Vitamins and minerals help our bodies work properly to maintain good health.
Also known as retinol (or pro-vitamin A, as beta carotene). Beta carotene gets converted into vitamin A (retinol) in the body. Vitamin A is a protective antioxidant and therefore important for helping the body’s immune system when fighting illness or infection, assisting night vision, especially in low light and maintaining healthy skin (inside and out).
Vitamin A dietary sources: strawberries, tofu, chicken, oysters, sunflower seeds, leeks, eggs, cheese, oily fish, milk, yoghurt, fortified foods, liver, liver pate (if pregnant, do not consume liver products or exceed daily vitamin A levels).
Pro-vitamin A (Beta Carotene) dietary sources: eat the rainbow basically; broccoli, strawberries, apples, cabbage, melon, chickpeas, spinach, avocado, squash, tomato, asparagus, nettles, bananas, soya beans, watercress, pineapple, artichoke, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, spirulina, radishes, pears, prunes, blueberries, figs, onions, buckwheat, aubergine, olives, dates, blackberries, tayberries, cucumber, lettuce, okra, cranberries, yellow, orange, red and green peppers, green leafy vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow fruits such as apricots, peaches, papaya and mango. Dunaliella Salina, green algae (nature’s richest source of dietary beta carotene and mixed carotenoids).
All the B vitamins help the body release energy from digested foods, nourish the nervous system and each have specific uses too. It is recommended that you take a complex of them all in a daily diet or supplement as they work synergistically together and then have the option to boost up on specific ones as needed. B vitamins are water soluble and the body will take what it needs, then rid what it does not naturally through the urine.
– Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Useful for energy metabolism, maintaining a healthy nervous system and reducing insect bites (insects are repelled by the smell that our skin emits when we consume B1).
B1 dietary sources: wholegrain breads, peas, peppers, nuts, bananas, oranges, liver and some fortified cereals.
– Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Useful for energy metabolism, maintaining a healthy nervous system, healthy skin and eye health. B2 dietary sources: milk, yoghurt, eggs, mushrooms and some fortified breads and cereals. Ultraviolet light destroys vitamin B2, so keep foods out of direct sunlight to protect the B2 in them.
– Vitamin B3 (Niacin & Nicotinamide)
Useful for energy metabolism, maintaining a healthy nervous system and maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system, as it can help dilate vessels to help flush fats out through the blood. Niacin flushes can be experienced with niacin sources and if you require the benefits of B3 but do not want the flush effect, always select nicotinamide sources of B3).
B3 dietary sources: almonds, celery, potatoes, brown rice, avocado, raspberries, quinoa, barley, artichoke, brussels sprouts, spirulina, corn, mushrooms, peas, dates, liquorice, flaxseed, mung beans, okra, chicken, game, fish (tuna), eggs, millet, wheat flour.
– Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Useful for energy metabolism, maintaining a healthy nervous system and helping to nourish the adrenal glands (that sit just above the kidneys and help the body manage inflammation and stress in the body). So, if there is any inflammation or stress in the body, B5 can help keep the adrenal glands working properly and prevent adrenal exhaustion.
Vitamin B5 dietary sources: avocado, broccoli, pine nuts, brown rice, oats, wheat, barley, mung beans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, peas, peppers, eggs, chicken, game, beef and liver.
– Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Useful for energy metabolism, maintaining a healthy nervous system and helping the body form haemoglobin in red blood cells, that is important for carrying oxygen round the body, for respiration in every cell. B6 is cardio protective to help regulate homocysteine levels and works synergistically with B12 and folate (B9).
. B6 also helps regulate hormones (endocrine system) and can be useful during premenstrual tension and migraine headaches.
B6 dietary sources: bananas, brussel sprouts, milk, pine nuts, oats, barley, wheatgerm, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, soya beans, brown rice, peas, peppers, spinach, chicken, turkey, pork, herring, some fortified cereals.
– Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
Useful for energy metabolism, maintaining a healthy nervous system and a precursor to helping the body make fatty acids. The friendly bacteria in the human bowel are also able to make B7. Biotin helps to maintain healthy hair, skin and nails. Biotin is only needed in low levels and generally is found naturally in a wide range of foods also in low levels.
