Health Action: Good Sources of Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are essential for growth and health, and certain vitamins play a key role in preventing disease. Requirements for some of these elements depend on gender, stage of life, and age. For example, women planning a pregnancy or in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy are advised to take folic acid at the recommended dose to help prevent neural tube defects in the fetus. Most vitamins and all minerals have to come from food or supplements because they are not produced in the body. Some vitamins are toxic if consumed in excess. For example, pregnant women should avoid foods that contain high levels of vitamin A because of potential harmful effects on the fetus.

Eating for health

The body needs vitamins and minerals to stay healthy, although the exact daily requirements for the various vitamins and minerals may differ according to factors such as stage of life and gender.

Vitamins and minerals Good sources Effects
Vitamin A Calves’ liver, eggs, carrots, melon
  • Important for healthy eyes, hair, skin, and bones

  • Can be toxic in excess

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Meat, whole grains, peas, fortified cereals and breads
  • Helps in energy production

  • Essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) Eggs, meat, milk products, leafy vegetables
  • Involved in the release of proteins from nutrients

  • Helps to maintain the nervous system and muscles

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Fish, whole grains, peanuts, peas
  • Essential for the utilization of energy from food

  • Helps to maintain healthy skin

Vitamin B6 Meat, fish, whole grains, bananas
  • Necessary for blood formation

  • Helps to regulate the cells in the nervous system

Vitamin B12 Milk, fish, meat, eggs, yeast extract
  • Vital for the growth of blood cells in the bone marrow

  • Essential for a healthy nervous system

Vitamin C Many fruits and vegetables
  • Helps maintain healthy tissues

  • Helps the body to use iron

Vitamin D Dairy products, oily fish, also formed in the skin by sunlight
  • Enhances calcium absorption for strong teeth and bones

  • Can be toxic in excess

Vitamin E Vegetables, eggs, fish, margarine
  • Protects tissues and organs against degenerative disease

  • Can be toxic in excess

Vitamin K Leafy green vegetables, pigs’ liver, also formed by intestinal bacteria
  • Essential for proper blood clotting

  • Necessary for bone formation

  • Can be toxic in excess

Folic acid Leafy green vegetables, organ meats, whole grains, fortified bread, nuts
Calcium Tofu, sardines, milk, cheese, yoghurt, sesame seeds
  • Necessary for healthy bones, teeth, and muscles

  • Helps with conduction of nerve impulses

Iron Eggs, meat, leafy green vegetables, pulses, fortified cereals
  • Aids formation of red blood cells and certain proteins

  • Maintains healthy muscles

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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