Vitamins and minerals are small nutrients which are essential for your body to work normally. You can usually get all of these from your food, but it is important to eat a balanced diet to get enough of each type. By knowing which foods contain these nutrients, you can make sure that your body is getting the right amount of each.
Vitamin A helps to maintain your body’s defences against infections (illnesses caused by tiny bugs). It keeps the skin healthy and strengthens other body surfaces such as the inside of the mouth and nose. It is also important for your eyes, particularly for vision at night.
Vitamin A can be found in dairy products (such as milk, cheese and yoghurt) and in eggs. You can also get it from oily fish and liver. Eating lots of red, yellow and green vegetables can also help your body to absorb Vitamin A.
Vitamin C helps to maintain the structure of your body. It keeps bones, blood vessels (arteries and veins) and cartilage (the padding found around joints) strong and flexible. Like vitamin A, it is also important for the skin, and encourages wounds to heal if you cut or burn yourself.
To get enough vitamin C, you must eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Oranges, leafy green vegetables, potatoes, and peppers are particularly rich in vitamin C.
Vitamin D is important for bones, muscles and teeth. In children, a lack of vitamin D can lead to bone problems such as rickets (where the bones become soft and bendy).
Your skin makes vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight, and for most people this is enough to maintain healthy stores. However, vitamin D can also be found in red meat, oily fish, and egg yolks.
Calcium is a mineral which is important for strengthening bones and teeth. It also helps your blood to clot, which prevents bleeding if you cut your skin. Your muscles, and especially your heart, also need calcium to help them function normally.
You can get calcium from dairy products, nuts, soya beans, and green vegetables.
Iron is an essential part of your blood and allows oxygen to be carried around the body to supply muscles. Not having enough iron in your diet can make you feel tired and short of breath, and you might start to look pale.
Iron is found in meat (especially liver), nuts, beans, wholegrains (like brown rice) and dark green leafy vegetables.
You can see that most foods you eat contain some of these essential nutrients. By eating a variety of the foods mentioned here, you can make sure that your body is taking in enough of each vitamin and mineral. This can have significant health benefits; from strengthening bones to reducing the risk of infections.