Necessary Nutrients: How to Eat Your Vitamins and Minerals

Although pills seem like the easy fix for your wellbeing, the truth is there’s no substitute for diet and nutrition wellness. Sure, you need vitamins and minerals to keep your body functioning at its best – after all, these nutrients are essential in building strong bones; improving brainpower, mood, and memory; and possibly helping the immune system ward off ailments both large and small. Still, according to Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, director of the antioxidant research lab at Tufts University, ‘Vitamins should be used only as supplements to the diet, not substitutes for healthy food.’ So let’s take a look at the vitamins you need, and how you can incorporate them into your diet.


1. Calcium: You need this mineral for bone health, which is vital as you age. Therefore, you want 1000mg every day before you turn 50, and at least 1200 thereafter. You want to spread your calcium consumption out throughout the day, as your body can’t absorb more than 500 milligrams of calcium at a time. The best daily menu is an eight-ounce glass of skimmed milk, one cup of yoghurt, one cup of cooked spinach, and one fig.


2. Vitamin D: Not only do you need this vitamin to absorb calcium, a vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, certain cancers, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. Before the age of 50, you should be getting 200IUs every day, and 400-600IUs after that. Your body produces this vitamin when your skin is exposed to sunlight, so you only need to get out in the sun (without sun cream) for 10-15 minutes three times a week. Otherwise, you can get 200IUs from a 3½ ounce serving of salmon, or two cups of fortified milk.


3. Vitamins B6 and B12: These vitamins are vital for the functioning of your blood, nerves, and the immune system, and not getting enough could increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. You need 1.3 milligrams (mg) of B6 and 2.4 micrograms of B12 every day, which you can get from a cup of plain yoghurt and a banana, one ounce of sunflower seeds, and three ounces of roast beef.


4. Folic Acid (Folate): If you’ve ever had a baby, you’ll know how important folate is to your baby’s wellbeing. This B vitamin helps to prevent neural-tube birth defects, such as spina bifida, and deficiencies can increase your risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and stroke. You need 400 micrograms every day, which you can get from a ¾ cup serving of fortified breakfast cereal, or a combination of a cup of peas, a cup of cooked spinach, and about five spears of asparagus.


5. Vitamin C: As you know, vitamin C is good for you immune system, but it also boosts you “good” HDL cholesterol. You need 75-200mg every day, which you can almost get from just one orange. Other food sources include strawberries, red and green peppers, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach and kale.


6. Vitamin E: As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin E is an amazing nutrient, especially with regards to your eye health and the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. You generally need about 22.5IUs a day, but anything up to 150IUs won’t hurt. You can get all you need from a cup of raw broccoli coupled with two ounces of either almonds or sunflower seeds.


7. Iron: Iron-deficiency anaemia is common in women, as you lose a lot of the mineral during your periods, especially if you have heavy ones. To prevent this, you need about 18mg a day, which is best attained through a large spinach salad, a cup of lentil soup, and a small (three-ounce) serving of red meat.

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