Have you ever wondered how different is the food on your plate every day? or you simply fell into the trap of eating the same meals a day in and day out?
If you don’t know why paying attention to diversity and balance of your diet is important, let me tell you a true story:
every single component of your body has its own job to perform in cooperation with others. for example, during digestion, breaking down complex ingested foods into simple molecules that can be absorbed into the blood and utilized by the body, is a process that requires some raw materials to assure these functions.
These raw materials include vitamins, minerals, and other components that your body cannot manufacture on its own in sufficient amounts. Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients and your body cannot function properly without them.
the best way to get the vitamins and minerals you need is through food. Therefore, if you want to offer your body a mix of vital nutrients that collectively meet its needs, you should opt for a healthy balanced diet.
A balanced diet is not one that is only rich in fruits and vegetables but must also contain plenty of other elements including whole grains and legumes.
Through this article, we will introduce different types of vitamins and minerals your body needs and explain their role and importance. We will also show you where to get them, in what quantities and how to have a healthy balanced diet.
Vitamins are organic compounds needed by the body in small quantities for the proper functioning of its metabolism. They cannot be synthesized in the organism, either at all or not in sufficient quantities, and therefore should be obtained through food.
Your body needs 13 essential vitamins which are:
- Vitamin A
- B Vitamins (Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic acid (B5), Pyridoxine (B6), Biotin (B7), Folic acid (B9) and Cobalamin (B12))
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
Let’s discover them together.
Vitamin A is good for healthy skin, vision, bones, teeth and soft tissues in the body. It helps with the formation of T-cells, a type of white blood cell that protects your body from infection, and the maintenance of the immune system and mucus membranes.
Vitamin A also works as an antioxidant, protecting cells from free radical damage and is helpful in the prevention of cancer.
Eggs, fortified milk, cheese, meat, liver, halibut fish oil and cream are good animal sources of vitamin A. It is also found in plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables especially brightly coloured ones which are rich in beta-carotene. Some of these vegetal foods are Cantaloupe, Pink grapefruit, Apricots, Carrots, Pumpkin, Sweet potatoes, Winter squash, Dark green, leafy vegetables and Broccoli.
All 8 B vitamins are water-soluble which means that our body doesn’t store them. Thus, it is necessary to ensure that we are eating sufficient amounts of these vitamins every day.
Vitamin B1 helps prevent complications in the nervous system, brain and heart. It plays an essential role in metabolism by helping convert nutrients into energy. It also boosts the immune system.
Here are some sources of B1:
brown rice, whole-wheat bread, beef, liver, dried milk, nuts, oats, oranges, eggs, seeds, legumes, green peas and yeast.
Vitamin B2 plays a vital role in maintaining the body’s energy supply as it helps break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. It also acts as an antioxidant.
Foods rich in Vitamin B2 include Almonds, avocado, fortified tofu, eggs, nuts, dairy products, meats, broccoli, brewer’s yeast, Brussel sprouts, wheat germ, wild rice, mushrooms, soybeans, green leafy vegetables and whole-grain and enriched cereals and bread.
Vitamin B3 is involved in metabolism and DNA production and repair. It plays a role in cellular signalling. Among other benefits, B3 can help lower cholesterol, ease Arthritis and boost brain function.
You can find Vitamin B3 in yeast, meat, poultry, redfish (e.g., tuna, salmon), cereals, legumes, and seeds. Milk, green leafy vegetables, coffee, and tea also provide some niacin.
Pantothenic acid (B5):
Like other B vitamins, B5 helps you convert the food you eat into energy. But that’s not all.
Vitamin B5 helps also in synthesizing cholesterol and maintaining a healthy digestive tract. It is involved in the creation of red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. Vitamin B5 is also needed for the proper functioning of the nervous system.
Vitamin B5 is found in broccoli, members of the cabbage family, white and sweet potatoes, whole-grain cereals, mushrooms, nuts, beans, peas, lentils, meats, poultry, dairy products, eggs.
Vitamin B6 is vital for the creation of neurotransmitters for normal brain development. It is involved in amino acid metabolism and red blood cell production. It also helps in keeping the immune and nervous systems working properly.
You can find Vitamin B6 in poultry, fish, eggs, chickpeas, potatoes and bananas.
Vitamin B7 is needed to metabolize fats, carbohydrates and protein. It is good for hair, nail and skin health and is very important during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Foods that are rich in vitamin B7 include sardines, peanuts, cereals bran, baker’s yeast, walnuts, milk, cooked whole eggs mushroom, cauliflower and organ meats.
