A stimulates the production and activity of white blood cells, helps maintain healthy cells that line the body’s interior surfaces and regulates cell growth and division necessary for reproduction. Green, leafy vegetables are good sources of vitamin A, as are orange and yellow vegetables like carrots and squash. Vitamin A also can be found in cantaloupe, apricots and mangos.

• Potassium: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans established by the United States Department of Agriculture list beat greens, lima beans, swiss chard, baked potatoes (with skin), and yams as great sources of potassium. Kiwi, melon, cantaloupe, and bananas are additional sources of potassium. The T.H. Chan School of Public Health reports that the main role of potassium in the body is to help maintain normal levels of fluid inside the cells. Potassium also supports a normal blood pressure.

The nutrients found in various fruits and vegetables go a long way toward building stronger, healthier bodies.

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