Are You Getting Enough Of These Essential Vitamins and Minerals?

Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that your body requires in certain quantities to function properly and help you stay healthy.

If you eat healthy and stick to a balanced diet, chances are that you’re already getting all of the necessary vitamins and minerals. Although, many people don’t have a varied enough diet to get all of the essential vitamins and minerals in the right quantities and may need to supplement their intake.

Why are vitamins measured in IU?

There are 3 types of units used to measure amounts of minerals and vitamins:

Milligrams – a milligram is 1/1000 of a gram and is usually labeled as mg.
Micrograms – a microgram is 1/1 000 000 of a gram and is usually labeled as μg or mcg. 1,000 micrograms (mcg) is equal to 1 milligram (mg).
International Units – sometimes used to measure vitamins A, D and E are usually labeled as IU. The conversion of milligrams (mg) and micrograms (μg) into IU depends on the type of vitamin.

These are the essential vitamins and minerals you need to keep your mind and body healthy, especially as we approach the autumn and winter months of the year.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 plays a vital role in in the formation of red blood cells and keeping your nervous system healthy. If you don’t get enough vitamin B12 you’re likely to experience high levels of fatigue and it can lead to the development of serious disorders.

You can get the necessary amounts of vitamin B12 from foods such as eggs, meat and dairy. This is why vegans are particularly susceptible to a vitamin B12 deficiency and usually require supplementation and it’s hard to get enough from just a plant-based diet. Good plant-based sources of B12 include fortified plant milk (soy, almond, coconut, rice), fortified breakfast cereals and mushrooms.

Vitamin D

If you’re from the UK, you’re likely to experience a vitamin D deficiency – especially during the winter months. This is because most of the vitamin D in our bodies is made from exposure to sunlight. However, your body can only make vitamin D from the right wavelength of sunlight and in the UK we’re only exposed to it for a few months of the year, from April till September.

Studies have shown just how important vitamin D is to us. Being low in vitamin D can lead to a weaker immune system, poor muscle recovery, lower bone density and tiredness among others.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, especially in winter, and feel that it might be due to lack of vitamin D, it’s worth visiting your GP to confirm this via blood testing. You’re likely to be prescribed a vitamin D supplement as it’s challenging to get the right amount purely from your diet.

The best vitamin D food sources include oily fish (such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel), red meat, liver and eggs.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C functions as protection for your cells and keeping them healthy. This leads to having healthier skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage and can even help you with wound healing.

Some studies have even found that taking vitamin C before and after intense exercise may reduce pain and speed up muscle strength recovery.

It’s wildly available in many types of fruit and vegetables, especially citrus fruit such as oranges and grapefruit.


Magnesium is such an important mineral for your body. It’s involved in over 300 different body functions, including muscle protein synthesis, helping your muscles and nerve to function properly, controlling your blood sugar and regulating blood pressure. Magnesium is essential for energy production and the immune system.

We actually lose as much as 20% of the magnesium in our bodies when we exercise – through sweat and urine. That’s why many electrolyte drinks have added magnesium!

Good food sources for Magnesium include different types of nuts, wholegrains, legumes, avocados and dark chocolate.


The main purpose of Iron in your body is to help carry oxygen between your lungs and and muscles, making it an essential mineral for sports performance. If you have low levels of iron in your blood, oxygen will struggle to be delivered to the working muscles when you exercise.

Low levels of iron can also lead you to feel fatigued, have poor appetite and experience shortness of breath during physical activity. Studies have shown that taking an iron supplement lead to an improvement in exercise performance, when the subjects iron levels were low.

The best iron food sources include liver, red meat, beans and nuts.


Not necessarily a vitamin or a mineral, but it’s worth mentioning that probiotics play an important role in improving sports performance and your general health. Probiotics help to balance the levels of friendly bacteria in your stomach, helping to prevent the development of certain diseases.

Around 70% of our immune system health comes from the gut. Studies have shown that probiotics promote a healthy immune response and help to alleviate the severity and duration of upper respiratory tract infections – especially useful for runners.

The best probiotics food sources include yogurt and kefir.

Vitamins and Minerals

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This article first appeared on on 24th August, 2020.

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