Micronutrients: getting the vitamins and minerals you need

Eating a healthy balanced diet should ensure that the body gets all the vitamins and minerals it needs to function well. But our genetic make-up can affect our ability to absorb and use specific micronutrients. By adapting our diets and supplementing when necessary we can boost levels of the vitamins and minerals we need and optimize our health, fitness and sporting performance.

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How to boost your levels?

 

Omega-3

Fish, and especially oily fish, are rich sources of Omega-3. Mackerel, salmon, tuna and crab will boost your intake whether they're fresh, frozen or canned.

Omega-3 can also be found in nuts and seeds such as walnuts and pumpkin seeds, vegetable oils like rapeseed, in green leafy vegetables and in soya and all soya products.

Supplements have been popular for many decades, with a spoonful of cod liver oil being essential in many households. Supplements usually use Omega 3 extracted from fish oils, however vegan supplements are also available which use sea algae as a source.

 

Vitamin D

The human body can make all the vitamin D it requires from sunlight. But lives spent inside, gloomy northern European climates and careful sun-protection can mean that many of us have insufficient exposure.

Foods rich in vitamin D are oily fish, all forms of dairy produce and liver. It can be difficult to increase your vitamin D levels through diet alone, so sometimes supplements may be necessary.

 

The B Vitamins

Thiamine (B1)

Thiamine is found in a wide variety of foods. Good sources include wholegrain in bread, fortified breakfast cereals and brown rice. Legumes such as peas and lentils and red meat, liver and egg yolks are good B1 providers.

 

Riboflavin (B2)

The body can only store tiny amounts of stored of B2 and gets rid of any excess in the urine, so it needs to be eaten daily. Milk, cheese, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals and rice are good sources. But remember that Riboflavin is destroyed by UV light so keep produce away from sunlight.

Niacin (B3)

Niacin is found in foods rich as protein such as meat, fish, dairy produce and eggs. Vegans can boost their levels with legumes, potatoes and wheat flour.

 

Pyridoxine (B6)

B6 is present in a variety of food sources: whole grains and fortified cereals, meats such as offal and pork as well as poultry and fish.

Cyanocobalamin (B12)

Rich sources of B12 include meat and liver, salmon and cod, egg yolks, poultry and dairy produce.

 

Folic acid (B9)

Small amounts of folate are found in many foods and it is often added to bread and cereals to increase levels. Good sources include red meat and offal, chick peas or peas and green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, brussel sprouts and asparagus.

 

The Antioxidants

 

Vitamin C

Our bodies can’t make Vitamin C so it is an essential nutritional component. Fortunately it is found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. Great sources include citrus fruits and juices, peppers and tomatoes, strawberries and blackcurrants, broccoli, brussel sprouts and the humble spud.

 

Vitamin E

Some of the richest sources of Vitamin E are plant oils including soya, corn and olive oil. It is also plentiful in nuts and seeds and wheat germ (which is used in cereals and cereal products). Green leafy vegetables such spinach and chard or an avocado will also top up your vitamin E.

 

Beta-carotene

Beta-carotene is responsible for giving fruits and vegetables their orange colour, so pick foods with a tangerine hue to increase your beta carotene intake. Sweet potatoes, carrots, squash and dried apricots are all rich sources. Peppers, lettuce and kale are also great and spices such as paprika and cayenne will add micronutrients as well as flavour.

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