• Alice Eleanor Matthews

Vitamins, minerals and how to get them

Updated: Feb 13

Hi guys! Welcome to another blog post! This one is a little lengthy, as it is mostly a list of all the vitamins and minerals you need when following either a vegan or non-vegan diet!

Why bother?

  • 2 billion people worldwide are micronutrient deficient.

Mostly from vitamin A, iron and iodine, and are higher in developing countries. However, these are on the rise in developed countries. Mostly due to poor quality diets with high amounts of processed and refined foods.

  • 1-3 million people in the UK are micronutrient deficient.

  • 28 million adults and children in the UK are overweight or obese fuelling type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain forms of cancer - because of their diet!

  • In the UK, 16% of women are iron deficient while more than 10% of men and women have low levels of vitamin D and vitamin B6.

It has been suggested by the Food Foundation that ‘we need to consider how the food system can be incentivised differently to deliver affordable, healthy and sustainable food in favour of cheap, unhealthy and unsustainable food’.


Unless stated, taken from [1].


Eat healthy and take supplements if needed


Try and eat more minimally processed foods more often [2]. Not getting enough of the right foods is a great excuse for people to not want to go vegan, but it seems most people aren’t getting enough of what they need on a omnivore (eats both plant and animal matter) diet.


Please make sure you are eating as healthy and as sustainable as possible - which you can achieve through a whole foods plant based diet (this is what I mean when I say ‘vegan’ diet). I do not recommend eating refined, processed (vegan or non-vegan) foods - these should be eaten rarely, and for a 'treat'. Make simple switches to get started like eating brown rice, instead of white and cooking with wholegrain flour, not white.

As you begin to cut out food groups, it is important that you are not just cutting out food groups, but are actively replacing them.

Going vegan, you may worry that you are not getting the right vitamins and minerals for your diet as you begin to cut out food groups. It is important that you are not just cutting out food groups, but are actively replacing them - people who don't do this tend to feel a lack of energy, and this tends to be one of the main reasons why people revert back to an omnivore diet.


It is also perfectly normal to take supplements. You might be and also for livestock to take supplements in their foods. For example, B12 is not naturally found in animals or plants. It is actually found in soil. Animals get B12 by eating the soil (and their own feces) as well as making it in their gut (as humans do) using Cobalt. Due to declining soil quality from intensive over-farming making the soil deficient in cobalt, and because our vegetables are super-washed (because we would rather not eat soil/manure), vegans don't get enough B12 without supplementation and fortification [8]. Omnivores only get it because the animals have also been given supplements, due to them mostly being factory farmed and not able to get to soil with the added point that soil is low in Cobalt! In fact, around 95% of all B12 supplements manufactured are actually given to farmed animals. So, may as well cut out the middle man right?


Nutritional Needs


Here is a brief overview of all the nutritional requirements as suggested by the British Nutrition foundation, the NHS and notes from my Diploma in nutrition. I have summarised each vitamin including examples of how much that is in terms of food (I find it hard to visualise these things so thought this would be helpful) as well as suggested how you can get enough of each.


Absorption in the body:


Different nutrients are absorbed in the body differently, and thus requires different care when taking supplements for your diet.


A fat soluble vitamins: requires bile acids to help absorb them, but your body keeps stocks of the excess for ready use. Our bodies turn inactive carotenoids from plant foods into vitamins (A, D, E and K). The body will only convert what it needs into the active form. Thus, by eating animal based pre-formed vitamins, you could actually reach toxic levels. By eating plant based fat soluble vitamins, you cannot reach toxicity levels. You can also reach toxicity by taking too much of a supplement. If you take vitamin A, D, K and E supplements, don't take too much as this might be harmful.


Water soluble vitamins: which include all of the B and C vitamins, are easily absorbed into the body. If you consume more of a water-soluble vitamin than you need, the excess will be excreted, not stored. This means the risk of an overdose is low, but you have to constantly replenish your stock.


Overview:


Vitamins and minerals:

  1. Vitamin A

  2. B vitamins and folic acid

  3. Vitamin C

  4. Vitamin D

  5. Vitamin E

  6. Vitamin K

  7. Calcium

  8. Iodine

  9. Iron

  10. Others


1. Vitamin A (retinol)


Helps:

  • Ensure the immune system works properly.

  • With vision in dim light.

  • Keeping skin and lining of the body (nose) healthy.

  • Good for bone growth and reproduction.

