Most of us are well aware that to stay fit healthy and strong we need to make sure we’re getting plenty of vitamins on a daily basis. But how often do you stop to think about minerals in your food? Minerals also have a key part to play in maintaining health and fitness.
What are Minerals?
Minerals are inorganic substances that are originally found in rocks and soil. So how do they get into your food and then into your body? The vegetables we eat absorbed plenty of minerals as they were growing. When we eat those vegetables, we absorb the minerals as we digest food.
Major Minerals and Trace Minerals
Minerals can also be divided into two groups. There are some that we need only in tiny quantities and others that we need much more of.
- Major minerals include calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus.
- Minerals we need in tiny amounts – or trace minerals – include iron, zinc and selenium. Major minerals Let’s take a look at some of the major minerals and what they do for our bodies.
- Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth. Though most people think immediately of dairy products when it comes to calcium, there are plenty of vegetable sources too. Spinach, watercress and artichokes are great places to start looking.
- Phosphorous is a key player for healthy cells, teeth and bones. Commonly found in dairy products and meat, you can also find plenty in vegetables such as sweetcorn, potatoes, artichokes and tomatoes.
- Magnesium helps your body release energy from food. It’s in cabbage, broccoli and tomatoes.
- Potassium assists with cell function. It’s found in many foods. Great sources include potatoes, tomatoes and artichokes.
Although we only need them in tiny amounts, trace minerals serve important purposes in the body. Here are a couple of the key trace minerals and where to find them.
- Iron helps with the creation of red blood cells – too little iron in your diet can lead to anaemia. Red meat is the most obvious source of iron, but if you’re looking for vegetable sources, consider potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and sweetcorn.
- Selenium is good for healthy cells and is often thought of as a key anti‐ageing ingredient. You’ll find some selenium in sweet potatoes, onions, sweetcorn and tomatoes.
- Copper is an essential component of many enzymes in the body, and these are needed to allow chemical reactions to happen. Copper is not readily found in vegetables. Perhaps the best sources are mung and broad beans, but they contain just 0.4mg per 100g, compared to the big 10mg per 100g you’ll find in liver. Prawns, crab and lobster are good sources too.
- Sulphur is another important nutrient. We get it from the proteins we eat, which our bodies turn into sulphur‐containing amino acids. These are used to maintain healthy tissues and to ensure normal growth. Though nowhere near as good a source as many meats, nuts or dairy products, you can find sulphur in cabbage, brussel sprouts, spinach and onions as well as dried fruits like figs, apricots and peaches.
A Quick Look at Some Mineral‐Rich Vegetables
But here are some of the vegetables you probably eat regularly and that are very easy to come by, complete with some of the key minerals they contain. Artichokes pack a big mineral punch, just look at the numbers! They’re becoming easier to find in British supermarkets, and appear frequently in veggie box schemes, and they are surprisingly easy to prepare.
- Artichokes (per average artichoke) Potassium 425mg Phosphorous 103mg Magnesium 72mg Calcium 54mg
- Asparagus (per an average 4 spears) Potassium 144mg Phosphorous 48mg Magnesium 9mg Calcium 18mg
- Green pepper (per average pepper) Potassium 131mg Phosphorous 141mg Magnesium 7mg Calcium 6.5mg
- Onion (per average onion) Potassium 110mg Phosphorous 23mg Magnesium 7mg Calcium 14mg Selenium 0.5mg
- Potato (per one medium potato with skin) Potassium 610mg Phosphorous 78mg Magnesium 30mg Calcium 8mg Selenium 0.5mg Iron 0.5mg Zinc 0.5mg
- Sweetcorn (per average ear of corn) Potassium 191mg Phosphorous 79mg Magnesium 25mg Calcium 1.5mg Selenium 0.6mg Iron 0.5mg Zinc 0.5mg
- Tomato (per average tomato) Potassium 397mg Phosphorus 63mg Magnesium 23mg Calcium 32mg Selenium 0.8mg Iron 0.5mg
Vegetables and Vitamins
A healthy body needs plenty of vitamins as well as minerals. Here are some of the most vitamin‐rich veg.
- Spinach is a good one for B vitamins. Rich in vitamin B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), and B3 (niacin), plenty of spinach will benefit your nerve function, vision, skin and digestive system. Spinach also contains vitamins C and K. Lightly steam it, or eat it raw for maximum vitamin content. While you’re eating your spinach you’ll also be getting plenty of vitamin K – the key to normal blood clotting and bone structure.
- Mango, butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin – think orange when you’re after vitamin A. Vitamin A supports your vision, skin and bone growth and your immune system. You can get your vitamin A from broccoli or tomato juice, but thinking orange makes it easy to remember. Although, oranges themselves are not a great source of vitamin A – they’re all about vitamin C!
- Broccoli is great for vitamin C. Yes, oranges and other citrus fruits contain lots of vitamin C, but superfood broccoli is a great source too. It also contains vitamin K, beta‐carotenes, calcium, and iron. Broccoli will give you some vitamin E and vitamin B6 too.
Keeping a Healthy Balance
With so much to think about when it comes to getting all the right nutrients from your food, you might think it’s just too much to worry about. But rather than giving up and resorting to microwave ready meals and fast food snacks, just remember that if you eat a wide variety of vegetables on a regular basis you’re well on the way to getting all the vitamins and minerals you need.