For Health’s Sake – Know Your ABCs

Make sure you’re getting all the good stuff — for the sake of your health.

Vitamins and minerals are considered essential nutrients, but do you know where to begin when it comes to getting exactly what your body needs? Read on to find out what some of the most important vitamins can do for your overall wellness.

Vitamin A
Vitamin A refers to a group of substances known as retinoids, which are essential for a number of processes in the body. Vitamin A helps to maintain your vision and the proper function of the immune system. Pregnant women, in particular, can benefit from a vitamin A supplement as it aids the growth and development of unborn babies. Some Vitamin A products like retinol and Retin-A help keep your skin looking younger and smoother with the added benefit of boosting collagen.

Some natural sources include red peppers, carrots and spinach.

Vitamin B
Vitamin B complex includes eight vitamins, which play an important role in maintaining your general health and wellbeing. This group of vitamins can affect your metabolism, brain function, and energy levels while helping to prevent infections. They are especially important for pregnant and breastfeeding women and can even reduce the risk of birth defects.

Vitamin B can be found in many foods, including milk, eggs, avocados, beans and leafy greens.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is well-known for its many benefits. It cannot be produced by the body and is water-soluble, which should be consumed daily. Found in a broad range of fruits and vegetables, vitamin C is an antioxidant that may strengthen the immune system — it promotes the production of white blood cells, which are responsible for protecting the body from infection.

Foods high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers, strawberries and broccoli.

Vitamin D
Fat-soluble and naturally produced by the body, vitamin D helps regulate the body’s ability to absorb calcium and phosphorus. This, in turn, helps to maintain the proper function of the immune system. Vitamin D is also important for the growth and development of bones and teeth.

Get your fix naturally by eating oily fish like salmon and sardines, mushrooms, and fortified juices and cereals.

Vitamin E
A powerful antioxidant, vitamin E can help protect the body’s cells from harmful free radicals and promote immune function. Many people choose to take vitamin E supplements for their ability to benefit skin health — the vitamin is often used to address issues like eczema, psoriasis and stretch marks, as well as some of the effects of sun damage.

Vitamin E can be found in various foods, including sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, spinach and pumpkin.

Vitamin K
Vitamin K helps to promote bone and heart health and also plays a key role in blood clotting. It’s found naturally in leafy greens like kale and Swiss chard, as well as in broccoli and green beans. Other natural sources include kiwi, soft cheeses, and avocado.

Folic acid
Folic acid plays an important part in producing and maintaining new cells. A synthetic form of folate, folic acid is water-soluble, and because the body cannot produce folate on its own, it needs to be included in your diet. It is also used in the treatment of anaemia. Some good sources include leafy greens like kale and spinach, as well as avocados, chickpeas and kidney beans.

Iron performs many important functions in the body and is essential for growth and development, and if you have ever had an iron deficiency — a common issue — you’ll know that it can cause unpleasant symptoms like fatigue and problems with concentration. Supplements can be beneficial for those particularly prone to low iron levels, but you can also get your fix from dark leafy vegetables, beans, red meat and seafood.

Magnesium is extremely important for several bodily processes — it helps regulate blood sugar, plays a role in regulating the nervous system, and even contributes to brain function and mood. Some nutritious sources of the mineral include dark chocolate, tofu, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

An essential nutrient, zinc, is crucial for various processes, including growth and development, wound healing, digestion, and nerve function. The body cannot produce or store it, which means that it’s important to get enough of it from food sources. Fortunately, zinc can be found in many foods — these include shellfish, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and certain vegetables, including mushrooms, asparagus and peas.

Moral of the story: go back to basics and eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. A healthy diet that consists of a good range of different food groups can assist in optimising your overall wellbeing.