How much ?

  • 0.7mg a day for men

  • 0.6mg a day for women

Note: Do not exceed 1.5mg a day!! This will affect your bones making them more likely to fracture when you are older!


Remember, Vitamin A is fat soluble so you don’t need to worry about intake everyday, as it is stored [3].


Sources


One serving of:

  • Medium sweet potato

  • Three heaped tablespoons of butternut squash

  • Three heaped tablespoons of carrot

  • Cereal bowl of fresh spinach or four heaped tablespoons of cooked spinach


OR


Two servings of:

  • Three dried apricots

  • Four heaped tablespoons of kale

  • Slice of cantaloupe melon (2 inches or 5cm wide)

  • Four heaped tablespoons of spring greens

Taken from [4]. These are general guidelines about nutrition. If you have concerns about your diet, please talk to your doctor about seeing a dietitian.


2. B Vitamins and folic acid


These are water soluble, so you need to get these everyday, but you don’t worry about having too much!


Including:

  • Thiamin (vitamin B1)

  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2)

  • Niacin (vitamin B3)

  • Pantothenic acid

  • Vitamin B6

  • Biotin (vitamin B7)

  • Folate and folic acid

  • Vitamin B12

Following sources taken from [6] and all amounts (for ages 19-64) and benefits taken from [3].


Thiamin

- Also known as vitamin B.


Helps:

  • break down and release energy from food

  • keep the nervous system healthy

Sources

Brown rice & whole grains, bread, pasta, oatmeal, brewers and nutritional yeast, legumes, cereals, sunflower seeds, nuts, watermelon, raw wheat germ. [6].


How much?

  • 1mg a day for men

  • 0.8mg a day for women

Riboflavin

- Also known as vitamin B2,

Helps:

  • Keep skin, eyes and the nervous system healthy

  • The body release energy from food.

Sources

Yeast, beans, cereals, whole grains, spinach, broccoli, wheat germ, mushrooms [6].

Note: UV light can destroy riboflavin, so ideally these foods should be kept out of direct sunlight.


How much?

  • 1.3mg a day for men

  • 1.1mg a day for women

Niacin

- Also known as vitamin B3.


Helps:

  • Release energy from the foods we eat

  • Keep the nervous system and skin healthy

Sources

Legumes, brown rice, green vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli.


How much?

  • 16.5mg a day for men

  • 13.2mg a day for women

Pantothenic acid


Helps:

  • Pantothenic acid has several functions, such as helping to release energy from food.

Sources

Whole grain cereals, legumes, mushrooms, peanuts, soybeans, avocados, sunflower seeds, bananas, oranges, cooked collard greens, baked potato, broccoli.


How much?

  • You should be able to get all the pantothenic acid you need from your daily diet, as it's found in many foods.

Vitamin B6

- Also known as pyridoxine,


Helps:

  • Allow the body to use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates in food.

  • Form haemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body.

Sources

Whole grains, peanuts, nuts/legumes, soybeans, walnuts, bananas, watermelon.


How much?

  • 1.4mg a day for men

  • 1.2mg a day for women

Vitamin B7

- Also known as Biotin is needed in very small amounts.


Helps:

  • The body break down fat.

  • The bacteria that live naturally in your bowel are able to make biotin, so it's not clear if you need any additional biotin from the diet.

  • Biotin is also found in a wide range of foods, but only at very low levels.

Sources

Cereals & whole grains, breads, yeast, almonds, peanuts, molasses, legumes.


How much?

  • You should be able to get all the biotin you need by eating a varied and balanced diet.

  • If you take biotin supplements, do not take too much as this might be harmful.

Taking 0.9mg or less a day of biotin in supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.


Folate and folic acid

- Folate is a B vitamin found in many foods. The man-made form of folate is called folic acid.

- Folate is also known as folacin and vitamin B9.


Helps:

  • The body form healthy red blood cells.

  • Reduce the risk of central neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in unborn babies.

Sources

Legumes, lentils, oranges, whole grains, asparagus, spinach, romaine lettuce.


How much?

  • Adults need 200 micrograms of folate a day. (micro is 1000 x smaller than milli and written as μg.

Taking 1mg (1000μg) or less a day of folic acid supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.

If you're taking folic acid supplements, it's important not to take too much as this could be harmful.


Vitamin B12


Helps:

  • Making red blood cells and keeping the nervous system healthy.

  • Releasing energy from food.

  • Using folic acid.

