It is important to understand that simply monitoring calories and the major macronutrients will not necessarily promote overall good health. For this, individuals must look at the micronutrients commonly referred to as minerals and vitamins. Ensuring that the daily requirements of these nutrients are met is also imperative to keeping up energy levels, promoting proper body functioning and fighting off infection and disease. The most important vitamins for overall health and function include:
The primary reason to take vitamin B1 is to help the body to make use of the carbohydrates ingested on a daily basis, utilising the nutrient for energy. Another main purpose for vitamin B1 is to encourage a healthy nervous system where it can help the body’s cells and nerves to properly send and receive signals. Vitamin B1 can be found in sunflower seeds, lentils, black beans and yellowfin tuna.
Riboflavin assists in the breaking down and processing of the three macronutrients – fats, carbs and protein – as well as promotes a health skin complexion. One of the best sources of vitamin B2 is calf’s liver, which can supply more than 100 percent of an individual’s daily needs. However, since many people do not jump at the opportunity to eat this food, one glass of milk can provide almost 30 percent of an individual’s daily vitamin B2 needs.
Vitamin C is one of the most widely recognised vitamins for its key role in helping to prevent and fight off colds. It has specific antioxidant properties that can help to keep the immune system safe from free radicals, and it is important for properly maintaining the connective tissues throughout the tendons and cartilage in the body. Most people think of orange juice as a good source of vitamin C, but oranges fall behind papaya, red bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and strawberries.
Biotin allows the body to maximise the use of the other nutrients it receives, helping people to maintain their red blood supplies. Since the body relies on red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body, it is particularly important for individuals who participate in regularly exercise and physical activity. Unfortunately, biotin is not found in high amounts in many foods, so individuals may consider taking a multivitamin to ensure that they receive the proper amounts of this nutrient. In lower amounts, biotin can be found in almonds, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, Swiss chard, legumes and liver.
Folic acid is particularly important for females who are attempting to become pregnant or for women who are currently expecting as it is known to help to prevent neural tube defects in babies. Additionally, folic acid can help to prevent anaemia and assist in the reproduction of new cells in the body. One cup of lentils can provide almost 90 percent of an individual’s daily needs, but other sources for folic acid include black beans, spinach, asparagus and pinto beans.
Also known as retinol, vitamin A primarily helps to ensure healthy vision and assist the body in keeping the immune system strong as it vitamin A is particularly important for the development of the mucous membrane. It also plays a role in bone growth, so vitamin A is especially vital for children and young adolescents. One of the best sources of vitamin A are carrots; a single cup can supply more than 600 percent of an individual’s daily needs. Other sources include turnips, winter squash, sweet potatoes and spinach.
Often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” as individual's can often manufacture vitamin D when in direct sunlight, this vitamin helps the body to absorb phosphorus and calcium, helping to ensure that the bones grow healthy and strong. Aside from natural sunlight, vitamin D is mainly found in fortified milk as well as whole eggs, shrimp and salmon.
Finally, vitamin K is important to ensure that the body’s blood clots when necessary. If an individual cuts himself or herself and is lacking in vitamin K, he or she may suffer from severe bleeding that could result in additional complications. One cup of kale can provide more than 1,000 percent of an individual’s daily needs of vitamin K, but other good sources include romaine lettuce, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and spinach.
If an individual is lacking in any of the above vitamins, he or she may first consider taking a multivitamin to ensure proper body function. However, it may be more beneficial to first consume more vitamin-rich foods to help to promote overall health as the likelihood of eating too much of any vitamin from whole foods is rare, but overdosing from supplements can occur.