Eat your vitamins: how to get your daily needs

    We all need vitamins in small amounts for our bodies to work properly. They are important for a range of functions, from helping our immune system to fight infections, through to maintaining healthy skin and eyes. We should be able to get the vitamins that we need from eating a balanced and varied diet, but for some vitamins – particularly vitamin D – supplements may be recommended.

    Here, nutritionist Beau Scott from Cardiff Sports Nutrition reveals what to eat to get our recommended daily amounts….


    Vitamin A

    Recommended Daily Amount:

    • 7mg a day for men
    • 6mg a day for women

    Why: Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that provides strong support to our immune system, is extremely important in maintaining good vision and helps keep the skin and other body linings healthy. It’s also fat-soluble, which means that our body is able to store it in our liver and fatty tissues for future use, so we don’t need to eat foods containing it every day.

    What to eat: Liver, particularly turkey liver, is one of the best sources of vitamin A available – so much so that 100g of turkey liver can provide up to almost 900% of the daily recommended intake. Other foods, such as oily fish (mackerel, salmon and sardines), green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale and broccoli), carrots and sweet potatoes also rank highly. Even foods such as eggs, cheese or milk, which although not particularly high in vitamin A, are consumed in such high quantities in the western diet that they are important sources of this valuable vitamin.


    Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)

    Recommended Daily Amount:

    • 2mg for men and women

    Why: Vitamin B9 plays an important role in creating healthy red blood cells, promoting a strong immune system and aiding in the synthesis and repair of DNA.

    What to eat: Folic Acid, also known as vitamin B9, should be easy to get through diet alone as it is found in a wide variety of foods – avocado, spinach, yeast, liver and asparagus are among the foods with the highest levels of folate. It can also be found in meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, fruit, vegetables and seafood. As Folic Acid is a water-soluble vitamin, it cannot be stored by the body, and so must be consumed daily.


    Vitamin B12

    Recommended Daily Amount:

    • 0015mg for men and women

    Why: Vitamin B12 is important for many essential processes including making red blood cells, keeping the brain and nervous system healthy and releasing energy from food.

    What to eat: Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal products such as meat, salmon, cod, milk, cheese and eggs. These will all meet minimum requirements for an adult. But vegetarians, and vegans especially, may struggle to get enough as plant-based products are typically very low in vitamin B12 quantities. People with these diets should eat or drink cereals, soya drinks, or yeast extracts (e.g. Marmite) fortified with B12. Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, so you need it every day.


    Vitamin C

    Recommended Daily Amount:

    • 40mg for men and women

    Why: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that’s important for protecting cells from damage, healing wounds, and keeping connective tissue healthy to support the stability and structure of organs.

    What to eat: Vitamin C is also water-soluble, so you need to eat or drink it every day. It is found in the vast majority of fruits and vegetables in varying quantities. Red peppers, red and green chillies, kiwi fruits and blackcurrants all provide at least double the UK’s recommended intake per 100g. Other foods, such as oranges, broccoli, lemons and even white potatoes can provide excellent quantities. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables should be more than adequate to provide enough vitamin C.


    Vitamin E

    Recommended Daily Amount:

    • 4mg a day for men
    • 3mg a day for women

    Why: Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that eliminates free radicals and prevents them causing damage to cellular structures. It also strengthens the immune system and helps to maintain healthy skin and eyes.

    What to eat: Vitamin E supplements are unnecessary for most people as it is a fat-soluble vitamin and is easy enough to get by eating a varied and balanced diet. Vitamin E is primarily sourced from vegetable and nut oils, but is also found in high concentration in nuts, such as almonds and hazelnuts. Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and asparagus are also useful sources of vitamin E – not for their high concentrations but more due to volume in which these foods are consumed in western diets.

    Vitamin K

    Recommended Daily Amount:

    • 001mg for each kilogram of body weight (someone weighing 65kg would need 0.065mg)

    Why: Vitamin K helps the blood clot, to control bleeding, aid wound healing and control the binding of calcium to bones and soft tissues.

    What to eat: You can get Vitamin K from eating green leafy vegetables, particularly kale and spinach, vegetable oils and cereal grains. As with vitamins A, D and E, vitamin K is fat-soluble so your body can store it for future use. Eating a balanced diet should be sufficient in providing the quantities you need.


    Vitamin D

    Recommended Daily Amount:

    • 01mg for pregnant and breastfeeding women
    • 0075-0.0085mg for babies and young children aged six months to five years
    • 01mg for all others, especially those aged 65 years or over, or who aren’t exposed to much sun

    Why: Vitamin D helps regulate bone health, hormone production and mood. Very few foods contain vitamin D, which is typically synthesised in the skin after exposure to sunlight.

    What to eat: Even though it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, the UK’s cold and dark winter months drain our bodies’ stores. Even direct exposure to sunlight isn’t enough to stimulate sufficient vitamin D production, which is why vitamin D deficiencies are common. Eating oily fish (salmon, mackerel) and eggs, and taking vitamin D supplements can help bridge the gap.