Essential Nutrient Charts

The following charts lay out the sources and benefits of all of the essential vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids. We’ve included a range of sources for each essential nutrient; it is important to keep in mind that some sources are better than others. Foods that are organic and non-GMO are going to be better sources than conventional produce. In addition, we’ve included sources like grains and soy in our list for the sake of full transparency. However, we find that foods like meat, fats, and vegetables are better (and more bioavailable) sources of these nutrients.

Finally, we need to note that these benefits haven’t all been approved by the FDA and we’re including them simply as an educational tool. For more information about the bioavailability of these nutrients in food, read our post on nutrient density.

Vitamins

Vitamin Solubility Sources Benefits
A (retinol) fat Pre-formed: butterfat, egg yolks, fish liver oil, organ meats, seafood
Provitamin carotene (converts to vitamin A in intestine): all dark green, orange, red, and yellow fruits and vegetables
helps eyes adjust to light changes; plays an important role in bone growth, tooth development, reproduction, cell division, gene expression, and regulation of immune system; keeps skin, eyes, and mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, throat and lungs moist; acts as a powerful antioxidant
B1 (thiamine) water legumes*, liver, peas, pork, whole grains* helps to release energy from food, promotes normal appetite, important in maintaining proper nervous system function
B2 (riboflavin) water dark green vegetables, eggs, legumes*, liver, milk, whole grains* helps to release energy from food, promotes good vision, promotes healthy skin, helps to convert the amino acid tryptophan into niacin
B3 (niacin) water fish, liver, peanuts*, poultry, red meat, whole grains* involved in energy production, involved in enzyme function, promotes digestion and appetite, promotes healthy skin, promotes healthy nerves
B5 (pantothenic acid) water egg yolks, gut bacteria**, kidney, legumes*, liver, red meat, whole grains* involved in energy production, aids in the formation of hormones, aids in the metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates
B6 (pyridoxine) water dark green leafy vegetables, legumes*, pork, red meat, whole grains* aids in protein metabolism, involved in enzyme function, aids in red blood cell formation, involved in production of insulin and hemoglobin enzymes
B7 (biotin) water egg yolks, fresh vegetables, gut bacteria**, kidney,liver, sourdough bread*, whole grains* helps release energy from carbohydrates; aids in the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates
B9 (folic acid) water citrus fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, fish, kidney, legumes*, liver, red meats, whole grains* aids in protein metabolism, promotes red blood cell formation, lowers risk for neural tube birth defects, may help reduce risk of coronary heart disease
B12 (cobalamin) water dairy, eggs, fish, kidney, liver, oysters, red meat, shellfish aids in building genetic material, aids in production of red blood cells, aids in maintenance of nervous system
C (ascorbic acid) water fresh fruits and vegetables, liver acts as a powerful antioxidant in cohort with vitamin E, promotes collagen synthesis, aids in wound healing, aids in bone and tooth formation, strengthens blood vessel walls, improves immune system, increases absorption and utilization of iron
D fat eggs, fish, liver, mushrooms, sunlight increases the amount of calcium absorbed from the small intestine, controls cell growth (exposure to ultraviolet light is necessary for the body to produce the active form of vitamin D)
E (tocopherol) fat butter, dark green leafy vegetables, legumes,* nuts, organ meats, seeds, unrefined vegetable oils*, whole grains* acts as an antioxidant that protects red blood cells, essential fatty acids, and vitamins A and C
K fat butter, cruciferous vegetables, dark green leafy vegetables, egg yolks, fermented soy*, gut bacteria**, liver, unrefined vegetable oils*, whole grains* plays an essential role in blood clotting; promotes bone health; helps produce proteins for blood, bones, and kidneys

Dietary Minerals

Mineral Sources Benefits
Macrominerals
Calcium bone broth, cinnamon, dairy, dark green leafy vegetables, dill, eggs, nuts, oregano, seeds, thyme, tofu* needed for muscle, heart, and digestive health; essential for bone growth; supports synthesis and function of blood cells
Chloride bone broth, celery, coconut, lacto-fermented beverages, salt needed for production of hydrochloric acid in stomach, needed for cellular pump functions, activates production of amylase enzymes, essential for growth and functioning of brain
Magnesium cloves, cocoa beans, cumin, dairy, fish, ginger, leafy green vegetables, legumes*, nuts, red meat, sea vegetables, tomatoes essential for enzyme activity, essential for calcium and potassium uptake, essential for nerve transmission, essential for bone growth, required for ATP*** processing, forms tooth enamel
Phosphorus dairy, fish, oats*,poultry, red meat, rice* essential for bone growth, essential for kidney function, essential for cell growth and energy processing
Potassium avocados, bananas, leafy green vegetables, legumes*, papayas, potato skin, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turmeric, whole grains*, yams works together with sodium to regulate cell function and ATP*** processing, helpful in treating high blood pressure
Sodium milk, salt, sea vegetables, spinach, zucchini contained in all bodily fluids, essential for water balance regulation, essential for maintaining cell tension, essential for muscle contraction and expansion, essential for nerve stimulation, aids in proper functioning of adrenal glands
Sulfur amino acids, cruciferous vegetables, dairy, eggs, pork, poultry, red meat protects the body from infection, blocks harmful effects of radiation and pollution, forms building blocks of cell membranes, major component of gel-like connective tissue in cartilage and skin
Trace Minerals
boron fruits (especially apples), leafy green vegetables, nuts, whole grains* needed for healthy bones
chromium eggs, molasses*, nuts, pork, poultry, red meat, vegetables, whole wheat* used in glucose metabolism; used in blood sugar regulation; used in synthesis of cholesterol, fats, and protein
cobalt eggs, dairy, fish, kidney, liver, oysters, red meat, shellfish works with copper to promote iron assimilation, required for synthesis of vitamin B12
copper barley*, leafy green vegetables, liver, mushrooms, raw cashews, raw walnuts, seeds, tempeh* needed for bone formation; needed for hemoglobin and red blood cell formation; promotes healthy nerves, healthy immune system and collagen formation; required component of certain enzymes
iodine artichokes, asparagus, butter, dairy, dark green vegetables, eggs, pineapple, seafood, sea vegetables, strawberries, unrefined sea salt essential for fat metabolism, essential for synthesis of thyroid hormones and thyroid function, essential for immune function, antioxidant
iron eggs, fish, green leafy vegetables, liver, pork, poultry, red meat vital for healthy blood, required for function of hemoglobin and many different enzymes
manganese butter, cinnamon, cloves, eggplant, garlic, legumes*, nuts, pineapple, raspberries, spinach, squash, strawberries, thyme, turmeric, whole grains* needed for healthy nerves, essential for healthy immune system, aids in blood sugar regulation, aids in bone formation
molybdenum carrots, dark leafy green vegetables, liver, legumes*, onions, tomatoes, whole grains* essential for nitrogen absorption, essential for iron absorption, essential for normal cell function
selenium brazil nuts, butter, cheese, cold water wild fish, garlic, lamb, liver, mushrooms, mustard, tofu*, turkey, whole grains* essential to activity of antioxidant enzymes, works with vitamin E to protect immune system and maintain healthy heart function, needed for pancreatic function and tissue elasticity
zinc asparagus, eggs, fish, ginger, green peas, liver, legumes*, miso*, mushrooms, nuts, oats*, oysters, red meat, scallops, seeds, spinach, yogurt required for function of several enzymes, essential for mental development, essential for healthy reproductive organs, essential for protein synthesis and collagen formation, aids in blood sugar regulation, essential for maintaining proper levels of vitamin E in blood

