Vital vitamins

  • By
    Jo Lewin - Nutritional therapist

Don't turn to a pot of pills for a health boost - nutritionist Jo Lewin divulges what different vitamins do and how to get all you need naturally.

Vitamin ACarrots

Vitamin A is essential for growth and cell development, vision and immune function, healthy skin and hair. It protects against infections and is a powerful antioxidant, so helps prevent disease.

How can I get it?
Two or three raw carrots would provide you with your recommended daily allowance (RDA). Other good sources include, animal products such as liver, oily fish, eggs, milk, cheese, butter, broccoli, dark green leafy vegetables, sweet red peppers, pumpkins, mangoes, cantaloupe melons and apricots.

 

sunshineVitamin D

Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and is thought to possibly slow the progression of osteoporosis. It is also believed to strengthen the immune system and help prevent some cancers. It helps muscle function and works with vitamins A and C in the immune system.

How can I get it?
Vitamin D is manufactured mainly by the skin when it's exposed to sunlight. You should be able to get your recommended amounts by spending 15-30 minutes outside in the sun each day. Half a small can of sardines should also supply the RDA. Other good sources include herrings, salmon, tuna, dairy produce and eggs.

 

Vitamin EBaked eggs with spinach & tomato

Vitamin E is an antioxidant needed for healthy skin, a good strong immune system and a healthy heart.

How can I get it?
A small packet of almonds or peanuts and two teaspoons of sunflower oil would provide the RDA. It is found in all vegetable oils such as sunflower and nut oils, margarine, tuna, salmon, avocadoes, broccoli, almonds, sunflower seeds, eggs, soya and wholegrains, which include oats, rye and brown rice.

 

YogurtVitamin K

Vitamin K is great for building and maintaining healthy, strong bones and essential for helping blood to clot properly.

How can I get it?
Vitamin K can be found in yogurt, egg yolks, fish oils, dairy produce and green leafy vegetables.

 


Vitamin B1Quinoa

Also known as thiamine, vitamin B1 is needed for energy production, carbohydrate digestion, a healthy nervous system and heart function.

How can I get it?
It is found in wholegrain foods such as cereals and bread, oats, rye millet, quinoa, legumes, pork and liver.

 

The health benefits of nutsVitamin B3

Also called niacin, vitamin B3 is good for hormone synthesis, such as insulin the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels in the body and also for thyroxine, serotonin and other mood and brain hormones. It is used in the prevention and treatment of depression, arthritis and circulatory disorders.

How can I get it?
Vitamin B3 is found in foods that are high in protein, such as chicken, beef, fish and nuts. Breads and cereals are often also enriched with niacin.


Vitamin B5Ingredient focus... spinach

Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid, is needed for conversion of fats and carbohydrates into energy and also for supporting the adrenal glands, which regulate the stress response in the body.

How can I get it?
The best sources of B5 are fish, poultry, wholegrains, rye, barley, millet, nuts, chicken, egg yolks, liver and green leafy vegetables.

 

BananasVitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is the 'workhouse' of nutrients, involved in more bodily processes than any other vitamin. It functions primarily as a coenzyme, forming red blood cells, helping cells to make proteins, manufacturing neurotransmitters in the brain and releasing energy. There is also evidence to suggest that it plays a role in preventing and treating many diseases.

How can I get it?
One serving of fortified breakfast cereal with a banana and one large salmon steak would provide the RDA. The main sources include poultry, lean red meat, egg yolks, chickpeas, oily fish, dairy produce, cabbage, leeks, bananas and wheat germ.

 

Folic acidRoasted sprouts with chestnuts & bacon

Folic acid, or vitamin B9, is most famous for its role in helping to prevent neural defects during pregnancy but it is also good for the immune system, energy production and in preventing anaemia.

How can I get it?
Your RDA of folic acid is 400mcg (micrograms). A serving of Brussels sprouts or fortified breakfast cereal each supply 100mcg of folates. A glass of fresh orange juice provides 40mcg and a slice of wholemeal bread provides 15mcg. Other good sources include dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, sprouts, egg yolks, carrots, apricots, oranges, pumpkins and squashes, melons, wholewheat and rye.

 

MilkVitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is needed for growth, the digestive and nervous system, as well as the production of energy and healthy blood cells. After the age of 50, the ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food declines.

How can I get it?
A large glass of milk, an egg or a serving of fortified breakfast cereal will supply the RDA. Animal products are the primary source of B12, these include red meat such as beef, liver and pork, shellfish and other fish, eggs and dairy produce. Vegetarians can also consider seaweed and spirulina.

 

Vitamin CPeach

Vitamin C is required for a strong immune system, a healthy heart, good skin and gums, and helping to preventing diseases like heart disease and cancer and helping wounds to heal properly.

How can I get it?
A small orange, a large peach or a single kiwi fruit provides the RDA. Other good sources are berries, pomegranates, citrus fruits, potatoes, pumpkins, sweet peppers, green leafy vegetables, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach.

 

Zingy salmon & brown rice salad Biotin

Also known as vitamin H, biotin is needed for healthy hair, nails, skin and energy production.

How can I get it?
It's found in Brewer's yeast, liver, soy products, brown rice, nuts, egg yolks and fruit.

 



How your body absorbs and stores vitamins:

Vitamins are absorbed and stored by your body in two different ways, and are either fat soluble or water soluble.

Fat soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E and K. These are absorbed with fat through the intestine and into the blood stream and are stored in the liver.

Water soluble vitamins include Vitamins C, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, Biotin and folate. These vitamins only remain in the body for a short time before being excreted by the kidneys (apart from B12), so you need to keep up your intake.
 

A note on UK dietary recommendationsdietary recommendations

Dietary recommendations for any nutrient are based on the daily intake thought to be adequate to safely satisfy the needs of the majority of the population. Despite much research, values for optimum intakes are still being debated. The Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) measure used in the UK is calculated from studies of the physiological requirements of healthy people, but because these studies are subject to wide interpretation, the RNI value for a nutrient can vary from country to country. Recommended Daily Amounts (RDAs) are said to apply to 'average adults' and are only very rough guides.

Nutritional requirements often vary slightly for specific groups of the population, during pregnancy and old age for example. It is wise to check with your doctor about how much you need.

For more information see the Department for Health website.


All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact  your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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