What do vitamins do?
Vitamins and minerals are essential for fulfilling the body’s energy requirements and facilitating efficient, healthy and sustainable bodily function.
Not only do the following essential nutrients provide sustainable energy, they are also the building blocks for cell repair and fuel for of the body’s natural defences, playing a critical role in your overall health and wellbeing.
The word diet comes from the Greek root word, diaita, which means to live one’s life, and also from the Latin root word, diaeta, meaning a manner of living.
To provide your body with the strength and sustenance it needs for a healthy lifestyle, base your daily dietary intake around the following whole food products.
The most important daily vitamins and minerals for health and wellbeing.
Regular intake of vitamin A is known to promote healthy teeth, eyes, kidneys, lungs and skin, as well as strong immune, reproductive and cardiovascular systems.
The fat-soluble vitamin comes in two different forms, preformed vitamin A and provitamin A.
Preformed vitamin A is found in meat, poultry, fish and dairy products, while provitamin A is found in various fruits and vegetables. Provitamin A is most commonly found as beta-carotene, the nutrient responsible for giving many fruits and vegetables their orange colour.
Sources rich in Vitamin A
Sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, spinach and kale are all high in beta-carotene, which is turned into vitamin A.
Preformed vitamin A can also be found in animal products such as milk, eggs and yoghurt. Cod liver oil is also a particularly good source of vitamin A.
B vitamins are critical in maintaining good overall health and well-being.
Known as the building blocks of a healthy body, B vitamins aid in cell growth and metabolism, energy production and muscle toning, as well as maintaining healthy digestive, hormonal, cardiovascular and nervous systems.
Sources rich in Vitamin B
B vitamins are associated with a long list of health benefits but luckily, they are found in many whole foods, such as whole grains, lentils, beans, nuts and seeds, as well as seafood, soy, dairy, poultry and meat products.
There is also a range of B vitamin-rich fruits, including citrus, banana, watermelon and chilli peppers, and vegetables, such as beets, avocados, spinach, kale, potatoes and broccoli.
It is advisable to fill your body’s vitamin B requirements with a range of natural foods but supplements are readily available for those with special dietary needs.
Commonly known as vitamin C, ascorbic acid is linked with a range of health benefits and commonly used to increase healthy blood cells and the body’s natural defences.
The water-soluble vitamin also assists in brain function, iron absorption and reducing the risk of heart disease, while also maintaining healthy blood pressure and elasticity of the skin.
Sources rich in Vitamin C
While citrus fruits are among the most obvious sources of ascorbic acid, there are actually a wide variety of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C.
Other fruits and veggies packed with the essential antioxidant include kiwifruit, grapefruits, strawberries, blackcurrants, guava, red and green peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe and potatoes.
Humans are unable to synthesize ascorbic acid, so consuming the essential nutrient is critical for maintaining good health. Vitamin C tablets are the only supplement that I consume daily.
Vitamin D assists the roles of calcium and phosphate in the body, promoting healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Vitamin D is also known to assist with weight loss and reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis, heart disease, depression and the flu.
Sources rich in Vitamin D
Just a few minutes in the sun stimulates vitamin D production but the fat-soluble vitamin is also found in numerous whole foods, including mushrooms, red meat, oily fish, egg yolk, milk, yoghurt and fortified orange juice.
For the less carnivorous, dietary supplements are another rich source of vitamin D.
Vitamin E is known to assist with blood circulation and promoting a healthy immune system, eyes, and skin.
Sources rich in Vitamin E
The fat-soluble antioxidant is found in a variety of foods including collard greens, spinach, red bell pepper, mango, avocado, tomato, pumpkin, seeds and nuts.
Almonds are the richest source of vitamin E, providing up to 50% of the daily requirement in one small serve.
Zinc helps with different bodily tasks including muscle growth, cell growth and production, muscle growth and repair, processing nutrients from foods and wound healing through strengthening the immune system.
Zinc is also known to assist with fertility and a healthy reproductive system.
Sources rich in Zinc
Zinc is found in a range of foods including meat, shellfish and other seafood, spinach, cashews and other nuts, hemp seeds, beans, whole grains, egg, potato and dairy products, such as milk and cheese.
Believe it or not, dark chocolate is also a high-calorie source of your daily zinc requirements.
Iron assists with the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body and facilitate the growth and repair of muscle tissue.
Sources rich in Iron
Aside from dietary supplements, foods rich in iron include oysters, clams, red meats, soybean, pumpkin seeds, nuts, beans, lentils and spinach.
Calcium is important for a healthy heart, muscles and nervous system, as well as essential for bone strength.
Some studies suggest that calcium, along with vitamin D, may also have protective properties defending the body against diabetes, high blood pressure and even cancer.
Sources rich in Calcium
Calcium is present in numerous whole foods such as dairy, yoghurt, green leafy vegetables, tofu and other soy products.
In addition to whole food products, calcium and vitamin D compounds are supplemented to increase muscle strength.
Magnesium is a mineral that helps with nerve and muscle function, regulating blood pressure and supporting the immune system.
This important nutrient also helps turn the food we eat into energy and assists with the normal functioning of the parathyroid glands, responsible for producing hormones important for bone health.
Sources rich in Magnesium
Magnesium is found in a wide variety of foods, including leafy greens, banana, avocado, seeds, nuts, whole grains, legumes, tofu, fatty fish and dark chocolate.
A zinc and magnesium matrix, known as ZMA, is used by athletes to assist with sleep and energy levels, as well as muscle recovery, relaxation and growth.
Potassium is a mineral and an electrolyte that balances fluids within the body and assists with muscle function, particularly in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.
Alcohol is known to cause dehydration and the loss of potassium, so the following potassium-rich foods can also be helpful when dealing with a hangover.
Sources rich in Potassium
Good sources of potassium include avocado, beans, banana, cheese, seeds, nuts, fish, beef, poultry and some vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts.
The bottom line
There are more than 20 vitamins and minerals which are recommended for daily intake. To satisfy energy requirements and promote a state of health and wellbeing, focus your dietary intake on whole, unprocessed food products containing the vitamins and minerals listed above, or consider supplementing your diet with a multivitamin.
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About the Author: Harrison has more than a decade of experience on, and off, the rugby field as a representative player, junior coach and part-time referee. His passion for rugby led him to the Australian Institute of Personal Trainers where he studied the human body, exercise and nutrition, before being registered as a health and fitness professional with Fitness Australia and Fitness First Australia. Although the career path has changed, his passion for health, fitness, and Rugby will always remain.