Fatty Acids

Fatty Acid Sources Benefits
Omega-3
alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) chia seed, kiwi seeds, flax, hemp, lingonberry, purslane, seaberry, seed oils*, shiso, walnuts essential fatty acid, precursor to EPA and DHA, consume in moderation
eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) anchovies, bass, grass-fed meat, herring, mackerel, mussels, oysters, salmon, sardines, seaweed, wild game reduces inflammation; improves cardiovascular health; improves stress, anxiety, and other neurological conditions; could improve chemotherapy response; eat liberally
docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) anchovies, bass, grass-fed meat, herring, mackerel, mussels, oysters, salmon, sardines, wild game reduces inflammation, improves cardiovascular health, aids in brain function in cohort with ARA- could improve chemotherapy response, could inhibit tumor growth, eat liberally
Omega-6
linoleic acid (LA) almonds, avocados, butter, coconut oil, egg yolks, hemp, lard, macadamia nuts, olive oil, peanuts*, pistachios, poultry fat, seed oils*, sesame seeds, walnuts, wheat germ* essential fatty acid, precursor to ARA, consume in moderation
arachidonic acid (ARA) egg yolks, pork, poultry, red meat, aids in cell signaling, relaxes blood vessels, necessary for growth and repair of skeletal muscle tissue, aids in brain function in cohort with DHA, eat liberally

Amino Acids 

Amino Acid Sources Benefits
histidine buckwheat, bamboo shoots, bananas, cantaloupe, cauliflower, cereal grains*, citrus fruits, dairy, eggs, legumes*, mushrooms, potatoes, pork, poultry, red meat, seafood, soy* – involved in synthesis of hemoglobin; helps to develop and maintain healthy tissues; precursor for histamine, which regulates immune defense; factor in development of nerve cells
isoleucine dairy, eggs, legumes*, pork, poultry, red meat, seafood, sea vegetables, soy* functions as a building block for proteins made in the body, produces energy, source of glucose, builds muscle protein
leucine dairy, eggs, legumes*, pork, poultry, red meat, seafood, soy* stimulates insulin production, benefits cholesterol levels, builds muscle protein
lysine dairy, eggs, legumes*, pork, poultry, red meat, seafood, soy* plays a major role in calcium absorption; builds muscle protein; regulates production of hormones, enzymes and antibodies; may reduce anxiety; may moderate blood pressure
methionine cereal grains*, eggs, nuts, pork, poultry, red meat, sesame seeds, soy*, tuna necessary for normal growth and development, necessary for synthesis of creatine, helps liver metabolize fat
phenylalanine egg whites, fish, legumes*, nuts, pork, poultry, red meat, seeds, soy* synthesizes protein; synthesizes dopamine, adrenaline, and thyroid hormones
threonine dairy, fish, legumes*, poultry, red meat, sesame seeds, soy* regulates production of antibodies, necessary for collagen production, builds bones, helps liver metabolize fat, may reduce depression
tryptophan bananas, chocolate, dairy, dates, eggs, fish, legumes* oats*, peanuts, poultry, red meat, seeds, soy*, spirulina precursor for serotonin, precursor for vitamin B3 (niacin) in the liver, helps to maintain sleep cycle
valine dairy, eggs, legumes,* mushrooms, peanuts*, pork, poultry, red meat, soy* stimulates central nervous system, functions as a building block for proteins made in the body, produces energy within the body, source of glucose, helps balance nitrogen levels in body

* While whole grains, legumes, molasses, and seed oils are sources of these nutrients, we do not use them in our kitchen. Instead, we utilize the nutrients found in meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables. The only unrefined vegetable oil we use is extra-virgin olive oil.

** Produced by healthy gut bacteria.

*** ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is a molecule that transports chemical energy within cells for metabolism.