Stay Hydrated With Fruits & Vegetables

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When the summer heat soars into the scorching range, it is critical that you keep your body hydrated. Drinking water will keep your body hydrated so that you can reduce your risk of heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Sports drinks can be a good choice to keep you hydrated, too. Many sports drinks contain minerals and salts that replenish the minerals and salts lost when you sweat. Sports drinks can help restore electrolyte balance as well. However, did you know that some fruits and vegetables may actually hydrate your body better than drinking a glass of water? Some fruits and vegetables can be as much as 90 percent or more water. Add some extra fruits and vegetables to your diet during hot weather to help you stay hydrated. You will also benefit from the extra vitamins and minerals. One study by the University of Aberdeen Medical School found that some fruits and vegetables hydrate the body twice as well as water or even sports drinks. 

Cantaloupe, strawberries and peaches are high in water content but also contain potassium that is essential to heart health. Potassium helps to regulate the heartbeat. When you sweat, you lose valuable potassium that can only be replaced by eating potassium-rich foods or taking a supplement. Pineapples and cherries contain melatonin and other micronutrients that help to reduce inflammation in the body. They are high in water content too. Watermelon, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit and kiwi are all high in vitamin C. Cucumbers are 96 percent water but also contain minerals and vitamins, including calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium. Celery also contains all these minerals plus phosphorus, zinc and iron, which are essential to bone and blood health. 

The next time you exercise outdoors, pack plenty of bottles of water and take along a container of fresh fruits and vegetables to help hydrate your body. 

Good Sources of Calcium & Vitamin D

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Calcium and vitamin D are essential to strong bones, teeth and skin. Bone cells are replaced much like skin cells. Old bone cells are shed and new bone cells replace them. Your body needs calcium and vitamin D to replace bone cells. Vitamin D helps the body to absorb the calcium it needs to build strong bones and prevent diseases like osteoporosis. You need to eat a variety of foods rich in both calcium and vitamin D and get adequate exercise to keep your bones healthy and strong. Natural sources of vitamin D and calcium are best, but drinking vitamin D and calcium fortified milk and juices can also provide the essential nutrients your bones need. Only your doctor can tell you if you need a vitamin and mineral supplement. If you think you need a supplement, see your doctor for a check up before taking any over-the-counter supplement. 
Your body cannot make calcium; therefore, you have to get your calcium from the foods you eat. Dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt and cheese are rich in calcium and Vitamin D. Spinach, kale, collard greens, okra, white and soy beans, and fish, including trout, salmon, perch and sardines are rich in calcium. Orange juice and milk are often fortified with both vitamin D and calcium. Breakfast cereals, including oatmeal and some cold cereals, are also enriched with extra vitamin D and calcium.
In addition to milk, yogurt and cheeses, you can get vitamin D from foods like tuna, salmon, mackerel and other fatty fishes. Egg yolks and beef liver are also rich in vitamin D. Your skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. About 5 minutes per day is enough to stimulate your skin to produce vitamin D. Avoid over-exposure to the sun. Sunburn and skin conditions such as premature aging and skin cancer can result from too much sun exposure. 

Food Alternatives for Lactose Intolerance

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Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose. Lactose is found in milk and foods made with milk. Other foods that contain lactose include some breads, pancakes, cookies, waffles, doughnuts, pastries and breakfast cereals. Processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs and luncheon meats also contain lactose. Margarine, salad dressings and whipped topping made with milk as well as ice cream, cheese and butter all contain lactose. Because lactose is found in so many foods, it can be difficult for the lactose intolerant person to get enough calcium, potassium and vitamin D. There are good alternative natural food sources of these nutrients. There are also alternatives to milk that are lactose-free and fortified with the vitamins and minerals found in regular milk and milk products. Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium for strong teeth and bones, and as such is a critical nutrient. 
Salmon and sardines are rich sources of calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. Green vegetables, including broccoli, spinach and kale greens are loaded with calcium as well. Soy and almond milk fortified with vitamin D, potassium and calcium can satisfy the daily recommended allowances of these important nutrients. Bananas are a good source of vitamins and minerals including potassium, calcium and manganese. Eggs are also a good source of vitamin D as well as protein. Most lactose intolerant adults can get enough vitamin D and calcium by eating fortified foods, fruits and vegetables, fish, whole grains and by choosing lactose-free milk alternatives. 