Sources

Nutritional Yeast, B-12 fortified non-dairy milks and cereals and some soy products. Vegan B-12 supplements: VegLife (certified vegan) B-12 supplement, Twin Labs ‘Vegetarian Formula’ B-12 Sublingual Dots, etc.


How much?

  • Adults need about 1.5 μg a day [3].

To get the full benefit of a vegan diet, vegans should do one of the following:

  • Eat fortified foods two or three times a day to get at least three micrograms (mcg or µg) of B12 a day.

OR

  • Take one B12 supplement daily providing at least 10 μg.

OR

  • Take a weekly B12 supplement providing at least 2000 μg.

For more information regarding B12 follow this link here.


3. Vitamin C

- Also known as ascorbic acid, is water soluble.


Helps:

  • Protect cells and keep them healthy.

  • Maintaining healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage.

  • Helping with wound healing.

Sources

Bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, oranges/orange juice, grapefruit, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, turnip greens, spinach, potatoes, melon, berries, papayas, romaine lettuce, watercress, red and green peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants.


How much?

  • 40mg of vitamin C a day.

Taking less than 1,000mg of vitamin C supplements a day is unlikely to cause any harm.


4. Vitamin D

Fat soluble so can be toxic, however that is unlikely in the UK (lol).


Helps:

  • Regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body.

  • These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.

Sources

Sunlight!!

  • Most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight during the months between March/April to September (Questionable in the UK I know..)

  • Vitamin D is created on the skin when hit by direct sunlight. I’m going to give you a great tip: Go outside!

  • Between October and March, in the UK we don’t usually get enough vitamin D from sunlight. But alas, there are some other sources:

Food sources [7]:

  • Mushrooms (Maitake, Portobello, Chanterelle)

  • Tofu.

  • Fortified milks and yogurts such as soy and almond.

  • Fortified Cereals.

  • Vitamin D-2, plant-derived supplements are available (Oral Spray or Capsules).

  • Fortified vegan products contain Vitamin D-2 (ergocalciferol) as opposed to animal-derived Vitamin D-3 (cholecalciferol) [6].

How much?

  • Babies up to the age of 1 year : 8.5 to 10 μg a day.

  • From 1 year and all adults: 10 μg of a day.

Don't take more than 100μg of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful.

For more information about Vitamin D, follow this link here.


5. Vitamin E

Fat soluble.


Helps:

  • Maintain healthy skin and eyes

  • Strengthen the body's natural defence against illness and infection (the immune system).

Sources

Plant oils such as soya, corn ,safflower/vegetable oils, sunflower seeds, raw wheat germ (found in cereals and cereal products), nuts and seeds, peanuts, green leafy vegetables, whole wheat flour, whole grains, spinach.


How much?

  • 4mg a day for men

  • 3mg a day for women

Taking 540mg or less a day of vitamin E supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.


6. Vitamin K

Fat soluble.


Helps:

  • Blood clotting, which means it helps wounds heal properly.

  • There's also some evidence vitamin K may help keep bones healthy.

Sources

Green leafy vegetables – such as broccoli, kale and spinach, vegetable oils, cereal grains [3], turnip greens, parsley, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, soybeans and soybean oil, cabbage, green tea, tomatoes [6].


How much?

  • Adults: 1μg a day for each kg of weight (e.g. if you weighed 60kg you would need 60μg a day).

Taking 1mg or less of vitamin K supplements a day is unlikely to cause any harm.


7. Calcium


Helps:

  • Build strong bones and teeth.

  • Regulating muscle contractions, including your heartbeat.

  • Making sure blood clots normally.

Sources

Broccoli, green leafy vegetables (such as cabbage, broccoli, okra, kale, bok choy, collard and turnip greens), tofu, soy beans, blackstrap molasses, chickpeas, many beans, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, flax seeds, nuts i.e. brazil nuts, dried figs, dried fruit, plant based milks which are fortified in calcium.


How much?

  • 700mg a day for adults.

Taking 1,500mg or less a day is unlikely to cause any harm.


8. Iodine


Helps:

  • Make thyroid hormones, which help keep cells and the metabolic rate (the speed at which chemical reactions take place in the body) healthy.

Sources

Iodine-rich sea vegetables, kelp, vegetables grown in iodine-rich soil.


How much?

  • 0.14mg a day for adults.

Taking 0.5mg or less a day of iodine supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.


