Overview of main vitamines & minerals
Calcium has several important functions such as helping build strong bones and teeth, regulating muscle contractions (including your heartbeat), and ensuring proper blood-clotting. A lack of calcium could lead to a condition called rickets in children, and osteomalacia or osteoporosis in later life. Sources of calcium include: milk, cheese and other dairy foods, green leafy vegetables – such as broccoli, cabbage and okra, but not spinach, soya beans, tofu, soya drinks with added calcium, nuts, bread and anything made with fortified flour, fish where you eat the bones – such as sardines and pilchards.
Iron is important in the synthesis of red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. A lack of iron can lead to iron deficiency anemia.
Good sources of iron include: liver (but avoid this during pregnancy), meat, beans, nuts, dried fruit (such as dried apricots), wholegrains (such as brown rice), fortified breakfast cereals, soybean flour, most dark-green leafy vegetables (such as watercress and curly kale).
Manganese is a mineral that helps synthesize and activate some enzymes in the body. Enzymes are proteins that help the body carry out chemical reactions, such as breaking down food. Manganese is found in a variety of foods, including tea (which is probably the biggest source of manganese for many people), bread, nuts, cereals, and green vegetables (such as peas and runner beans).
Phosphorus is a mineral that helps build strong bones and teeth, and helps break nutrients down to release energy.
Good sources include: red meat, dairy foods, fish, poultry, bread, brown rice, oats.
Vitamin A, also known as retinol, has several important functions which include helping your body’s natural defence against illness and infections by assisting the immune system in functioning properly, helping vision in dim light, keeping skin and the lining of some parts of the body (such as the nose), healthy.
Good sources of vitamin A include: cheese, eggs, fatty fish, fortified low-fat spreads, milk and yoghurt, liver and liver-products (such as liver pâté which is a particularly rich source of vitamin A, so you may be at risk of having too much vitamin A if you have it more than once a week; this is particularly important if you’re pregnant). You can obtain vitamin A by including good sources of beta-carotene in your diet, as the body would convert it into vitamin A. The main food sources of beta-carotene are: yellow, red and green (leafy) vegetables, such as spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes and red peppers, yellow fruit, such as mango, papaya and apricots.
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is a water-soluble vitamin essential for several bodily functions. It’s significant for protein, fat, and carbohydrate metabolism as well as red blood cells and neurotransmitter synthesis. Your body cannot produce vitamin B6, so you must obtain it from foods or supplements. It can be found in pork, poultry (such as chicken or turkey), fish, bread, wholegrain cereals (such as oatmeal, wheat germ and brown rice), eggs, vegetables, soya beans, etc.
Vitamin B12 is involved in red blood cell synthesis and for preserving the health of the nervous system, utilizing energy and folic acid from food.
Good sources include: meat, salmon, cod, milk, cheese, eggs, and some fortified breakfast cereals.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, has several important functions which include: helping to protect and preserve cells, and maintain healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage, also assisting with wound healing.
Good sources of vitamin C include: oranges and orange juice, red and green peppers, strawberries, black currants, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and potatoes.
Vitamin E helps maintain healthy skin and eyes, and strengthen the body’s natural defence against illness and infection by supporting the immune system.
Good sources of vitamin E include: plant oils (such as soya, corn and olive oil), nuts and seeds, wheatgerm (found in cereals and cereal products).
Iodine assists with the synthesis of thyroid hormones, which help preserve the health of cells and their metabolic rate (the speed at which chemical reactions take place in the body).
Good food sources of iodine include: sea fish and shellfish.
Magnesium is a mineral that helps break down nutrients into energy while ensuring that parathyroid glands (which produce hormones important for bone-health) function properly. Magnesium is found in a wide variety of foods, including green leafy vegetables (such as spinach), nuts, brown rice, bread (especially wholegrain), fish, meat, and dairy products.
Pantothenic acid has several functions, such as assisting the breakdown of nutrients into energy. Pantothenic acid is found in almost all meats and vegetables, including: chicken, beef, potatoes, porridge, tomatoes, kidney, eggs, broccoli, and wholegrains (such as brown rice and wholemeal bread).
Potassium is a mineral that helps control the balance of fluids in the body, and assists with the proper functioning of the heart muscles..
Good sources of potassium include: fruit (such as bananas), some vegetables (such as broccoli, parsnips and brussel sprouts) , pulses, nuts and seeds, fish, shellfish, beef, chicken, and turkey.
Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamin, helps break down and utilize energy from food while preserving the health of the nervous system.
Good sources include: peas, fresh and dried fruit, eggs, whole grain breads, some fortified breakfast cereals, and liver.
Vitamin B2, also known as Riboflavin, helps preserve the health of skin, eyes and the nervous system.
Good sources of riboflavin include: milk, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, and rice. UV light can destroy riboflavin, so ideally these foods should be kept away from direct sunlight.
Vitamin B3, also known as Niacin, helps release energy from foods we consume. It is essential for the metabolism of fats and sugars, as well as for maintaining healthy cells.
Good sources of niacin include: meat, fish, wheat flour, eggs, and milk.
Vitamin B9, is also known as folate or folacin. It assists the body with efficient red blood cell synthesis, subsequently reducing the risk of central neural tube defects (such as spina bifida), in unborn babies.
Good sources include: broccoli, brussel sprouts, liver (which should be avoided during pregnancy), leafy green vegetables (such as cabbage and spinach), peas, chickpeas, and breakfast cereals fortified with folic acid.
Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities (such as rickets in children), and bone pain caused by a condition called osteomalacia in adults.
Good sources of vitamin D: from about late March/early April to the end of September, most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight. The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors. But between October and early March, we may not get enough vitamin D from sunlight.
Vitamin D is found in a small number of foods such as oily fish (such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel), red meat, liver, egg yolks, fortified foods (such as most fat spreads), and some breakfast cereals. Another source of vitamin D is dietary supplements.
Vitamin K is needed for blood clotting, and helps wounds heal properly. There’s also some evidence vitamin K may help keep bones healthy. Vitamin K is found in: green leafy vegetables (such as broccoli and spinach), vegetable oils, and cereal grains.