Vitamin B9 aid in the production of red blood cells and is necessary for the synthesis of DNA. It works with B12 and Vitamin C to help the body digest and utilize proteins. It is said to help increase appetite and stimulate the formation of digestive acids. Also, it helps with tissue growth and cell function.
Foods that contain B9 include beans, citrus fruits, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, beets, cauliflower, lettuce, and asparagus.
Vitamin B12 plays a significant role in neurological function, the formation of DNA and the development of red blood cells.
It is found naturally in animal sources including meat, fish, eggs and seafood. Therefore, if you are on a vegetarian diet, you are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Vitamin D also called “Sunshine Vitamin”, is essential for the absorption and regulation of calcium and phosphorus as well as facilitating the normal immune system. It is important for the growth and the development of bones and teeth. What’s more, it improves resistance against certain diseases such as multiple sclerosis, heart disease and flu.
Research has also shown that Vitamin D may help in reducing depression and regulate mood.
Although you can get vitamin D through certain foods and supplements, sunlight is crucial to change the inactive form of vitamin D in your skin to the active form.
Foods that provide vitamin D include fatty fish like tuna and salmon, beef liver, orange juice, soy milk, cereals, cheese and egg yolks.
Vitamin E is a strong antioxidant that helps protect your cells from damage and your skin against ageing. It can also improve the overall scalp and hair health.
Researchers have found that vitamin E may also help in treating a variety of diseases like hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer.
You can find vitamin E in wheat germ, seeds (such as sunflower, safflower, corn, and soybean), green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and broccoli), Nuts (such as almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts/filberts).
Vitamin K is known for healing wounds and plays an important role in blood clotting. It is integral to good bone health, metabolism and regulation of blood calcium levels.
It is generally found in leafy green vegetables, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
Characteristics of minerals :
- The main minerals are calcium, iron, magnesium and sodium.
- They are part of the constitution of most foods.
- Our need for Minerals is covered by a varied and balanced diet.
- A lack of intake can lead to various consequences, more or less serious depending on the mineral in question.
The importance of Minerals:
Minerals account for 4% of an individual’s total mass. They are components of enzymes, hormones and vitamins.
Magnesium, calcium, iron, copper, zinc, sodium, selenium, all these minerals are found in the diet and are vital for humans.
They contribute to the structure of bones and teeth and are associated with the heartbeat, muscle contraction, nerve conduction and the body’s water and acid-base balance.
While calcium helps build the skeleton, iron plays a role in the manufacture and functioning of haemoglobin. Zinc and selenium help protect against free radicals.
In short, they are essential for the proper functioning of our body!
Where can you find some of these minerals in your diet?
Calcium is hidden in dairy products, cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli, almonds and certain waters.
Zinc is found in oysters and calf liver. As for potassium, it is present in parsley, dark chocolate with more than 70% cocoa, spinach or lentils.
So many foods to put on your plate to ensure that you get all these minerals in the recommended quantities.
Health consequences of micronutrient deficiencies:
According to the World Health Organization:
“health consequences of micronutrient deficiencies include increased morbidity, mortality due to reduced immune defence systems and impaired physical and mental development. Deficiencies of several mineral elements, particularly iron and iodine, are the basis of health problems in many parts of the world. Nearly 40% of the world’s women are estimated to be anaemic due, to a great extent, to poorly bioavailable dietary iron. Low intakes of Ca, and perhaps Mg, contribute to rickets in children and osteoporosis in women worldwide. Due to inadequate diets, many children are deficient in Fe, Zn, and Cu and other micronutrients, especially in developing countries. One-third of the world’s children fail to reach their physical and mental potentials and many are made vulnerable to infectious diseases that account for half of all child deaths. Nearly 750 million people have a goitre or my edematous cretinism due to iodine deficiency, and almost 2 billion people have inadequate iodine nutrition. These nutritional deficiencies decrease worker productivity and increase the rates of disease and death in adults. Many result from diets that may also involve insufficient intakes of Cu, Cr and B.”
How to diversify your diet for healthy nutrition?
Are you now wondering what types of food to eat to ensure that you are getting an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals? Eventually, The best way to get enough of these essential elements is to eat a balanced diet from a variety of foods.
There is no single superfood that contains all the necessary nutrients for your overall health and wellness. If you want to ensure that you are consuming adequate amounts of all essential nutrients, you have to eat a balanced diet filled with a wide range of foods. Otherwise, you will be missing out on the potential for many health benefits.
And that is why, in the following, we will introduce a list of 11 food components that you need to include in your diet.
We have classified food components into 11 categories. Each group has approximately the same characteristics and roughly the same chemical components.
