They are nutrients our body needs in small amounts to work properly and to stay healthy. Most people should get all the nutrients needed through a varied and balanced diet, but sometimes one may need some extra supplements.
Vitamins come in two groups, water soluble and fat soluble, and we know that water and oil do not mix well. So be wary of multivitamin complex as the only way to get both groups is by heating them to obtain evaporation. However, heat destroys vitamins. In other words, if one were to take supplements, it has to be one from each group, not a combination pill.
Vitamin A (retinol) has several important functions such as helping your body’s natural defence against illness and infection/boosting the immune system, 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, oily fish, fortified low-fat spreads, milk and yoghurt, liver and liver products such as liver pâté.
You can get vitamin A by including good sources of beta-carotene in your diet as the body can convert this 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, and yellow fruit, such as mango, papaya and apricots.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) helps break down and release energy from the food and keeps the nervous system healthy.
Good sources of Vitamin B1 include peas, fresh and dried fruit, eggs, wholegrain breads, some fortified breakfast cereals, liver.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) helps keep skin, eyes and the nervous system healthy. It also helps the body release energy from food
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) helps release energy from food, keeps the nervous system and skin healthy. There are two forms of niacin: nicotinic acid and nicotinamide. Both are found in food: meat, fish, wheat, flour, eggs, milk.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) helps release energy from food. Sources of pantothenic acid: chicken, beef, potatoes, porridge, tomatoes, kidneys, eggs, broccoli, whole grains in brown rice and wholemeal bread
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) allows the body to use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates in food and form haemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body.
Vitamin B6 is found in a wide variety of foods including: pork, poultry, such as chicken or turkey, fish, bread, wholegrain cereals, such as oatmeal, wheatgerm and brown rice, eggs, vegetables, soya beans, peanuts, milk, potatoes.
Biotin (vitamin B7) is needed in very small amounts to help the body break down fat. Biotin is also found in a wide range of foods, but only at very low levels.
Vitamin B9 (Folate and folic acid): Folate is a B vitamin found in many foods. The man-made form of folate is called folic acid. Folate helps the body form healthy red blood cells, reduce the risk of central neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in unborn babies. A lack of folate could lead to folate deficiency anaemia.
Folate is found in small amounts in many foods: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, liver (but avoid this during pregnancy), green vegetables, such as cabbage and spinach, peas, chickpeas, breakfast cereals fortified with folic acid.
Vitamin B12 is involved in making red blood cells and keeping the nervous system healthy, releasing energy from food, using folic acid. Good sources include meat, salmon, cod, milk, cheese, eggs, some fortified breakfast cereals.
Beta-carotene gives yellow and orange fruit and vegetables their colour. It’s turned into vitamin A in the body, so it can perform the same jobs in the body as vitamin A.
Good sources of beta-carotene: yellow and green (leafy) vegetables – such as spinach, carrots and red peppers, yellow fruit – such as mango, papaya and apricots
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) has several important functions: helping to protect cells and keeping them healthy, maintaining healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage, helping with wound healing. Good sources include oranges and orange juice, red and green peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, potatoes
Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy
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, as the body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors. Vitamin D is also found in oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel, red meat, liver, egg yolks.
In the UK, cows’ milk is generally not a good source of vitamin D because it isn’t fortified, as is the case in some other countries.
Vitamin E helps maintain healthy skin and eyes and strengthens the body’s natural defence against illness and infection (the immune system).
Vitamin E is found in a wide variety of foods: plant oils such as soya, corn and olive oil, nuts and seeds, wheatgerm, found in cereals and cereal products
Vitamin K is needed for blood clotting, which 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 and in vegetable oils
Calcium has several important functions: helping build strong bones and teeth, regulating muscle contractions, including your heartbeat, making sure blood clots normally
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 eaten with the bones such as sardines and pilchards
Chromium is thought to influence how the hormone insulin behaves in the body. This means chromium may affect the amount of energy we get from food.
Good sources of chromium include meat, wholegrains such as wholemeal bread and whole oats, lentils, broccoli, potatoes, spices.
Cobalt makes up part of vitamin B12. Good sources of cobalt include: fish, nuts, green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, cereals such as oats.
Copper helps produce red and white blood cells, trigger the release of iron to form haemoglobin, the substance that carries oxygen around the body
Good sources of copper: nuts, shellfish, offal.
Iodine helps make thyroid hormones, which in turn help keep cells and the metabolic rate (the speed at which chemical reactions take place in the body) healthy.
Good food sources of iodine include sea fish, shellfish, plant foods, such as cereals and grains, but the levels vary depending on the amount of iodine in the soil where the plants are grown.
Iron is important in making red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body.
Good sources of iron include liver (but avoid this during pregnancy), meat, beans, nuts, dried fruit such as dried apricots, wholegrainssuch as brown rice, fortified breakfast cereals, soy bean flour, most dark-green leafy vegetables such as watercress and curly kale.
Magnesium is a mineral that helps turn the food we eat into energy and ensures the parathyroid glands, which produce hormones important for bone health, work normally.
Magnesium is found in a wide variety of foods, including green leafy vegetables such as spinach, nuts, brown rice, bread (especially wholegrain), fish, dairy products.
Manganese helps make and activate some of the 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, probably the biggest source of manganese for many people, bread, nuts, cereals, green vegetables such as peas and runner beans.
Molybdenum helps make and activate some of the proteins involved in chemical reactions (enzymes) that help with repairing and making genetic material.
Molybdenum is found in a wide variety of foods. Foods that grow above ground tend to be higher in molybdenum than foods that grow below the ground, such as potatoes or carrots. Nuts, tinned vegetables, cereals such as oats, peas, leafy vegetables including broccoli, spinach and cauliflower are high in molybdenum.
Phosphorus is a mineral that helps build strong bones and teeth and helps release energy from food. Good sources include red meat, dairy foods, fish, poultry, bread, brown rice, oats.
Potassium is a mineral that helps control the balance of fluids in the body and also helps the heart muscle work properly.
Good sources of potassium include fruit such as bananas, some vegetables such as broccoli, parsnips and Brussels sprouts, pulses, nuts and seeds, fish, beef, chicken, turkey.
Selenium helps the immune system work properly as well as in reproduction. It also helps prevent damage to cells and tissues. Good sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, fish, eggs.
Zinc helps with: making new cells and enzymes, processing carbohydrate, fat and protein in food, wound healing.
Good sources of zinc include meat, shellfish, dairy foods such as cheese, bread cereal products such as wheatgerm.