9. Iron


Helps:

  • In making red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body.

Sources

Most dark-green leafy vegetables & sea vegetables, legumes/beans, nuts & seeds, blackstrap molasses, dried fruits (e.g dried apricots), watermelon, prune juice, spinach, cereals, whole grains e.g. brown rice, fortified breakfast cereals, soy bean flour.


How much?

  • 8.7mg a day for men over 18

  • 14.8mg a day for women aged 19 to 50

  • 8.7mg a day for women over 50

Notes:

Women who lose a lot of blood during their monthly period (heavy periods) are at higher risk of iron deficiency anaemia and may need to take iron supplements.

Taking 17mg or less a day of iron supplements is unlikely to cause any harm. But continue taking a higher dose if advised to by your GP


10. Others


Beta-carotene


Gives yellow and orange fruit and vegetables their colour. It's turned into vitamin A in the body, so it can perform the same jobs in the body as vitamin A.


Sources

yellow and green (leafy) vegetables – such as spinach, carrots and red peppers

yellow fruit – such as mango, papaya and apricots

Don't take more than 7mg of beta-carotene supplements a day unless advised to by a doctor.


Sodium Chloride

- Also known as Salt and is only needed in small amounts.


Helps:

  • Keep the level of fluids in the body balanced. Chloride also helps the body digest food.

Sources

Celery, beets and milk are a few of the foods where you'll find it naturally.

Processed and packaged and prepared foods, like canned soups, lunch meats and frozen dinners, often have sodium added during manufacturing — either as salt or other common forms of sodium, like baking soda.


How much?

  • You should not exceed 6g of salt (2.4g of sodium) a day.

It is common for people to eat more than this (average is around 8g a day).


Practical tips for cutting down on salt.

  • A few practical tips for cutting down on salt include:

  • Check food labels and choose foods with less salt – where colour-coded labels are used, try to pick products with more greens and ambers, and fewer reds, for a healthier choice.

  • Choose tinned vegetables and pulses with no added salt

  • Choose tinned fish in spring water rather than brine

  • Only use sauces – like soy sauce, brown sauce, ketchup and mayonnaise – sparingly, as these are often high in salt

  • Eat fewer salty snacks, such as crisps, salted nuts and salty foods such as bacon, cheese, pickles and smoked fish

  • Add less or no salt when cooking – use herbs and spices for flavour instead

  • Choose low-salt stock cubes, or make your own stock without added salt

  • Taste your food first, and don't automatically add extra salt

Cobalt

- Cobalt makes up part of vitamin B12.


Sources

Nuts, green leafy vegetables – such as broccoli and spinach, cereals – such as oats.


How much?

  • Cobalt is a major part of vitamin B12. So if you get enough vitamin B12, you'll also get enough cobalt.

  • Adults need approximately 1.5 μg of vitamin B12 a day.

Having 1.4mg or less a day of cobalt supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.


Magnesium


Helps:

  • Turn the food we eat into energy.

  • Make sure the parathyroid glands, which produce hormones important for bone health, work normally.

Sources

Brown rice, cooked spinach, beans/legumes, almonds/nuts, dried figs, broccoli, cooked oatmeal, wheat germ/bran, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, bananas, peanuts.


How much?

  • 300mg a day for men.

  • 270mg a day for women.

Having 400mg or less a day of magnesium from supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.


Phosphorus


Helps:

  • Build strong bones and teeth, and helps release energy from food.

Sources

Pinto beans, cereal grains, almonds, nuts, dried beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, brown rice, avocados, spinach, many vegetables, yeast, oats, bread.


How much?

  • Adults need 550mg a day.

Taking 250mg or less a day of phosphorus supplements on top of the phosphorous you get from your diet is unlikely to cause any harm.


Potassium


Helps:

Control the balance of fluids in the body, and also helps the heart muscle work properly.


Sources

Fruit such as bananas, raisins, raw and cooked spinach, potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, winter squash, raw cauliflower, avocados, kiwifruit, dried fruits, tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, dried apricots.


How much?

  • Adults need 3,500mg a day.

Notes:

If you take potassium supplements, don't take too much as this could be harmful.

Taking 3,700mg or less of potassium supplements a day is unlikely to have obvious harmful effects.


Zinc


Helps:

  • Making new cells and enzymes.

  • Processing carbohydrate, fat and protein in food.

  • Wound healing.

