Find Your Balance

A well-balanced diet provides most of the vitamins and minerals we need. Here’s what you need to know about the essential nutrients your body needs to stay healthy, and where to find them if your diet is less than perfect.

Everyone knows that a plentiful supply of vitamins and minerals is vital to fuel a strong, healthy body. The golden question is—do we get enough of what we need? Vitamin deficiency should not concern those who eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and get helpings of fresh air and sunshine on a regular basis. However, there are some of us that would benefit from a vitamin supplement boost to bridge any nutritional gap.

Fast Facts

  • There are two types of vitamin: fat-soluble and water-soluble.
  • Fat-soluble vitamins are mainly found in fatty foods including animal fats, dairy products and oily fish.
  • Your liver stores fat-soluble vitamins for future use, so you don’t need to eat foods containing them every day.
  • Fat-soluble vitamins include: vitamins A, D, E and K
  • Water-soluble vitamins are found in fruits, vegetables and grains.
  • Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body, so you need to eat them more frequently.
  • Water-soluble vitamins can be destroyed by heat or exposure to the air, and they can also be lost in water used for cooking.
  • B Vitamins, folic acid and Vitamin C are all water-soluble vitamins.

Your body also needs minerals to build strong bones and teeth, turn the food you eat into energy and control bodily fluids inside and outside your cells. Calcium and iron are two of the most important minerals in our diets. Minerals are found in meat, cereals, fish, milk and diary foods, vegetables, fruit and nuts.

Did You Know?
If you boil your food, you risk losing many of the vitamins stored inside. Keep as many of your water-soluble vitamins as possible by grilling or steaming your food.

The A-Z of Vitamins and Minerals
Here is Dr Hilary’s list of the vitamins you need, what they do in your body and where you can find them:

VITAMIN A
Strengthens the immune system, aids vision in dim light, keeps skin healthy
Oily fish, dairy products

VITAMIN B
Thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folic acid and vitamin B12 are all types of B vitamins, and they all have important functions in the body
Fresh fruit and veg is a great source of B vitamins, as well as wholegrain breads and cereals

VITAMIN C
Helps protect cells, aids wound healing and is necessary for the maintenance of healthy connective tissue
Oranges, red and green peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants

VITAMIN D
Regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are needed for healthy bones and teeth
Oily fish, eggs. We also get a lot of vitamin D from sunlight on our skin.

VITAMIN E
Maintains healthy skin, eyes and strengthens the immune system
Plant oils e.g. soya, corn and olive oil

VITAMIN K
Essential for blood clotting, which means it helps wounds to heal properly. Some evidence suggests it is also needed for healthy bones and teeth
Green, leafy vegetables, cereal grains

CALCIUM
Builds strong bones and teeth, regulates muscle contractions, ensures blood clots normally
Milk, cheese, broccoli, soya beans, tofu, nuts

IRON
Helps make the red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body
Wholegrains, beans, nuts, dark-green leafy vegetables (e.g. kale), meat, liver

IODINE
Helps make thyroid hormones, which keep the metabolic rate of cells healthy
Iodine is a trace element found in seawater and some types of soil. As such, good sea fish and shellfish are good sources, as well as some cereals and grains.

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