Carnegie Mellon University

Sound food choices do contribute to good health. Busy or stressed? Search out these food types to keep your body working its best. Good Nutrition will boost your immune system to reduce your chances of getting sick, improve your ability to concentrate and keep your digestion and stomach happy.

Nutrients to Know

The body's primary source of energy comes from carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are nutrition dynamos loaded with vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Most young adults require 6-9 ounces per day. For more information,  use

Campus dining offers:
Grains: rice, oatmeal, cold cereals, quinoa, and cornmeal
Whole grain breads: whole wheat, rye, pumpernickel breads, bagels, and muffins
Pasta: whole wheat pasta, couscous, macaroni and spaghetti  
Starchy vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, and beans

A plant and whole grain based diet is the best way to obtain dietary fiber. Dietary fiber has been shown to help control digestion disorders such as constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome. Aim for fruit and vegetables twice a day with half of your complex carbohydrates coming from whole grain sources. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids when eating high fiber foods.

The best know of all the carotenoids, beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that may help protect the body against cancer. The body also converts beta-carotene into Vitamin A, which is essential for promoting good vision, and for maintaining healthy skin, mucous membranes, teeth, skeletal and soft tissues. Aim for fruits and vegetables that are dark green, yellow orange, or red in color.

Carrots Apricots
Canteloupe Sweet Potatoes
Pumpkin Red Peppers

Tomatoes &

Tomato Sauce


Greens: Spinach,

Kale, Collard & Mustard

Mixed Vegetables

Vitamin C is another powerful antioxidant that may be useful in protecting us from environmental stress. Vitamin C also helps in wound healing and in iron absorption. Good sources are:

Greens: Spinach, Kale Red & Green Bell Peppers
Broccoli Brussel Sprouts
Cauliflower Oranges & Orange Juice
Strawberries Citrus Fruits & Fruit Juices

Vitamin E (α- tocopherol) is also an antioxidant that is lacking in some college students' diets. Its antioxidant activity also may help reduce the risk of health problems, such as some types of cancer.  You should get your Vitamin E from food and not take large doses of Vitamin E as a dietary supplement.

Good sources are:

Sunflower Seeds Ready to Eat Breakfast Cereal
Oils: Canola, Olive, Peanut, Safflower, Sunflower Nuts: Almonds, Hazelnuts, Peanuts
Spinach Peanut Butter
Wheat Germ Tomato Sauces

The main function of calcium is to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. It also aids in muscle contraction and the regulation of your heart beat.

Good calcium sources are:

Skim/Low-Fat Milk Low-Fat, Plain or Fruit Yogurt
Low-Fat or Part-Skim Cheeses Sardines or Salmon with Bones

Fortified Orange Juice, Rice or

Soy Beverages

Fortified Breakfast Cereals

Iron is critical for the proper development of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to your brain when it is use to make energy to keep you alert and moving. Young women should pay special attention to their iron intake.

Good iron sources include:

Lean Cuts of Beef or Pork Chicken & Turkey Breast (Skinless)
Fish Tofu
Beans & Peas Lentils
Iron-Fortified Grains & Cereals Whole Wheat Bread

Potassium is critical for muscle contraction and for nerve impulses. Research indicates that a high potassium diet can help reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of stroke. Eating the recommended 2½-4½ cups of fruits and vegetables daily is the best way to get potassium.

Some particularly high sources:

  • Bananas   
  • Orange juice
  • Dried fruit: raisins, prunes, figs, apricots   
  • Spinach

You need zinc for the proper functioning of your immune system, for tissue repair, and in the replication of RNA and DNA.

Good zinc sources are:

Lean Cuts of Beef Eggs
Skim/Low-Fat Milk Oysters (Cooked)
Whole Wheat Bread Brewer's Yeast
Nuts: Pecans, Cashews & Almonds Seeds: Pumpkin, Sunflower

A multivitamin and mineral supplement cannot replace the disease-fighting properties found in complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables or turn an unhealthy eating pattern into a healthy one. You still need to make wise food choices most of the time.

Getting all the health promoting nutrients we need from food is ideal - but not always possible. If you choose to take a vitamin and mineral supplement, keep these important points in mind.

Select a multivitamin and mineral supplement that contains about 100% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). Mega dosing is not necessary, and may be harmful.
Avoid taking individual vitamins and minerals, unless recommended by a health professional. Vitamins and minerals interact with each other in a delicate balance. Overloading on one or two individual vitamins or minerals can interfere with the body's ability to use other vitamins and minerals.
Take your multivitamin and mineral supplements with meals to increase absorption.