Vitamins and minerals are essential parts of food. If you eat a variety of foods from the 5 food groups and have a balanced diet, you’ll get all the vitamins and minerals you need. Most people don’t need supplements and also high doses of supplements can cause problems.
The role of vitamins and minerals
The body has thousands of chemical reactions going on in each cell, every second of the day. The cells continually process the proteins, fats and carbohydrates from food.
Vitamins and minerals are essential parts of those chemical reactions. Without them, essential body functions couldn’t take place, but you only need very small amounts of them. Most people can get all the vitamins and minerals they need from a healthy diet.
Do I need supplements?
It’s easy to get all the vitamins and minerals you need from a healthy diet. The exceptions are:
- pregnant women, who should take folic acid and may also be advised by their doctor to take iron and/or vitamin D supplements
- vegans, who may need a B12 supplement and may also need supplements containing Vitamin D, Omega-3 fatty acids and iron
- people with particular medical conditions
Supplements can be dangerous if you take too much of any one. High doses of vitamin C can cause diarrhoea and kidney stones. Too much vitamin A is harmful, especially for pregnant women. You should also be careful with doses of vitamins D and E. Minerals are also harmful in high doses. Most importantly, there is no evidence that supplements of vitamins and minerals make any difference to the health of most people. If you’re not sure about whether or not you need supplements, check with your doctor.
Here’s a list of all the important vitamins and minerals, why they’re important, and what foods you can get them in.
|Vitamin||Why it’s needed||Where it’s found|
|Vitamin B1 (thiamin)|
|Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)|
|Vitamin B3 (niacin)|
|Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)|
|Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)|
|Folate (vitamin B9)|
|Vitamin C||All fruits and vegetables, especially:|
|Minerals||Why it’s needed||Where it’s found|