Written by: Jenny Smith
A simple guide to essential vitamins and minerals in food
Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that your body needs in order to work properly. Their jobs include supporting health in all sorts of ways, such as strengthening bones and teeth, fighting infection, balancing mood and maintaining healthy blood. There is much contention about the use of supplements as opposed to depending solely on your diet for your vitamin and mineral intake and this article will give you a brief introduction on the main things to consider.
Food Vs supplements?
The closer food is to its natural state, the higher the chance of their being a good supply of vitamins and minerals in it and conversely the more preserved, refined and man made it is the further it will be away from these natural sources of nutrition. Fresh fruit and vegetables that are organically grown, are reputed to have the highest levels of natural goodness because they have not had pesticides used on them during their growing periods. However there is growing concern that even organic crops do not offer fully nutritious options because our soil has become so depleted of natural vitamins from over use and intensive farming during the last couple of decades.
This is one of the reasons that some people are turning to supplements to boost their health particularly if they have a medical condition that shows a particular vitamin or mineral deficiency. Whether you want to ensure that you are taking in enough nutritious goodness from food or supplements it is helpful to have a basic idea of the main groups and where you can find them.
Vitamins A-K all do different jobs in our bodies
- Vitamin A is a group of vitamins that help boost immunity, reproductive behaviours and vision including the retina and cornea on your eyes. Vitamin A is found in high amounts in sweet potato and also in carrots, eggs, spinach, fish and beef.
- Vitamin B6 is an umbrella term for six different compounds that help fight disease and stabilise blood sugar, it can be found in chickpeas and poultry among other foods.
- ¬†B12 is a great vitamin for mood balance as it works directly on the nervous system, it also guards against anemia and forms DNA. Mostly found in animal products such as beef and fish, it is also often added to breakfast cereals.
- Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and strengthens your ability to fight infection and disease. Whilst most people think Vitamin C is found mostly in citrus fruit, the easiest food to take it from is red pepper and it can also be found in sprouts and broccoli.
- Vitamin D is the vitamin that our bodies make themselves when we are exposed to sunlight and helps us to absorb calcium. It can be found in fish or in fortified foods such as milk or cereal.
- Sunflower seeds or almonds will give you a good dose of Vitamin E which helps with immunity and keeping harmful molecules at bay.
- Finally for the Vitamins is K which helps our blood to clot and can be found in kale and other leafy greens.
Minerals play an important role too
Important minerals include Calcium which is stored in teeth and bones and can be ingested through natural yoghurt or leafy greens. Iron which transports oxygen and grows cells and comes in two types found in meat or in lentils and beans. The mineral Lysine complements Vitamin D in helping us to absorb calcium and is present in red meat and nuts and super important mineral magnesium is used in 300 reactions in the body including keeping heart rhythm steady and strengthening bones and is found in unrefined grains that contain wheat bran and in nuts and spinach. Potassium helps with heart activity and builds muscle and is found in sweet potatoes and Zinc is very helpful for fighting off colds and flu and is present in red meat and poultry.