Food is one of the greatest pleasures in life, but it also serves (primarily!) to nourish the body. We must eat a balanced diet to maintain bone, immune and organ function and keep our hair and skin healthy. Many of us spend a lot of time thinking about food, but we don’t often spend as much time wondering about the nutritional value of our daily meals.
Eating a healthy, balanced and interesting diet doesn’t have to be expensive or arduous. It’s possible to obtain all the nutrients we need, provided we put a little thought into our meals. This article will look at some of the most important vitamins and the foods they’re in so you can easily incorporate them into your daily and weekly meals.
Why do we need vitamins?
Each vitamin offers certain benefits. For example, certain vitamins support vision maintenance and hair growth; some have anti-inflammatory properties, while others promote bone strength, reproductive and immune function. When we don’t have enough of a vitamin, our body will struggle to carry out those vital functions in the body, so it’s essential that you try to fulfill your body’s daily and weekly needs.
What are the most important vitamins, and what foods contain them?
This vitamin is vital to supporting our vision. The most common dietary form of this fat-soluble vitamin is retinol. Vitamin A also promotes immune function, reproductive health and hair growth. Vitamin A deficiency is rare in developed countries, but it’s more common among those who follow restricted diets limited to white carbohydrates.
Foods that contain substantial amounts of Vitamin A include beef liver, sweet potato, spinach, carrots, cantaloupe and red peppers. To easily consume these in your diet, add peppers to your pasta and stir-fries, snack on cantaloupe, and add spinach to salads or use in place of iceberg lettuce in burgers.
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is necessary to help your body metabolise macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats) and is vital in the creation of red blood cells. Most people get enough B6 in their diet since it is found in soya, pork, poultry, peanuts, oats, bananas, and milk, but if you’re vegan and don’t eat much soya, then it’s a good idea to seek additional B6 in your multivitamin.
If you’re vegan or plant-based, you’ll likely have to take B12 supplements as this is the only vitamin you won’t find naturally in a vegan diet. Vitamin B12 is also known as cobalamin, and it is an essential vitamin that the body requires from food as it cannot produce it naturally.
Vitamin B12 helps the body produce red blood cells, preventing anemia. It can also promote bone health and prevent osteoporosis.
Foods that contain B12 include animal liver and kidneys, beef and seafood like tuna, sardines and clams. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you can find plenty of plant-based foods fortified with Vitamin B12. Plant milk, vegan cheeses, meat substitutes and cereals are all decent vegan sources of B12. If you’re not a big fan of any of these, make sure you take a supplement.
This water-soluble vitamin is well-known for supporting immune function, bone health and even good skin. The human body can’t produce or store vitamin C, so it’s important to consume enough of it regularly.
Some foods with the highest amount of Vitamin C include chilli peppers, yellow and red peppers, broccoli, acerola cherries, kale and Kakadu plums.
Often called the sunshine vitamin, this vitamin is produced when our skin comes into contact with sunlight. Vitamin D comes from a family of compounds that includes vitamins D-1, D-2, and D-3. It’s fat-soluble, meaning that it’s better absorbed into the bloodstream when we eat them with high-fat foods.
Vitamin D regulates the body’s levels of phosphorus and calcium, which promotes healthy bone growth. Vitamin D supports the absorption of these minerals from the food we eat, regulates and boosts the immune system.
Foods that contain moderate amounts of Vitamin D include fish like tuna, salmon, herring and sardines, egg yolks and mushrooms. Certain cereal, oatmeal and orange juice brands fortify their products with Vitamin D. However, only a small number of foods contain Vitamin D, and most people don’t get enough Vitamin D from just sunlight. It’s also important to note that few foods are naturally high in Vitamin D, so supplements may be necessary.
This fat-soluble antioxidant helps to prevent our bodies from cell damage. Our bodies also need Vitamin E to maintain good immune function so we can fight off viruses.
Foods containing good amounts of Vitamin E include sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, almonds, vegetable oils, spinach and broccoli.
This vitamin plays an important role in maintaining good heart health. Vitamin K is made of two compounds, Vitamin K1 and Vitamin K2. Without Vitamin K, our bodies cannot produce prothrombin, which is needed for blood clotting and bone metabolism. The majority of adults with a relatively balanced diet should get enough Vitamin K in their diets.
The foods with the highest amount of Vitamin K include kale, mustard and collard greens, spinach, broccoli and swiss chard.
There are so many benefits to having a balanced and varied diet. Not only does it keep life a little more interesting, but it also ensures that you get a wide variety of nutrients from each meal. If you eat the same foods every day, you risk becoming deficient in certain vitamins and minerals. For this reason, it’s good to incorporate a wide variety of leafy greens, nuts, legumes and healthy fat sources into your meals. If you know you don’t always eat quite as well as you should, a well-balanced multivitamin should be a part of your daily routine – click here to see our multivitamin, which has been expertly formulated and is perfect for vegans.