Vitamins and minerals – chart

On balance it can be better to take a multivitamin/mineral so that you know that you are getting a good spread of vitamins and minerals in the right doses. However, sometimes you need extra for a variety of reasons and this chart helps you to understand what these main vitamins and minerals do in the body.

They are vital to life, and many people believe they can get them all through their food. Sadly intensive farming, pollution and poor diets means that lots of us are not getting the nutrients we need. Young girls are often deficient in iron (see Vitamins – do I need them? and after a long winter Britons are usually lacking in Vitamin D (see Vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sun). Extra Vitamin C can prove invaluable in fighting minor problems like coughs and colds, but also more serious illnesses.

Supplement RDA Functions Food sources Safety & combinations Times to take Absorption and effectiveness adversely affected by:
Vitamin C 60mg (80mg smokers) Essential for producing collagen, promoting healthy skin, keeping arthritis away. Boosts immune system, alleviates allergic conditions. Fresh fruit, vegetables (particularly green leafy), tomatoes. Cannot overdose as kidneys excrete excess. Not advisable for kidney stone sufferers. Can dilute trycyclic antidepressants.Function assisted by combination with bio-flavonoids in citrus fruits, onions, berries, grapes, garlic. Several times a day. Easier on stomach at meal times but not essential Refined sugar, tobacco, aspirin, corticosteroids, oral contraceptives, fluoridated water.
Vitamin A 800 mg For healthy eyes, boosts the immune system, wards off infections, and fights free radicals that damage body cells. Fish oil, liver, whole cream milk, egg yolks. Excess levels can be very toxic.Assists absorption of zinc. Meal times – absorption assisted by dietary fat Alcohol, antacids, aspirin and corto-steroids
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) 1.4mg Maintains healthy nervous system, can protect against arthritis, and is needed for energy production in the muscles. Whole grains, sunflower seeds, pork, seafood and beans. Non toxic in the short term. Can be toxic if excessive doses taken long term.Best taken as part of B complex Meal times Alcohol, coffee, refined sugar, tea, tobacco, antacids, antibiotics, oral contraceptives, diuretics
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1.6mg Needed when body is growing, for good vision, hair, skin and nails, and helps cells use oxygen efficiently. Liver, cheese, eggs, almonds, green leafy vegetables.B2 enhances the activity of B6. No known toxic effects. Colours urine yellow but this is harmless. Meal times Alcohol, coffee, refined sugar, tea, tobacco, antacids, antibiotics, oral contraceptives, diuretics
Vitamin B3 (Niacin – a combination of niacinamide and nicotinic acid) 18mg Breaks down protein, fat and carbohydrates, reduces cholesterol, stimulates ccreate hormones, cancer-protecting and keeps skin and digestive tract healthy. Nuts, pig’s liver, soya flour, wheat, peanut butter, potatoes. High doses can cause liver damage, so should be medically supervised.Advisable to take B complex. Vitamin C increases effectiveness Meal times Alcohol, coffee, refined sugar, tea, tobacco, antacids, antibiotics, oral contraceptives, diuretics
Vitamin D (Calciferol) 5 mg Maintains healthy bones, teeth and muscle function. Keeps heart and nervous system healthy.People in UK often deficient in spring because of lack of sunlight. From exposure to the sun, oily fish, eggs, milk, butter, cheese, green leafy vegetables. Excess causes too much calcium in the blood, leading to drowsiness, nausea, weakness, excessive thrist, abdominal pain, and eventually kidney damage.Helps absorption of zinc. D is best utilised with Vitamin A Meal times as absorption aided by dietary fats Alcohol and corto-steroids
Iron 14mg Required for manufacture of red blood cells. Red meat, wholegrains, pulses, nuts, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit. 100g dose is potentially lethal. Overdose more likely in children. Unnecessary iron supplements cause liver and heart damage, skin problems and diabetes.Supplement with Vitamin C at same time, to aid absorption Preferably away from mealtimes, but not essential. Not at the same time as calcium, zinc or Vitamin A. Bran, rhubarb, spinach, chocolate, milk, tetracycline antibiotics
