Are You Eating the Right Combo of Foods for Optimal Health?

woman preparing food at kitchen counter

Do you know if you’re getting enough vitamin A in your diet? Are you consuming enough potassium for optimal heart and muscle function? Don’t have a clue? Most Americans are in the same boat, and understandably so.

Unless you have a nutritional science degree, you probably know little about what vitamins and minerals are in different natural foods. Even the USDA’s nutritional guidelines on food labels are only a rough guide—the daily values recommended (%DV) that you see are calculated based on the amount needed for an adult to avoid nutritional deficiency-related diseases like scurvy.

Moreover, the way our bodies process nutrients and minerals is more complex than the facts and figures on the back of your cereal box may imply. When certain nutrients are combined, they join forces and improve our health with every bite we take. Consuming the right foods can help us battle disease and even heal better after surgery or injury.

Here are some key combos from Harvard Health that demonstrate this principle.

Potassium ❤️ Sodium

Most Americans don’t have a problem getting enough sodium—if anything we get too much. Salty foods are ubiquitous in our diets, and processed foods and sweets almost always have hidden sodium.

Potassium encourages our bodies to excrete sodium and can help keep excessive sodium levels in check.

All this excess sodium encourages the body to hold onto water, resulting in an increase in blood volume that can raise blood pressure—as well as your chances of heart attack or stroke. That’s where potassium comes in. Potassium encourages the kidneys to excrete sodium, keeping excessive sodium levels in check to maintain a healthy balance.

It is important to note that while potassium can help reduce blood pressure, the ratio of sodium-to-potassium—about 3:1—is key, rather than just the amount of potassium you get. Many of us need to dramatically lower sodium intake and increase potassium consumption to achieve this. A good strategy is to swap processed foods with fresh fruits and veggies and substitute herbs and spices for salt to season our food. (If you like hot sauce, there are many brands without salt!)

Potassium-rich foods to add to your grocery basket include avocado, sweet potato, spinach, watermelon, coconut water, beans, butternut squash, chard, beets, and bananas.

Vitamin B12 ❤️ Folate

You may have heard you need Vitamin B12 for energy, mood, anemia prevention, bone health or other benefits. It’s also good for your skin: B12 helps reduce redness, inflammation, and dryness. But don’t just focus on b12: you need folate too.

B12 and folate (another B vitamin) go together like peanut butter and jelly. Folate depends on B12 to be absorbed and metabolized. This beneficial relationship supports the process of cell division and replication for simple functions like hair and nail growth, as well as healthy immune system and healing response.

You can find B12 in a variety of animal-based foods like milk, eggs, and meat, while folate can be found in leafy greens, broccoli, and beans. If you eat a vegan or plant-based diet, consider taking a vitamin supplement to make sure you’re getting adequate amounts of B12.

Vitamin D ❤️ Calcium

Most of us know about the importance of calcium; it keeps our bones strong and healthy. But did you know that without Vitamin D, your body cannot use the calcium you take in? Vitamin D plays an integral role in calcium absorption, helping to transfer it through the intestinal wall. Vitamin D also has many additional benefits, ranging from protection against cardiovascular disease and cancer to assisting in the absorption of phosphorus.

As a fat-soluble vitamin, Vitamin D is found in a variety of healthier fatty foods like fish and egg yolks—as well as the sun! However, since excess sun exposure has its own risks and can speed premature aging, it’s safer to get a dose of sunshine early or late in the day. (Use SPF whenever you are out in strong sunlight: the key is to never burn, which increases cancer risks—any pinkness is indicative of burning and should be avoided.)

Calcium comes in a variety of forms: you might choose Greek yogurt, sardines, various seeds, legumes, or dark leafy green vegetables.

A well-nourished body is a healthy, happy body!

Proper nutrition is a major contributor to how the body heals. A well-nourished body will heal faster after surgery as well as illness. Our plastic surgeons encourage our patients to practice healthy eating before and after any surgical procedure to ensure optimal recovery, keep the immune system running on all cylinders, and minimize risk of infection.

If you’re curious about the best ways to prepare for surgery, contact us today. We offer free cosmetic consultations where we will go over what to expect as well as the best ways to prepare for your surgery and recovery.