Some types of cereals:
the first group is that of cereals. It mainly includes hard and soft wheat, barley, maize, oats, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and spelt (a spice of wheat). Even Canary grass had been previously consumed by humans and it was a very important food component.
Cereals contain starch:
Cereals are characterized by the fact that they all contain starch which is a compound sugar. From a nutritional point of view, it is a very important element as it slowly breaks down to give the body glucose, fills the digestive tract and helps to protect the colon against cancer.
Why cereals bran is important:
the second common component of this group is the bran that comes from the husks of the seeds. It contains phytoestrogens and fibres that are characterized by legnans (enterolactone, enterodiol). Legnans are known for their benefits on women’s hormonal regulation and are associated with a lower risk of breast cancer as well.
What vitamins and minerals can you find in cereals?
Cereals also contain 2 types of vitamins which are Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and B3 (Niacin) but also a little bit of Pantothenic acid (B5) and pyridoxine (B6). They also contain some minerals such as zinc, iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese. But, they are very rich in chromium which is extremely important for diabetes. Without forgetting to mention 10% to 12% of proteins.
Legumes (lentils and beans):
What are legumes?
this group includes broad beans, soybean, chickpeas, green peas, lentils, green beans, and even groundnuts. Although groundnuts are generally classified among dried fruits, they have the same particularities of legumes in terms of vitamin B9, molybdenum, proteins and fat, just like soybeans. Except that, Omega 3 is a distinguishing component of soybeans. However, it should be consumed in moderation because any excess is directly associated with thyroid dysfunction.
What are the characteristics of legumes?
Legumes are characterized by a high concentration of protein ranging from 20% to 22% as well as another metal which is molybdenum. Molybdenum is an activator of the enzyme sulphate oxidase that helps your body get rid of sulphur compounds. In case you don’t know what are sulphur compounds, let me tell you that they are toxic and harmful for your liver.
Legumes also contain Soluble fibres. In contact with liquids, these fibres take on the appearance of a gel that is gentle on the intestines and regulates transit. Besides, they have a prebiotic function, providing food reserve and nourishment for the bacteria of the intestinal flora, mostly lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, which participate in the regeneration and repair of the mucous membrane. They are also good at decreasing blood cholesterol levels.
Do they present any health risks?
All legumes have quite the same nutritious benefits, so feel free to eat the ones that you enjoy the most. However, broad beans are forbidden for people who suffer from favism which is linked to an abnormality, particularly a deficiency of the enzyme glucose-6 phosphate dehydrogenase G6PD, causing problems when ingesting certain substances (beans in particular) and certain drugs.
Yet, if this is not the case for you, then I would highly recommend that you include broad beans in your diet because they are very rich in L-DOPA. Let me please explain: L-DOPA is an amino acid, and it is a precursor to dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps brain cells communicate with one another for better coordination.
On the other hand, The loss of dopamine levels leads to Parkinson’s disease whose main symptoms are trembling of the hands and rigidity. That said, if you want to avert stiffness and tremors, broad beans can be so helpful.
Refined vs non-refined oils:
the third group includes vegetable oils, especially olive oil because it’s the only oil that is not refined, whereas all other commercial kinds are processed. Indeed, they undergo a highly intensive mechanical and chemical process that includes several stages, namely: degumming, neutralization, decolourization, deodorization, and winterization.
This results in Losses of nutritionally viable components such as tocopherol and sterols and leads to the formation of trans fatty acid, increasing the risk of heart disease. Furthermore, The oxidation factor makes these oils more likely to break down into cancer-causing free radicals within the body.
What is a good vegetable oil?
Good vegetable oil is one that is organic, non-refined. It is instead extracted in a much healthier process. A process of first cold-pressed oil. In this process, seeds are not tortured at high temperatures or subjected to harsh chemicals. Therefore, the oil does not lose out on naturally occurring vitamin E or tocopherol. It maintains its levels of essential fatty acids namely omega-3 and omega-6 and is devoid of trans fat and saturated fats.
Truly extra virgin oil has a distinct taste and is very beneficial for your health because it is high in phenolic antioxidants that neutralize free radicals.
The fourth group is that of fruits whether it’s dried or fresh fruits.
Dried fruits are divided into 2 sections: sweet dried fruits which are dates, figs and raisins. They are characterized by directly absorbable sugars and fibres that prevent you from constipation if you consume them regularly. And fatty dried fruits such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashew nuts, pistachios, etc.
generally speaking, fruits have been recognized for their role in preventing deficiencies in vitamin C (fructose) and vitamin A. They are a good source of fibre, enzymes, vitamins and minerals. They contain a lot of, potassium, iron, folate, calcium and magnesium and are a great source of antioxidants, especially polyphenols.