B7 dietary sources: avocado, banana, broccoli, egg yolks, peas, beans, lentils, soya beans, nuts and seeds, sweet potatoes and mushrooms.
– Vitamin B9 (Folate, Folacin & Folic Acid)
Folate, also known as folacin or vitamin B9, is found in a wide variety of foods. Folic acid however, is the man- made version of naturally occurring folate.
Useful for energy metabolism, maintaining a healthy nervous system and helping the body form healthy red blood cells. Folate is needed to also make healthy DNA and RNA, the building blocks of all cells. Folate is cardiovascular protective, to help regulate homocysteine and works synergistically with B12 and B6. Folate is very important to prevent neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida in unborn babies.
B9 dietary sources: almonds, apricots, artichoke, asparagus, aubergine, avocado, beetroot, buckwheat, cauliflower, coconut, oats, tomato, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, fennel, kale, spring greens, spinach, peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, barley, brown rice, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, mung beans, mushrooms, peas, peppers, yam, leeks, okra, parsnips, celery, lettuce, peach, pear, prunes, sesame seeds, radishes, strawberries, tayberries, turnip, walnuts, liver (but not during pregnancy) and fortified cereals.
– Vitamin B12
Useful for energy metabolism, maintaining a healthy nervous system and helping the body form healthy red blood cells, cardiovascular protective to help regulate homocysteine levels and works synergistically with B6 and folate (B9).
B12 dietary sources: barley, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, peas, peppers, eggs, cheese, milk, oysters, tuna, yeast extract such as marmite, unsweetened soya drinks fortified with B12, game and fortified cereals.
Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is a protective antioxidant and has several important functions in the body, including helping to protect cells, skin health, blood vessels, bones, cartilage and assisting the healing of wounds. Vitamin C is useful to help fight off colds, flu and infections plus can help prevent and repair cellular damage.
Vitamin C dietary sources: All citrus fruits, apples, apricots, artichoke, asparagus, bananas, celeriac, coconut, figs, parsley, garlic, buckwheat, fennel, nettles, raspberries, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, melon, kiwi fruit, peppers, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, tayberries, spinach, beetroot, squash, soya beans, tomato, peppers, broccoli, oysters, potatoes, sweet potato, yam, radishes, turnip, mango, peach, pineapple, papaya, liquorice, walnuts, watercress,
Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) is naturally synthesised within the skin layers when exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is utilised by every cell plus helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate levels in the body, prevents rickets, boosts natural immunity plus lifts mood (especially in the winter months).
Vitamin D helps to maintain healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Most people who live in the northern hemisphere do not have sufficient levels of Vitamin D, so may need to take a supplement. Most people are not deficient in D2 but are generally more so in D3.
The NHS have also published a Coronavirus update on their vitamin D page, highlighting that due to being indoors more than we should this last year due to multiple lock downs, they recommend we take extra vitamin D from October through to early March, to keep our muscles and bones healthy. They also mention that “some reports suggest vitamin D can reduce the risk of coronavirus (covid-19)”. Evidence and clinical trial data over a longer period of time will hopefully reveal some exciting research outcomes in this and related studies in our understanding of this important vitamin.
Vitamin D3 & K2 work synergistically together. Vitamin D3 mobilises calcium for use in the body and vitamin K2 sign posts any excess calcium out of the blood (which is especially cardioprotective for those who must reduce any excess calcium in the blood stream, so it cannot stick to arterial plague (fatty build up), to reduce potential atherosclerosis risks. If in this risk group, take D3 & K2 in a balanced ratio, instead of just vitamin D. It is useful to note that Vitamin D supplements are generally not vegan and usually sourced from sheep’s wool grease, so if vegan, check those labels.
Vegan nutrition sources: Vitamin D2 is found in mushrooms and D3 is found in lichen. Synthesis of Vitamin D; Sunlight on skin causing natural, internal reactions.
Dietary sources of Vitamin D; sunflower seeds, yoghurt, egg yolks, salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, red meat, liver and fortified spreads and cereals.
Vitamin E (also known as tocopherol) comprises a group of compounds and protective antioxidant, that can be found in a wide variety of foods. Vitamin E that is not used in the body straight away, is stored for future use, so it may not need to be consumed daily. Consuming 540mg (800ius) daily, is considered acceptable by the NHS.
Vitamin E dietary sources: sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, wheatgerm cereals, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, soya oil, corn oil, olive oil, salmon, brussels sprouts, cabbage, avocado, rye, almonds, walnuts, mackerel, sweet potato, wilds rice and flaxseed.
Vitamin F is not really a vitamin but is in fact the term used for two fats; (ALA) Alpha Linolenic Acid and (LA) Linolenic Acid, which are technically a omega fatty acids. ALA is a member of the omega 3 fatty acids while LA is an omega 6. Both ALA and LA are essential for regular bodily functions, including brain, heart health, vision, circulatory system, blood pressure regulation, immune system and healthy growth.
Vitamin F dietary sources: rapeseed vegetable oil, flaxseeds, perilla seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pecans, walnuts, wild berries, wheat, potato, chicken and eggs.
Vitamin K is actually a group of vitamins that the body needs for healthy bones and successful blood clotting, to help wounds heal (also known as blood clotting factor). Vitamin K2 is useful when taken in a correct ratio with Vitamin D3, to support the cardiovascular system by ‘signposting’ excess circulating calcium in the blood out of the circulatory system, to where it is needed most (bones, teeth, immunity, mood boosting etc..) to prevent potential furring of the arteries (i.e. atherosclerosis). Adults need 1mcg of vitamin K a day per Kg of body weight (if your mass is 75kg, you need 75mcg daily )as per the NHS. Any vitamin K that does not get utilised immediately is stored in the liver for when it is needed.
Vitamin K dietary sources: broccoli, spinach, swiss chard, parsley, peppers, tomatoes, kale, olive oil, cereal grains, meat and dairy.
Minerals are considered to be either macro-nutrients or micro-nutrients. The difference is that ‘macro’ means large scale and ‘nutrients’ are chemical substances that are required by the body. ‘Micro-nutrients’ conversely are small chemical substances also required by the body.
Macro minerals are; calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and sulphur.
Micro (or trace) minerals are; chromium, cobalt, copper, fluorine, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc.
Calcium has multiple functions within the body including helping to maintain strong bones and teeth, prevent osteoporosis (osteomalacia), regulate muscle contractions (including the heart), preventing rickets and aiding healthy blood clotting. Adults need 700mg daily (19-64yrs) as per the NHS.
Calcium dietary sources: apple, cabbage, melon, grapefruit, orange, kidney beans, chick peas, brown rice, beetroot, oats, squash, tomato, tofu, cherries, dates, blackberries, raspberries, ginger, rye, mung beans, soya beans, almonds, cashew nuts, walnuts, apricots, watercress, psyllium seed, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, sea vegetables, turnip, papaya, pineapple, artichoke, broccoli, brussels sprouts, leeks, okra, liquorice, parsnip, cauliflower, fortified bread, mackerel, salmon, sardines, sweet potato, radishes, peach, pear, carrots, alfalfa, prunes, sesame seeds, celeriac, figs, onion, garlic, aubergine, fennel, lentils, mushrooms, peas, olives, yam, yoghurt, milk, cheese, kale, spinach, okra, soya or nut milks fortified with calcium
Chromium helps to regulate blood glucose levels and so helps to reduce swings in sugar cravings. Especially useful the week before a period when sugar cravings can spike, also if trying to manage weight and reduce consumption of sweet foods. Chromium works synergistically with cinnamon to help curb sugar cravings. Consuming 25mcg daily is considered acceptable by the NHS.
Chromium dietary sources: broccoli, potato, grapes, oats, green pepper, cheese, mushrooms, beef, liver, egg yolk, chicken, oysters, mussels, meat, nuts and cereal grains.
Copper is used by the body to counterbalance zinc levels in the body and is often found in zinc complex formulations, producing red and white blood cells, initiate the release of iron in the body to form haemoglobin, infant growth and brain development, the immune system and skeletal strength. Consuming 10mg or less daily is considered acceptable by the NHS.
Copper dietary sources: spirulina, seeds, eggs, liver, beef, oysters, lobster, leafy greens, dark chocolate, sun dried tomatoes and nuts.
