Guide To Eating For Optimal Health (Food Sources Of Vitamins And Minerals)

Photo credit: Sharon Pittaway

Photo credit: Sharon Pittaway

In functional medicine (of which functional nutrition is the core), we often use supplements to enhance our health status, and doing so can be necessary to help replete nutrient deficiency, and to help address underlying metabolic imbalances and blocked biochemical pathways (for example).


It is important to keep in mind that while supplements can be helpful, they cannot and should not replace whole, real food sources of nutrition. Food is medicine and is our first line of defense against illness and disease. Food is also the primary vehicle for fueling our bodies with the nutrients we need to function.


Below are food sources of vitamins and minerals. This is not an exhaustive list, these are examples of foods containing these important nutrients. Do take into account your individual food allergies, sensitivities and tolerances, and health needs. Everyone is different, there is no one size fits all approach!


Incorporating food sources of vitamins and minerals into your diet daily is important for overall health and wellness, as well as for combating illness and disease. 


Vitamins: Biotin, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K

Minerals: Calcium, chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc

Essential amino acids (essential means you need to get them from your diet, your body doesn’t make them): Lysine, histidine, threonine, methionine, valine, isoleucine, leucine, phenylalanine, tryptophan

Other nutrients: Choline, essential fatty acids (need to get them from your diet, your body doesn’t make them), fiber




Biotin: Eggs, legumes, meats, oily fish, chicken, liver

Folate: Liver, chicken giblets, egg yolk, dried beans, lentils, split peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, beet root, Brussels sprouts, dark leafy greens, kale, bok choy, asparagus, oranges, peaches

Niacin (B3): Tuna, chicken, turkey, salmon, lamb, beef, sardines, brown rice 

Pantothenic acid (B5): Chicken liver, sunflower seeds, salmon, avocado, sun dried tomatoes, corn, mushrooms

Riboflavin (B2): Spinach, tempeh, crimini mushrooms, eggs, asparagus, turkey 

Thiamin (B1): Can be depleted with alcohol. Green peas, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, sunflower seeds, pistachios, herring, crimini mushrooms, ground flaxseed, spinach

B6: Tuna, turkey, beef, chicken, salmon, sweet potato, potato, sunflower seeds, spinach  

B12: B12 is found naturally only in animal products. Choose methylcobalamin for supplemental source, sardines, salmon, tuna, cod, lamb, beef, liver, chicken, fish, eggs, rainbow trout, haddock

Vitamin A: Beef liver, cod liver oil, egg, butter, milk, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, cantaloupe, mango, spinach, broccoli, kale, collard greens, butternut squash

Vitamin C: All will be higher in vitamin C if uncooked: Bell peppers, papaya, citrus fruits, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, kiwi 

Vitamin D: Salmon, herring and sardines, cod liver oil, canned light tuna (lower in mercury), oysters, egg yolk, mushrooms

Vitamin E: Sunflower seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, avocados, turnip greens, asparagus, mustard greens 

Vitamin K: Grass fed butter, egg yolk, liver,  sauerkraut, and it’s made by gut bacteria




Calcium: Seeds, canned salmon, sardines, beans (white, red, pinto), lentils, almonds, some leafy greens (collard, spinach, kale), broccoli, amaranth, dried figs, orange, yogurt, cheese, milk

Chromium: Broccoli, green beans, potatoes, grape juice, orange juice, beef, turkey, apples, bananas

Copper: Mushrooms (shiitake), nuts (cashews), seeds (sunflower seeds), garbanzo beans, lentils, lima beans, raw kale, oysters, avocado

Fluoride: Canned crab, rice, fish, chicken

Iodine: Cod, shrimp, milk (cow's), boiled egg, navy beans, baked potato with skin, turkey breast, seaweed

Iron (heme iron is found in animal products and nonheme iron is found in some plant foods): Beef, chicken liver, oysters, clams, tuna, mussels, raisins, prune juice, prunes, potato with skin, quinoa, spinach, Swiss chard, white beans, lentils, tofu, hazelnuts, cashews

