Mmmmmmm, there is nothing like the sweet taste of Vitamins and Minerals…. Just kidding! We know Vitamins and Minerals are not known for their yummy taste (except maybe a nice zingy orange Vitamin C sweet). So, why do we love Vitamins and Minerals so much? Why is it so good to have them in our diet? Why is everyone banging on about these nutrients?
Because they are so damn good for us.
Vitamins and Minerals are the essential nutrients we all need in our bodies to keep us thriving. We only need small amounts, but a little bit goes a long way, and without them, we would have big problems.
We have all heard of the big names… Vitamin A. Vitamin C. Vitamin D. Calcium. Iron. Not to mention Vitamins E and K, the B Vitamins, and other important components such as Iodine. But, how much do we really know about exactly what these Vitamins and Minerals do for our body, what would happen without them, and what to do if we aren’t getting enough? It’s time to get these questions answered, so you can give your body what it needs when it needs it.
Here’s everything you need to know about vitamins and minerals...
Why do I need Vitamins and Minerals?
We don’t think about it that much, but every single second of every day our body is working around the clock to keep everything running smoothly. It is keeping our hearts pumping, our legs moving and our brains thinking. Our job is to make sure we put enough of the right stuff into our bodies to keep it going.
In school, we all learned about the importance of having a balanced diet to keep our bodies healthy. For example, it’s important we consume carbohydrates to give us energy. Macronutrients are the nutrients our bodies need, in large amounts, to function - like carbohydrates.
So, what are micronutrients? Micronutrients are like macronutrients, but we only need them in small amounts. Vitamins and Minerals are micronutrients. They are essential for our bodies to function, needed only in small amounts, and without them, we are vulnerable to disease. That’s why Vitamins and Minerals are so important.
What exactly are Vitamins and Minerals?
Vitamins and Minerals are nutrients that exist in plant and animal products. When we consume foods with Vitamins and Minerals in them, they get transferred into our body and help us stay healthy. Vitamins are organic substances. This means plants and animals make them. Minerals are inorganic. This means they are absorbed by plants and animals, who use minerals as we do. In both cases, we can consume Vitamins and Minerals in the foods we eat.
Examples of some of the most important Vitamins are Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, and B Vitamins (Including Vitamin B12). The alphabet names are confusing, but, trust us, they all contain good stuff!
Examples of some of the most important minerals are Calcium, Iron, Iodine, Zinc, Potassium, Magnesium, and Beta-Carotene. These guys sound a little more like materials in a science experiment, but, trust us, they are all great for our bodies too.
How do I get the Vitamins and Minerals I need?
What’s the most common source for our Vitamins and Minerals? The food we eat. What’s the best way to get as many Vitamins and Minerals as possible? A broad and varied diet. Fruit. Veg. Grains. Pulses. Vegan dairy products.
There is so much good stuff in the food we are already eating, you may already be consuming all the nutrients you need. Citrus fruit is a great source of Vitamin C. Plant Oils (like Olive or Sunflower Oil) are brimming with Vitamin E. Green leafy Veg is packed with Calcium. Checking the food packet is a great way of seeing which food items will be the best for you when doing your shopping.
If you have an important Vitamin or Mineral missing from your diet, it may be a good idea to take a supplement. A supplement is a condensed version of that nutrient, usually in the form of a tablet, that you can take daily to ensure you are always getting the right stuff.
What happens if I don’t get the right Vitamins and Minerals?
In everyday life, most of us manage to get all of the Vitamins and Minerals we need in our diets without even thinking about it. However, sometimes there is something missing. This is called a deficiency. The symptoms of a Vitamin or Mineral deficiency vary depending on which Vitamin or Mineral is missing. Here are some of the most common examples…
1. Vitamin D Deficiency: Vitamin D Deficiency can trigger fatigue, muscle and bone pains, mood swings, and even depression.
2. Calcium Deficiency: Calcium Deficiency can provoke muscle spasms, tingling hands and feet, brittle nails, and memory loss.
3. Potassium Deficiency: Potassium Deficiency can cause vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and abnormal heartbeats.
… so now you can see why Vitamins and Minerals are so important! And, these are just a few examples. If you think you may be suffering from a deficiency, it is really important to go to the doctors and work out ways to get the right Vitamins and Minerals in your diet right away.
Can I have too many Vitamins and Minerals?
Annoyingly, getting too many Vitamins and Minerals isn’t good for our bodies either. We only need small amounts of Vitamins and Minerals for them to do their job, and getting too much can cause some nasty symptoms. But, don’t worry too much. You would have to go really out of your way to overdose on nutrients… Just don’t go guzzling to supplements and only take the recommended amount!
Life Hacks for getting all of the Vitamins and Minerals I need as a Vegan…
Even though swapping to a Vegan diet often means eating more healthy greens, fresher tastier foods, and less fatty alternatives, it can mean that we miss out on some of the nutrients from animal products - boohoo. Fortunately, we have got some great news for you. There are some simple life hacks that make sure your vegan lifestyle is brimming with all the right vitamins and minerals. Yippee! So, let us get started…
Missing Vitamin: B12
Life Hack: Buy Fortified Plant Milks, Nutritional Yeast, and Supplements
Vitamin B12 is essential for our body’s nervous system and to make red blood cells. The bad news is it is mainly found in animal products. However, good news for vegans! Nowadays, plant-based milk is often fortified with B12, so pick milk that has this in it. Using nutritional yeast in your food is another super delicious way of avoiding a deficiency.
Missing Mineral: Iron
Life Hack: Eat Dried Beans, Seeds, Nuts, and Green Leafy Veg
Iron is a really important mineral that keeps us growing, and our immune systems running. The problem? The most common sources of Iron eaten today are generally meat, fish, and poultry. So, where can vegans get it? Beans, nuts, pulses, and seeds are all great sources of Iron. So is green leafy veg like spinach and kale. Make sure your diet is packed with these and you will have no problem!
Missing Mineral: Calcium
Life Hack: Green Leafy Veg, Fortified Soya, and Tofu, Sesame Seeds
Calcium is an amazing nutrient that helps our bones and teeth grow strong from a young age, and keep them healthy all our life. But, it is pretty well known that Cow’s Milk is a big name for calcium. But there is still hope for us vegans! Leafy veg and sesame seeds are also great calcium-rich foods. More good news? You can also buy soya and tofu which are fortified with the mineral! So, Vegans, don’t say goodbye to calcium just yet!
These are the key Vitamins and Minerals missing from a Vegan diet. If you have any more worries, ask your doctor! They can help you make sure you are getting everything you need. Our final tip? For peace of mind, there’s nothing wrong with buying a supplement to keep your levels up. If you think you may just not be getting enough of a Vitamin or a Mineral, look into getting a supplement that you know you can always rely on.