Calcium 800mg For healthy bones, a natural tranquilliser, important role in blood clotting, and may help to prevent bowel cancer. Milk, milk products, beans, nuts, molasses and fruits. Excess is excreted but overdosing can cause kidney stones, weakness, constipation, abdominal pain, decreased appetite, nausea. Safer with magnesium. Not to be taken by kidney patients.Should be taken combined with magnesium. Absorption improved with presence of Vitamin D, A and iron Best time at night. Can be taken with or without food. Diuretic drugs, tetracycline antibiotics, coffee, spinach, chocolate, soft drinks (with phosphoric acid), refined sugar, tobacco, aspirin, wheat bran, excessive phosphorus or protein
Vitamin E 10mg Neutralises free radicals, protects against heart disease, strokes, arthritis, diabetes, and reduces incidence of blood clots. Good for healthy skin. Nuts, seeds, soya beans, wholegrains, lettuce, green vegetables. Over 800g occasionally linked with fatigue, nausea, stomach problems, palpitations and increased blood pressure. Not to be taken by diuretics and hyperthyroid sufferers.Assists in Selenium activity and vice-versa Meal times any time (one dose a day is sufficient) Alcohol, oral contraceptives
Magnesium 300mg Works with calcium and helps muscles to relax, releases energy from food, builds new cells and proteins. Vegetables (particularly organic), nuts, seeds, wholegrains. Excess excreted rapidly. Excessive doses can be dangerous if calcium levels are inadequate.Assists absorption of calcium and should be taken together. With or without food at any time of day Alcohol, coffee, excessive fat, wheat bran, soft drinks (with phosphoric acid), refined sugar, tea, diuretics, tetracycline drugs, excessive phosphorus
Selenium No RDA available Works with Vitamin E to neutralise free radicals that damage healthy cells. Eliminates toxic metals such as mercury and lead, fights infection, eases menopausal symptoms, gives energy, and helps produce health sperm in men. Shellfish, brazil nuts, wholegrains. Above 750mg can cause side-effects such as hair loss, tooth decay, nail problems, poor appetite and digestion, skin problems.Supplements should be accompanied by Vitamin E Meal times Alcohol
Zinc 15mg Essential for healthy immune system, helping to fight infection. Vital for normal growth in children, healthy hair, skin and nails. Wholegrains, nuts, seeds, ginger root, brewer’s yeast, fish, seafood, meat. Excess can cause nausea, vomiting and fever, dizziness and drowsiness.Requires Vitamin A for absorption. Meal times for stomach tolerance Better absorbed away from milk, eggs and cereal. Interferes with tetracyclines
Evening Primrose Oil Unavailable Can alleviate PMS symptoms and encourage healthy skin. In supplement form only. Occasional nausea, headaches and skin problems when first taken. Not to be taken with drugs for schizophrenia; or by epileptics Meal times, but not on an empty stomach Linseed and blackcurrant oil inhibit EPO
Fish Oils Unavailable Healthy brain development, good for the heart, helps keeps joints mobile. Can stave off dementia. Oily fish – salmon, tuna, sardines, herrings, mackerel. Plant sources: linseeds (flaxseed). High doses to be medically supervised. Should be avoided by those taking blood thinning drugs.Not to be taken when you have gallstones. Meal times to avoid nausea
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) 1 mg Manufactures red blood cells, maintains healthy nerves. Found in oily fish, egg yollk and liver. No toxic effects from overdosing.Advisable to take B complex and add B6 supplement if required` Meal times, throughout the day if on high doses Alcohol, coffee, refined sugar, tea, tobacco, antacids, antibiotics, oral contraceptives, diuretics
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) 2mg Balances hormonal changes during PMT in women, so is helpful to ease symptoms, maintains healthy function of immune system. Eggs, beans, walnuts, wheatgerm, sunflower seeds, liver and kidney. Too much (2g to 7g) can bring about numbness in extremities. Should not be taken with anticonvulsant or Parkinson’s medication.Advisable to take B complex and add B6 supplement if required` Meal times throughout the day if on high doses Alcohol, coffee, refined sugar, tea, tobacco, antacids, antibiotics, oral contraceptives, diuretics
Vitamin B5 Supports the adrenal glands, helps to combat stress, maintains healthy skin, muscles and nerves, and helps to release energy from food. Nuts, wheatgerm, pulses, eggs, pig’s liver. High doses of over 10g a day could cause diarrhoea Best taken with other B vitamins, Vitamin C, calcium and sulphur.

From information provided by Solgar Vitamins, Quest’s Professional Product Manual, The Vitamin Alphabet by Dr Christina Scott-Moncrieff, and the Council for Responsible Nutrition

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