Vitamins & Nutrients – Functions & Vegetarian Food Sources

As I start my journey towards healthy & well-balanced eating, knowledge and understanding of the key vitamins and nutrients and how to attain them through plant-based or vegetarian sources  is imperative. Below are the key nutrients along with their function in a healthy body and a list (not exhaustive) of vegetarian/plant-based sources to attain them.

Also important is the proportion required daily of the below nutrients and some important good and bad combination of below nutrients based on which depend the healthy absorption of the nutrients within our body (for e.g, iron absorption is enhanced with vitamin C, whereas restricted when taken in combination with calcium or dairy products.

PROTEIN Facilitates growth & repair of all tissues. Aids in blood formation & production of antibodies against infection   Soya beans, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, veggie burger, chickpeas, baked beans, pinto beans, black eyed beans, tofu, quinoa, peas, peanut butter, almonds, soy milk, bulgur wheat, wholewheat bread, brown rice, spinach, broccoli, potatoes (Milk & milk products, peas, soya beans, dried beans and nuts)
FAT Keeps the body warm and acts as an insulator. Provides energy for movement   Butter, margarine, cream, cheese, nuts
CARBOHYDRATE Provides energy for movement   Whole-grain bread, rice, pasta, cereals, buckwheat, rye, beans, peas & lentils, fruit & veg, especially potatoes, root veggies & bananas, oats, dried fruits
CALCIUM Aids in building and strengthening of bones and teeth, clotting of blood and coordination of muscles and nerves   Milk, eggs, cheese, dark green leafy vegetables, mustard green, kale
IRON Works with protein in the formation of haemoglobin   Lentils & beans e.g. chickpeas; nuts & seeds e.g. almonds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds; dried fruit, especially apricots, prunes, figs; wholegrain brown rice, fortified cereals, dark-green leafy vegetables e.g. watercress, spinach, kale, brewers yeast, molasses, wholegrain brown bread
IODINE Aids in utilisation of energy by the body   seaweed, iodized salt
MAGNESIUM Assists in breakdown and absorption of food especially protein. Normal functioning of nervous and muscular systems   Milk, marmite, nuts, whole-grain cereals, dark green vegetables, soy milk, banana, soybeans, cereal, oatmeal, almonds, potato, peanuts, blackeyed peas, yogurt, baked beans, avocado, beans, wheatgerm, chocolate milk
PHOSPHOROUS Works with calcium to build strong bones and teeth. Helps in metabolism   Almost all foods
POTASSIUM Potassium and sodium in balance are essential to life. Between them they help maintain and regulate the body fluids   All food, especially vegetables like spinach, sweet potatoes, winter squash and bananas
SODIUM Maintaining water balance of the body fluids is essential for muscle and nerve activities   Table salt, milk, bread, butter, baking soda, olives, pickles
VITAMIN A Maintains healthy skin, keeps mucous membranes firm. Protects against infection and sunburn. Promotes good eye-sight, prevents night blindness   Milk, cheese, dark green vegetables, sweet potatoes, cod liver oil, carrots, pumpkin, butter, papayas, mangoes, spinach, collards, kale, turnip greens, winter squash, beet, broccoli
VITAMIN B1 (Thiamine) Essential for energy production, muscle function and nervous system function. It also contributes to healthy mucous membranes   Rice, beans, nuts, fortified cereal, green leafy vegetables, yeast, wheat-germ, oranges, rye
VITAMIN B2 (Riboflavin) Essential for the growth of healthy tissues and energy production   Almonds, avocados, dark green leafy vegetables, spinach, asparagus, broccoli
B3 (Niacin) Used to improve the levels of good cholesterol in the blood, control glucose levels in people with diabetes and improve skin conditions  
Peanut butter, fortified grain products/cereals, oatmeal, mushrooms, mangoes, peanuts, milk
B6 (Pyridoxine) Helps to speed up chemical reactions in the body, making these reactions more efficient. It also assists in the formation of red blood cells and niacin, and helps to control steroid hormones. This vitamin can also improve mood and boost the immune system response.   Bananas, avocadoes, potatoes, cooked spinach, hazelnuts, wholegrains, nuts, legumes
B7 (Biotin) Can be used to improve the condition of hair and nails. It also aids in the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates and helps speed up chemical reactions in the body.   Peanuts, bananas, grapefruits, soy, mushrooms
B9 (Folic Acid) An important B vitamin that can protect a developing fetus from neural tube defects. This vitamin is recommended to pregnant women to reduce the risks of spina bifida and other neural tube defects. Folic acid also has a protective effect against heart disease and some forms of cancer.   Citrus fruits, peanuts, mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, fortified cereals,  fortified breads, asparagus, lentils, peas, yeast and dried beans
B12 (Cobalamin) Improves mood and memory and helps to speed up chemical reactions in the cells. It is also necessary for maintaining high energy levels. Decreased vitamin B12 intake has been shown to increase the risk for developing dementia, depression and some types of cancer  
Fortified cereals, soy milk or meat substitutes
VITAMIN C Maintains healthy bones, teeth & blood vessels. Aids in the development of tissue between cells. Promotes healing of wounds and broken bones   Oranges, limes, grapefruits, lemons, green peppers, water-cress, spinach, chillies, cauliflower, tomatoes, melons, guavas, lettuce, red peppers, yellow peppers, kiwi, strawberries
VITAMIN D Aids in strengthening of bones and teeth. Keep muscles supple   Sun, soy milk, rice milk, fortified cereals, margarine, wild mushrooms, fruits &  vegetables
VITAMIN E Aids in the formation of red blood cells. Protects cell membranes from deterioration caused by the burning of fats   Vegetable oils, milk, barley, rice, oats, green leafy vegetables, corn oil, soya beans, peanuts, coconut, fortified cereals, wheatgerm, almons, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, peanuts, 
VITAMIN K Helps blood to clot efficiently (not too much, not too little)   Chard, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, cress, spinach, turnip greens, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, chicory greens, radicchio, watercress, endive, beet greens , basil, sage, thyme, parsley, coriander, prunes, kiwi, rhubuarb, avocadoes, blueberries, pomegranates, plums, dried peaches, soy beans, soy milk, tofu, kidney, mung, black, green, lima, pinto beans, chickpeas
OMEGA 3 Essential Fatty Acid Boost the nervous, immune, reproductive and cardiovascular systems. Play a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth & development. They reduce inflammation and help lower risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, & arthiritis.   Flaxseeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, brazil nuts, wheat germ, soybean oil, canola oil, foods fortified with omega 3, green leafy vegetables, legumes, berries
OMEGA 6 Essential Fatty Acid They help stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, & maintain the reproductive system.  
Corn, sunflower, safflower, soy, cottonseed, evening primrose and black currant seed oils. 
Dietary Fiber Fiber is important for keeping the digestive tract working smoothly. Eating enough fiber helps prevent constipation. It may also reduce the risk of getting colon cancer. Some fibers can help lower blood cholesterol.   Bran cereal, kidney beans, split peas, lentils, black, pinto, lima beans, chickpeas, artichokes, soybeans, sweet potatoes, pear, bulgur wheat, whole wheat, mixed vegetables, spinach, banana, almonds, apple, orange, peas


One thought on “Vitamins & Nutrients – Functions & Vegetarian Food Sources

  1. Pingback: Healthy & Hearty Spinach-Kale & Brown Rice Cakes « Eat. Breathe. Create. Repeat.

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