Iodine is a very important mineral that helps the body make thyroid hormones (that help maintain a healthy metabolic rate i.e. the rate at which chemical reactions actually take place inside the body). Iodine rich sources are also very important in fertility pro-conception and general health. Iodine rich foods are (not recommended for an overactive thyroid), only for an underactive thyroid.
Iodine dietary sources: pears, sea vegetables, certain cranberries (cape cod), milk, yoghurt, cheese, eggs, lima beans, potatoes, fish, shellfish, seaweed, cereals, prunes and grains.
Iron is vital for helping the body to make red blood cells, that carry oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiency can cause anaemia that can lead to lethargy, low energy and tiredness.
Iron dietary sources: apricots, avocado, eggs, beetroot, brussels sprouts, corn, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, peas, mung beans, oats, brown rice, quinoa, rye, soya beans, cashew nuts, liquorice, walnuts, tayberries, tofu, sea vegetables, oysters, nettles and wheat.
Manganese is an essential trace mineral needed for bone development, absorbing calcium, healthy skin and blood sugar regulation. Manganese is used by the body to make and activate some of its enzymes. An enzyme is a protein that can help the body complete chemical reactions, like digesting and breaking food down into smaller pieces. It also helps to activate SOD (superoxide dismutase), a potent antioxidant enzyme in the body.
Manganese dietary sources: lima beans, mussels, toasted wheatgerm, firm tofu, sweet potato, pine nuts, brown rice, spinach, pineapples, chickpeas, wholegrain bread and peas.
Molybdenum is also used by the body to make and activate some of its enzymes responsible for repairing and making genetic material.
Molybdenum dietary sources: peas, lentils, grains, fruits, vegetables, cheese and drinking water.
Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body and a key player in energy metabolism. Magnesium is an important mineral to consume daily (at least 300mg by the NHS) as it not only helps to boost energy levels but also helps nourish the parathyroid gland, so it functions properly (produces hormones, vital for bone health).
Magnesium dietary sources: artichoke, apricots, pear, broccoli, carrots, corn, coconut, ginger, millet, tofu, almonds, cashew nuts, liquorice, parsnip, walnuts, brussels sprouts, lettuce, mung beans, peach, okra, pumpkin seeds, cauliflower, celeriac, chicken, onion, fennel, radishes, mushrooms, peas, spinach, turnip, watercress, papaya, pineapple, blackberries, grapefruit, raspberries, tayberries, sweet potato, yam. barley, psyllium seed, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, alfalfa, lentils, quinoa, rye, buckwheat and wholemeal bread.
Phosphorus is a mineral that helps the body to build and maintain strong, healthy bones and teeth. It also helps the digestive system release stored energy from foods. Adults need 550mg of phosphorus a day as per NHS.
Phosphorous dietary sources: broccoli, millet, apple, cabbage, melon, kidney beans, kiwi fruit, chick peas, brown rice, avocado, beetroot, oats, squash, tomato, asparagus, dairy, herring, poultry, red meats, ginger, rye, soya beans, walnuts, watercress, psyllium seeds, quinoa, turnip, pineapple, barley, artichoke, coconut, almonds, brussels sprouts, spirulina, sweet potato, radishes, pear, carrots, prunes, sesame seeds, figs, onion, sunflower seeds, buckwheat, aubergine, fennel, lentils, peas, yam, garlic, liquorice, parsnip, cherries, raspberries and tayberries.
Potassium is an important mineral that is needed daily by the body and helps control the balance of internal fluids and ensures the heart muscle works properly. 3,500mg of potassium is required daily for adults aged 19-64 years by the NHS. Potassium works with the sodium levels in the body, as part of the sodium-potassium pump to regulate systems. The body also needs more potassium, especially when more salt – as sodium chloride is consumed in the diet. Salt attracts water, which increases the volume of the fluids flowing through the circulatory system, thereby increasing blood pressure. Potassium counterbalances the excess sodium to restore blood volume and therefore pressure back to normal. It is recommended not to consume too much salt in the diet for this very reason. A little is good, a lot is not.