Magnesium: Fatty fish (salmon, halibut, mackerel), spinach, chard, oatmeal, potatoes, black-eyed peas, brown rice, lentils, avocados, pinto beans, dark chocolate (70% and higher), nuts and seeds, legumes, tofu, buckwheat, quinoa, bananas, leafy greens

Manganese: Cloves, gluten-free oats, brown rice, garbanzo beans, spinach, pumpkin seeds

Molybdenum: Legumes, such as beans, lentils, and peas, and grain products and nuts

Phosphorus: Salmon, yogurt, milk, halibut, turkey, chicken, beef, lentils, almonds, cheese (mozzarella), peanuts, egg, whole-wheat bread

Potassium: Bananas, potatoes, prune juice, prunes, oranges, tomatoes, raisins, artichoke, lima beans, white beans, black beans, edamame, tomato paste, spinach, acorn squash, butternut squash, almonds, sunflower seeds, molasses, avocados, sweet potatoes, watermelon, coconut water, dried apricots, Swiss chard, beets, pomegranate

Selenium: Brazil nuts, tuna (yellowfin), oysters, clams, halibut, shrimp, salmon, crab, pork, beef, chicken, brown rice, sunflower seeds, milk

Zinc: Beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds, lentils, garbanzo beans, quinoa, turkey


Essential Amino Acids

Lysine: Meat, eggs, soy, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, black beans

Histidine: Meat, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, whole grains

Threonine: Wheat germ, cottage cheese

Methionine: Eggs, grains nuts, seeds

Valine: Cheese, peanuts, soy, mushrooms, vegetables, whole grains

Isoleucine: Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, cheese, lentils, nuts, seeds

Leucine: Dairy, soy, legumes, beans

Phenylalanine: Meat, poultry, fish, soy, dairy, beans, nuts

Tryptophan: Cottage cheese, chicken, turkey, wheat germ

Other Nutrients


Choline: Beef liver, wheat germ, egg, beef, scallops, salmon, chicken breast, Atlantic cod, shrimp, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, milk, peanuts and peanut butter

Essential fatty acids (Omega 3s/DHA and EPA): Cell membranes are made of cholesterol and phospholipids, need to make sure there are plenty of healthy fats in your diet daily, and essential fatty acids reduce inflammation, and assist with gut and skin healing. Flaxseed, eggs, fish and fish oils, marine sources (sea vegetables/seaweeds), avocado, coconut oil

FiberLegumes (navy beans, split peas, lentils, kidney beans), cereals/grains (oats, bulgur, oat bran, quinoa, rice), vegetables (artichoke hearts, spinach, Brussels sprouts, winter squash, mushrooms), fruit (prunes, berries, apples), nuts and seeds (almonds, pistachios, pecans, peanuts)

Antioxidants: Vitamins A, C, and E, selenium, lycopene (pink grapefruit, watermelon, apricots, tomatoes), beta-carotene (peaches, apricots, papayas, mangoes, cantaloupe, carrots, broccoli, squash, sweet potatoes, beet greens, spinach, kale), lutein (spinach, collard greens, kale, broccoli, papayas, oranges)


Avoid high mercury fish

High mercury fish: Bluefish, grouper, mackerel (Spanish, Gulf, King), marlin, orange roughy, sea bass (Chilean), shark, swordfish, tilefish, and tuna (canned albacore, yellowfin, bigeye, ahi)

Low mercury fish: anchovies, butterfish, catfish, croaker (Atlantic),  flounder, haddock (Atlantic), hake, herring, mackerel (North Atlantic, chub), mullet, perch (ocean), pollock, salmon (fresh, wild), sardines, sole (Pacific), squid, tilapia, trout (freshwater), whitefish, and whiting

General recommendations


Go organic when possible for fruits and vegetables.

Go organic, pastured, free range, grass fed, wild caught, etc. for animal products.

Drink at least 6-8 glasses of water per day. For little ones, drink one 8 oz glass per year of age, per day.