Important Nutrients For Good Health

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Many Americans do not get enough vitamins and minerals in their diet. According to a study in the Journal of Nutrition, 25% do not get enough Vitamin C, 70% do not get enough Vitamin D, 60% do not get enough Vitamin E. Trace elements, such as potassium and magnesium, are also lacking in the American diet. These nutrients are essential for good health. Supplements can help, but the best source of vitamins and minerals is food. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats, fish and grains contain nutrients that your body needs everyday. Eat a balanced diet by including nutrient-rich foods. A nutrition consultant can help you create a diet plan so that you get all the nutrients you need from the foods you eat. A healthy diet of foods rich in vitamins and minerals have important health benefits including lower blood pressure, combat osteoporosis, healthy heart and improved mood.
Potassium is an important nutrient to help maintain a lower blood pressure, healthy muscles and nerves. Potassium is found in foods like potatoes, bananas, dry beans, avocados and dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt. Magnesium also helps maintain a healthy blood pressure, promote bone health and healthy heart muscle. Magnesium deficiency can cause muscle cramps. Beans, peas, nuts and grains are rich in magnesium. Fiber helps to promote a healthy digestive system and may lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Fiber is also an important part of any weight-loss diet. Foods that are high in fiber include beans, whole grains, nuts, fruits, carrots, artichokes and corn.
Vitamin A is an important nutrient for a healthy immune system and eye health. The two types of vitamin A are beta-carotene and retinol. Foods loaded with this important nutrient include carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, broccoli and spinach. You can get enough vitamin A by adding yellow and dark green vegetables to your diet. Vitamin D is essential for strong, healthy bones and muscles. Your body can make small amounts of vitamin D by exposure to sunlight, but you need to eat foods rich in this nutrient to make sure you get enough vitamin D for a healthy body. Almost everyone knows milk and cheeses contain vitamin D, but the nutrient is also found in salmon, mackerel, liver, eggs and in mushrooms.  Vitamin C is important not only for a healthy immune system, but also for healthy cells. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to remove free radicals from the body. This vitamin is found in citrus fruits, juices and vegetables. 

Natural Sources of Antioxidants

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Waste products produced by cells include unstable molecules called “free radicals,” which can cause cell damage. Free radicals are produced when the body breaks down food and from exposure to environmental contaminants, such as tobacco smoke and pesticides. Antioxidants help remove free radicals from the cells. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidant nutrients. Antioxidants are also found in nuts, beans and whole grains. Vitamins C and E are also antioxidants. Other nutrients that help remove free radicals from the body include  anthocyanins, beta-carotene, catechins, coenzyme Q10, flavonoids, lipoic acid, lutein, lycopene and  selenium. People who eat a balanced diet that includes antioxidant rich foods should get enough of the nutrients to help prevent cell damage from free radicals. Eat a diet rich in vitamins A, C and E to be sure you get enough antioxidant nutrients. 
The best sources of natural antioxidants are berries. Blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries and blueberries are high in antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals. Red beans, black beans and pinto beans are abundant in fiber, plant proteins and antioxidants. Avocados, cherries and plums are also a good source of free radical fighting nutrients. The skin of apples and pears contains many nutrients and antioxidants. Wash apples and pears thoroughly to remove pesticide residue and eat the fruit with the skin for maximum nutritional benefit. 

Vegetables are also a good source of antioxidant nutrients and vitamins. Broccoli, artichokes, spinach and red potatoes are rich in nutrients to help fight cell damage, as are sweet potatoes and red cabbage. Be careful not to over-cook vegetables. Cooking may break down natural antioxidant nutrients and lessen their effectiveness at removing free radicals from your body. Steamed, grilled and sauteed vegetables are not only delicious, but nutritious. Raw vegetables in salads is an excellent way to get your vegetable nutrition.  

Spices and herbs, such as ground cloves, cinnamon and ginger, dried oregano leaf and turmeric powder are all good sources of natural antioxidants. Green tea, coffee, red wine and pomegranate juice have high levels of antioxidants. 
For more information about antioxidant supplements, see:

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Antioxidant Supplements for Health: An Introduction