Potassium dietary sources: spirulina, blackberries, grapefruit, lemons, limes, flaxseed, strawberries, millet, cabbage, melon, pine nuts, potatoes, sweet potato, radishes, pear, carrots, corn, alfalfa, prunes, sesame seeds, celeriac, figs, onion, sunflower seeds, buckwheat, wheat, cucumber, lettuce, mung beans, peach, okra, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, fennel, orange, kidney beans, kiwi fruit, chick peas, brown rice, wild rice, spinach, avocado, beetroot, squash, tofu, asparagus, nettles, raspberries, ginger, rye, walnuts, apricots, watercress, psyllium seeds, quinoa, sea vegetables, turnip, pineapple, barley, artichoke, coconut, papaya, almonds, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, parsnips, brussels sprouts, lentils, peas, peppers, yam, garlic, leeks, parsnip, fish, beef, chicken and turkey.
Selenium is an important antioxidant that prevents and repairs damage to cells and tissues, plus supports the immune and reproductive systems to function properly. Consuming 350mcg daily is considered acceptable by the NHS.
Selenium dietary sources: eggs, brazil nuts, herring, salmon, tuna, game, wild rice and meat.
Sodium Chloride (Salt)
The NHS include sodium and chloride in their vitamin and mineral guidance because both sodium and chlorine are also needed by the body in low amounts to maintain a balanced level of fluids. Chlorine helps the body make hydrochloric acid, (stomach acid) which is used for an essential step of food digestion.
Adults consuming 6g of salt daily (which equates to roughly 3.2g of sodium) is considered the maximum by the NHS and if this is routinely exceeded, it is wise to tweak what you are eating to stay within national recommendations.
0-1yr Babies – should not really consume much salt because their kidneys are not developed to process it properly. 1-3yrs maximum 2g salt daily (0.8g sodium).
4-6yrs maximum 3g salt daily (1.2g sodium).
7-10yrs maximum 5g salt daily (2g sodium).
11yrs+ maximum 6g salt daily (2.4g sodium).
Think about the extra potassium your body will need just to balance out any higher-than-normal salt consumption, let alone for all the other things it needs to use it for in the body, including the heart. A diet that is high in salt will increase your risk of raising blood pressure, that can lead to an increased risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke.
Making some simple swops to achieve lower salt levels is not difficult, just a change in habits; use more herbs and spices instead of salt when cooking, eat less salty snack foods and swop for veg or fruit sticks, buy tinned tuna in spring water instead of brine (salt water), check labels on all foods to become fully aware of how much added salt is consumed in your food without realising it and finally, taste all food first before adding any salt (as most times you will not need it, or reach for a grind of pepper or handful of freshly chopped herbs instead). Your heart will love you for it!
Dietary sources of sodium: table salt, soy sauce, brown sauce, red sauce, mayonnaise, crisps, nuts, bacon, cheese, pickles, smoked meats, fish, salted licorice, stock cubes, fast foods and other food or snacks high in salt.
Zinc is an important antioxidant that prevents and repairs damage to cells and tissues, wound healing, helps make new cells and enzymes, processes carbohydrates, fats and proteins in digestion plus supports the immune system to fight colds, flu and infections. Zinc is also required to support healthy reproductive systems, especially for men, as it is needed to make healthy sperm. Good preconception nutrition for both men and women is advisable at least 3 months before conceiving, to optimise the chances of a healthy baby. Women consuming 7mg daily is considered acceptable by the NHS. Men consuming 9.5mg daily is considered acceptable by the NHS.
Zinc and copper – if taking high doses of zinc it can reduce the levels of copper the body is able to absorb, which can inadvertently lead to anaemia and potential bone weakening.
Zinc dietary sources: pine nuts, chickpeas, brown rice, psyllium seeds, oysters, quinoa, barley, coconut, game, almonds, corn, sesame seeds, eggs, sunflower seeds, buckwheat, wheat, mung beans, pumpkin seeds, lentils, mushrooms, peas, cashew nuts, meat, shellfish, cheese, wholemeal breads and wheatgerm.
NHS, 2021. NHS vitamins and minerals overview. [Online]
Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/ [Accessed 11 Feb 2021].
- Edgson Dip ION, I. M. D. I., 1999. The Food Doctor – Healing foods for minds and body. First ed. London: Collins & Brown Ltd.