Sources

Pumpkin seeds, whole grains/cereals, legumes, lentils, peas, soy foods, nuts, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, yeast, garbanzo beans, raw collard greens, spinach, corn.


How much?

  • 9.5mg a day for men.

  • 7mg a day for women.

Don't take more than 25mg of zinc supplements a day unless advised to by a doctor.


Selenium


Helps:

  • The immune system work properly, as well as in reproduction. It also helps prevent damage to cells and tissues.

Sources

Brazil nuts, certain mushrooms (crimini & shiitake), whole grains (especially barley), tofu, seeds (especially chia, sunflower, sesame & flax), asparagus, mustard seeds.


How much?

  • 0.075mg a day for men.

  • 0.06mg a day for women.

Notes:

If you take selenium supplements, it's important not to take too much as this could be harmful.

Taking 0.35mg or less a day of selenium supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.


Manganese


Helps:

  • Make and activate some of the enzymes in the body.

  • Enzymes are proteins that help the body carry out chemical reactions, such as breaking down food.

Sources

Tea, brown rice & whole grains, cereals, cooked oatmeal, wheat germ, nuts, seeds, legumes, cooked spinach & kale, black beans, almonds, avocados, pineapples, strawberries, green vegetables.


How much?

  • For most people, taking 4mg or less of manganese supplements a day is unlikely to cause any harm.

For older people, who may be more sensitive to manganese, taking 0.5mg or less of manganese supplements a day is unlikely to cause any harm.


Molybdenum


Helps:

  • Make and activate some of the proteins involved in chemical reactions (enzymes) that help with repairing and making genetic material.

Sources

Nuts, tinned vegetables, oats, peas, leafy vegetables, cauliflower, beans, breads, cereals, cooked spinach, strawberries.


How much?

  • You should be able to get all the molybdenum you need from your daily diet.

  • The molybdenum we get from food isn't likely to be harmful.

There's some evidence to suggest taking molybdenum supplements might cause joint pain.


Chromium


Helps:

  • To influence how the hormone insulin behaves in the body. This means chromium may affect the amount of energy we get from food.

Sources

whole grains, nuts, broccoli, apples, peanuts, cooked spinach, mushrooms.


How much?

  • 25 μg of chromium a day should be enough for adults.

Having 10mg or less a day of chromium from food and supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.


Copper


Helps:

  • Produce red and white blood cells.

  • Trigger the release of iron to form haemoglobin, the substance that carries oxygen around the body.

  • Also thought to be important for infant growth, brain development, the immune system and strong bones.

Sources

Nuts and seeds, whole grains, dried beans, mushrooms.


How much?

  • Adults aged 19 to 64 need 1.2mg of copper a day.

Having 1mg or less a day of copper supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.



Thanks guys!


I hope this post was helpful! Hopefully now it is a bit clearer what you need to get in your diet to have a balanced and healthful diet. I'm a rookie and I struggled to choose the right supplements and vitamins because I didn't know what I needed! I just hope this helps you get started by putting all the information in one place! But like I previously said, if you feel you need more help, please consult a GP or dietitian, as I am just one person and in no way at all a 'professional'.


Ally xo


References


[1] Food Foundation. UK and Global malnutrition: The new normal. [online]. Available at https://foodfoundation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/1-Briefing-Malnutrition_v4.pdf . Last Accessed 08/01/2020.


[2] Shaw Academy. Diploma in Nutrition - Alice’s Notes. 27.11.2019.

^ I got lazy with the referencing here K.


[3] The NHS. Vitamins and Minerals. [online]. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-a/. Last Accessed 08/01/2020.


[4] The Vegan Society. Nutrients. [online]. Available at https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/nutrition-and-health/nutrients. Last Accessed 08/01/2020.


[5] British Nutrition Foundation. Nutrient Foundation. [online]. Available at [here]. Last Accessed 08/01/2020.


[6] Gentle World. Vegan Nutrition: Sources of Vitamins & Minerals. [online]. Available at https://gentleworld.org/vegan-sources-of-vitamins-minerals/ . Last Accessed 08/01/2020.


[7] Peta. 5 Ways to Increase Your Vitamin D Intake. [online] Available at

https://www.peta.org/living/food/5-ways-to-increase-your-vitamin-d-intake/ Last Accessed 08/01/2020.


[8] Rise of the Vegan. B12: Why it's not just a vegan issue. [online]. Available at B12: Why it's not just a vegan issue . Last Accessed 08/01/2020.

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