By Louise Jensen
Vitamin A (Retinol and Betacarotene) Essential for good vision, healthy skin, the integrity of mucous membranes, has antioxidant properties and helps to keep the immune system strong. Sources: Liver, oily fish and eggs. Provitamin A (betacarotene) is abundant in dark green leafy vegetables such as watercress, spinach, kale, cabbage, and orange coloured fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potato, squash, mango, apricots and papaya.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) Required for energy production, nerve health and brain function. Sources: Well distributed in wholefoods such as wholegrains, sunflower seeds, avocado, pineapple, peanuts, brazil nuts. Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) Essential for energy production, metabolism, and is important for healthy hair, nails and skin. Sources: Liver, almonds, mushrooms, wholegrains, broccoli, peas, asparagus, soya beans, mackerel.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Required for energy production, metabolism, brain function, regulation of blood sugar and detoxification. Sources: Mushrooms, eggs, fish, peanuts, wholegrains, poultry, tomatoes and asparagus.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) Needed for energy production and aspects of metabolism. Known as an important anti-stress vitamin due to its importance for the adrenal glands. Sources: B5 is present in many different foods. High concentrations are found in liver, poultry, wholegrains, legumes, mushrooms, avocado, sweet potatoes, broccoli and strawberries.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) Required for protein digestion and utilisation, the production of neurotransmitters, hormone production (hence usefulness in PMS), and proper immune function. Sources: Wholegrains, sweet potato, bananas, nuts and seeds, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprouts.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) Needed for DNA synthesis, red blood cell production, nerve health and metabolism of homocysteine (a by-product of metabolism implicated in heart disease and other health problems). Sources: Found in significant amounts only in animal source such as meat and poultry, eggs, fish, cheese, milk and seafood. B12 can be found in some plant foods such as tempeh, seaweeds and blue-green microalgae, although the exact amount, and the body's ability to utilise it, are debatable.
Folic Acid Required for DNA synthesis, red blood cell production, brain and nerve function, homocysteine metabolism (a by-product of metabolism implicated in heart disease and other health problems). Importantly, folic acid is a critical nutrient during pregnancy for the development of the nervous system, with a deficiency linked with birth defects (neural tube defects). Sources: Green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and chard, legumes, avocado, asparagus, broccoli, walnuts, sesame seeds and hazelnuts.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) Required for collagen formation therefore important for healthy skin, bones, joints and arteries. Vitamin C also plays an important role in energy metabolism, strengthening the immune system, neurotransmitters and hormones, is an important antioxidant and has anti-viral and anti-histamine properties. Sources: Broccoli, peppers, watercress, cabbage, strawberries, lemons, kiwi fruit, oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes and brussel sprouts. Vitamin D (Ergocalciferol, Cholecalciferol) Vitamin D is important in maintaining healthy bones, due to its effect on calcium metabolism in the body. Sources: Vitamin D is produced by the action of sunlight on the skin. Food sources include oily fish, butter, egg yolk. Vegetables are low in vitamin D.
Vitamin E (Tocopherol) An important antioxidant, protecting cells in the body from damage and may protect against cancer. Vitamin E also helps the body utilise oxygen, is important for the immune system, and is an important vitamin for fertility. Sources: Cold-pressed plant oils such as virgin olive oil, seeds and nuts, avocado, tuna, sardines and salmon.
Calcium Required for healthy bones and teeth, muscle contraction, healthy nerves and blood clotting, the immune system, and to maintain the correct acid-alkaline balance in the body. Sources: Kale, broccoli, almonds, parsley, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, watercress, dairy produce (especially cheese), tofu, and fish (especially tinned fish with soft bones).
Magnesium Needed for energy production, muscle relaxation, heart and nerve function, energy production, bone health and the immune system. Sources: Tofu, wholegrains, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables.
Zinc is involved in many enzyme systems in the body, essential for growth, DNA synthesis, reproductive health (especially male), the immune system, wound healing and healthy skin. Sources: Oysters, shellfish, fish and meat, pumpkin seeds, ginger root, brazil nuts, egg yolk, wholegrains and almonds.
Iron Needed to form haemoglobin in red blood cells, thus helps transport oxygen around the body. Also required for energy production, DNA synthesis and other enzyme systems in the body. Sources: Red meat and organ meats are a particularly good source of ‘heme' iron, a very absorbable form of iron. Other good sources include fish, kale, broccoli, dried fruit, pumpkin seeds, parsley, blackstrap molasses and almonds.
Manganese Involved in many enzyme systems, including an important antioxidant enzyme. Also important for healthy bones and connective tissue, energy production and maintaining balanced blood sugar levels. Sources: Pecans, walnuts and other nuts, wholegrains, watercress and other dark green leafy vegetables, okra, avocado, blackberries and raspberries.
Selenium Powerful antioxidant which protects against free radicals and may therefore be protective against cancer, heart disease, inflammatory conditions and premature ageing. Selenium is also needed by the immune system and is important to reproductive health (especially in males). Sources: Content in plants varies depending on selenium levels in the soil. Good sources include brazil nuts, tuna, blackstrap molasses, garlic, mushrooms, wholegrains, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.
Chromium Needed for GTF (Glucose Tolerance Factor) which is important for balancing blood sugar, by helping insulin to work properly and effectively. Sources: Generally well distributed amongst whole foods, including wholemeal bread, rye bread, potatoes, wheatgerm, green peppers, blackstrap molasses, chicken, eggs, mushrooms, blueberries and apples.