These polyphenols are associated with health benefits such as improved blood flow, better digestive health, decreased oxidative damage and reduced risk of many diseases.
Vegetables provide dietary fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, but no energy because they don’t contain any sugar or protein.
Thus a diet based mainly on vegetables is very convenient for you if you want to lose weight. Vegetables will fill your stomach and nourish you but without adding any extra energy.
Seeds include among others nigella, flax, fenugreek and sesame. They can offer your body a wealth of benefits, such as reducing blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.
They are a great source of fibre and also contain healthy monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, some vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. But, they are most importantly rich in phytoestrogens and phytosterols which are important for hormonal regulation.
Spices like cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, pepper…are not used only to add a nice flavour to your meals. But, they do indeed carry crucial health benefits.
Research has proven that they also have therapeutic and medicinal properties. they are known for their anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory activities as well.
Spices contain certain molecules such as flavonoids and polyphenols, which stimulate other molecules and push them to be more active to generate more effect.
Did you know that cow’s milk is not recommended for humans, especially people with O blood group? And that goat, sheep and camel’s milk is of better quality than cows’ milk?
Drinking cow’ milk can make you struggle with digestive issues if you have lactose intolerance because it contains a high level of lactose.
Generally, dairy products naturally contain essential nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, protein, potassium, vitamins A, B2, B3 and B12, and magnesium.
fish meat is classified with the vegetable world. It is a good source of minerals and proteins. It contains no saturated fat or cholesterol and is rich in omega 3, iodine and vitamins D and B12 as well as tryptophan and selenium.
Meat is an excellent source of animal protein with a balanced amino acid composition. On average, they account for 20% of the total weight of the product. The lipid content varies with the type of meat (from 3 to 23%).
In addition to its high iron content, meat is one of the best dietary sources of zinc, with both high levels (2 to 7 mg/100g). Meat is also a major source of selenium, vitamins PP, B6 and especially vitamin B12.
However, science has discovered for a while that eating meat, including “white meat” is bad for you. It presents a lot of health risks such as significantly increasing your risk of cancer, of heart disease and diabetes.
Therefore, you would better replace animal sources of vitamins and minerals by vegetal ones.
It is customarily assumed that the intake of essential elements is primarily covered by foods and that water’s main function is hydration of the body.
However, water is highly variable in mineral contents. It can provide up to 20% of the required total daily intake of calcium and magnesium relative to that provided by food. For the majority of other micronutrients, drinking water provides up to 5% of total intake.
Thus minimum desirable levels in drinking water should be considered necessary, especially that water represents up to 60% of our bodies.
Is the overconsumption of vitamins and minerals good for my health?
unlike what you may think, excess of vitamins and minerals is indeed not harmless, it can be just as detrimental to your life as nutritional deficiencies. your body needs different vitamins in different concentrations.
For example, an overdose of vitamin E (>1000 mg/ day), which is mainly found in fats, causes fatigue and blood clotting which results in an increased likelihood of haemorrhage for some individuals. This is the less needed vitamin for your body. Only trace amounts are sufficient.
Likewise, doses larger than 20 mg of iron may cause stomach upset, constipation and blackened stools and can be very toxic for kids under 6 years old. While doses larger than 400 mg of Magnesium may cause diarrhoea.
Here is a list of daily allowances of some vitamins and minerals as recommended by various health experts.
|Vitamins||Recommended Daily Intake||Minerals||Recommended Daily Intake|
|30 µg||Zinc||15 mg|
|400 µg||Calcium||1000 mg|
|Vitamin A||600 µg||Iodine||150 µg|
|Vitamin B1 (thiamin)||1,4 mg||Iron||15 mg|
|Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)||1,6 mg||Magnesium||350 mg|
|Vitamin B3 (niacin)||18 mg||Manganese||5 mg|
|Vitamin B5 (patothenic acid)||6 mg||Phosphorus||1000 mg|
|Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)||2 mg||Potassium||3500 mg|
|Vitamin B12 (cobalamine)||6 µg||Selenium||35 µg|
|Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)||75 mg||Sodium||2400 mg|
|Vitamin D (cholecalciferol)||5 µg||Chlorine||3400 mg
(in chloride form)
|Vitamin E (tocopherol)||10 mg||Chromium||120 µg|
|Vitamin K||80 µg||Copper||2 mg|
Vitamins and minerals are essential micronutrients to convert food into energy. They help heal wounds, shore up bones, and bolster your immune system. They also repair cellular damage.
In a nutshell, they are considered crucial nutrients for good health and they are found in many foods. Therefore, a diversified and rich diet that includes different food components is crucial to guarantee an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals.