5. Magnesium: Pumpkin seeds, spinach
Adopt Popeye’s spinach habit. One of its nutrients, magnesium, is essential for the production of a molecule called adenosine triphosphate, the end product of food’s conversion to energy. Magnesium also relaxes muscles and aids sleep. If we don’t have enough, we feel tired and weak.
Aim for: 400 to 420 milligrams of magnesium daily for men; 310 to 320 milligrams for women. A quarter cup (50 mL) of pumpkin seeds has 185 milligrams; a cup (250 mL) of cooked spinach has 157.
6. Beta-carotene: Sweet potatoes, carrots
Add colour to your plate, and you’ll add energy to your step. Beta-carotene, the vitamin A precursor that puts the colour in carrots, sweet potatoes, and spinach, helps boost a depressed immune system, often at the root of chronic fatigue. By promoting healthy cell membranes, beta-carotene boosts protection from viruses, bacteria, fungi, and allergies. It also ups the activity of T cells, which fight infections, and it’s necessary for healthy red blood cells.
Aim for: Make five of your daily produce servings leafy dark green vegetables and yellow or orange fruits and vegetables.
Helpful hint: Lightly steaming (not overcooking) foods like carrots and spinach can help your body absorb their beta-carotene.
7. Potassium: Spinach, avocados, squash
Run short on potassium, and you risk muscle weakness and exhaustion. Studies have shown that people low on potassium have weaker hand grips than people with enough of the nutrient. Potassium helps transport nutrients to cells, maintain water balance, regulate muscle contraction, and maintain a healthy nervous system and heart rate.
Aim for: 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day. One cup (250 mL) of cooked spinach has 839 milligrams; an avocado, 875; and a cup (250 mL) of winter squash, 896.
Helpful hint: Potassium decreases the excretion of calcium, so boosting your potassium intake also helps keep your bones healthy.