Vitamins and minerals

The roles of vitamins and minerals in the body and the foods that provide them in the diet

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Quick facts on vitamins and minerals

  1. Vitamins and minerals have a wide range of functions in the body, although we only need them in small amounts (milligrams [mg] or micrograms [µg] per day).
  2. Eating a healthy, balanced diet which includes foods from all the groups shown in the Eatwell Guide should mean that most of us get the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients we need in the right balance for good health (with the exception of vitamin D – see below).
  3. In the UK, some of us (particularly teenagers) may have low intakes of certain vitamins and minerals, such as iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium.
  4. Supplements are recommended in some situations. For example, all children aged between 6 months and 5 years should be given a daily supplement containing vitamins A, C and D.
  5. Adults and children aged 5 years and older should take (or should be given) a daily 10 microgram (µg) vitamin D supplement during the autumn and winter months.
  6. Some groups are advised to consider taking a daily 10 microgram vitamin D supplement all year round, including people who are not able to go outside often or who cover their skin while outside, and people with dark skin (e.g., from African, African-Caribbean or South Asian background).
  7. Women who are pregnant, trying to conceive or could become pregnant, should take a 400 microgram (µg) folic acid supplement daily from preconception until 12 weeks of pregnancy.
  8. Well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets can provide most essential nutrients but there are some that may be more difficult to get enough of (g., vitamin B12), or which might be less well-absorbed by the body from plant-based foods (e.g., iron, zinc and calcium). Fortified foods (such as fortified breakfast cereals or dairy alternatives) may be useful for providing these nutrients.
  9. At the moment we do not have enough evidence to support taking vitamin D supplements to prevent or treat COVID-19, but we should continue to follow existing advice on vitamin D to maintain bone and muscle health.

You can find out more information on different vitamins and minerals, what they do in the body and which foods they are found in from our Vitamins and minerals in our food resource.

Useful resources

This resource provides key information on the vitamins and minerals we need in our diets and where they can be found in food.

Vitamins and minerals in our food

This resource provides the key information about the vitamins and minerals in the foods we eat

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Vital vitamin D

A resource looking at the importance of vitamin D.

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Calcium counts!

A fact sheet about the amount of calcium in foods.

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Please note that advice provided on our website about nutrition and health is general in nature. We do not provide any personal advice on prevention, treatment and management for patients or their family members.

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