We hear a lot about vitamins and minerals, but why are they so important? Biomedical chemist Michelle Tchea investigates.
The TLDR version of vitamins and minerals? Key ones like calcium and iron are responsible for the proper functioning of the body, stimulating growth and development, and keeping chronic diseases at bay.
“Nutrients often work in synergy with each other,” says Fiona Tuck, a nutritional medicine practitioner. “Eating a balanced diet provides nutrients in their most natural bioavailable form and is important for biochemical reactions in the body, such as bone formation and cell regeneration,” she adds.
While you can take supplements to help meet your targets, Fiona believes they should only be used to help correct a deficiency, say if you’re on a strict diet.
There are more than 22 essential vitamins and minerals, but here are the key ones to look out for if you’re a 20-something.
Calcium is a powerhouse mineral that’s essential for strong and healthy bones and teeth. It’s especially important for women in their 20s, since our bone density starts to decrease at that age.
Your body produces vitamin D in response to sun exposure. It has a range of benefits, including reducing the risk of cancer and maintaining strong bones. It also supports the health of the immune system, brain, and nervous system.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can boost your immune system and prevent heart disease. It also helps to heal wounds faster and prevent wrinkles.
B vitamins are important for a range of biochemical reactions within the body, including hormone regulation and carbohydrate metabolism. They’re mainly found in animal products, so if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you might want to take supplements containing B vitamins, advises Jess Spendlove, co-founder of Health & Performance Collective.
Magnesium is responsible for more than 300 reactions in the body. It also assists in the body’s detoxification process for a healthy immune system, relieves cramps and stabilises blood sugar levels to prevent cravings.
Iron plays a key role in the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen, and is crucial for a healthy immune system. Without iron, you’ll be prone to feeling sluggish and tired.
Period pain? Get more vitamin K. Found in green leafy vegetables like spinach and fermented foods like kimchi, it’s vital for blood clots, which mean a more comfortable period. It also strengthens your bones and aids cell growth.