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Are you taking the right vitamins?

You may think you’re a healthy eater, but could you still be deficient in the vital nutrients your body needs?

Make sure you get your daily essential nutrients with these eating guidelines. Dietician Siân Porter explains that
your nutrient intakes are balanced out over the week, so it’s okay to get more of a vitamin or mineral on some days and less on others. All reference nutrient intakes (RNIs) are for a population average, rather than an individual’s needs.

• Selenium RNI 60g (female), 75g (male). Sources: 2 Brazil nuts (102g); 1 small can tuna (78mg).

• Iron RNI 14.8mg (female), 8.7mg (male). Sources: 2 Weetabix (4.5mg); average portion chicken curry (8mg); half a large tin of baked beans (2.9mg); sardines in tomato sauce on two slices wholegrain toast (6.6mg); average portion spaghetti bolognese sauce (1.8mg); 10 dried apricots (2.7mg).

• Magnesium RNI 270mg (female), 300mg (male). Sources: Handful mixed nuts (100mg); tbsp sunflower seeds (62.4mg); 100g soya mince (270mg).

• Potassium RNI 3,500mg (for men and women). Sources: at least five 80g portions of fruit and vegetables a day,
for example, broccoli (220mg), banana (350mg), spinach (490mg); medium baked potato in skin (1,134mg); pot of low-fat natural yoghurt (285mg); 100g steamed coley (460mg).

• Zinc RNI 7mg (female), 9.5mg (male). Sources: 100g lean roast lamb (5.2mg); 100g crab meat (5.5mg); 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds (3.3mg).

• Omega-3 fatty acids RNI 0.45g (for men and women). Sources: two portions fish per week, one white and one oily, will provide an average of 0.45g long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids a day; 140g sardines (2.5g long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids).

Surprising nutrient-depleters


Adding bran – it may seem healthy to sprinkle extra bran flakes on your cereal, but bran contains phytic acid, which blocks the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and vitamin B6.

High-dose single supplements – ‘A high-dose single vitamin or mineral supplement can throw your body out of balance and may block absorption of other minerals from your food, such as iron,’ says dietician Tanya Haffner.

Boiling veg – while boiling food is better than frying, steaming is an even better option. When boiling, vitamins and micronutrients leech out into the water, which is then just thrown away. ‘Keep veg al dente too and you’ll definitely have more vitamins in your food,’ adds Haffner.

Stress – a stressed body uses up B vitamins quickly. If you’re going through a stressful time, top up on vits by eating wholegrains, beans, eggs, sunflower seeds and nuts. A shortage of essential fats can also trigger stress symptoms, so eat plenty of nuts and seeds and have
one serving of oily fish a week.

Refined sugar foods and drinks rich in added sugars tend to be high in calories but lower in protein, vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Alcohol – not only does it decrease your gut’s ability to absorb vitamins B1, B2, B12, folic acid and amino acids, it also increases the nutrients lost through your urine, particularly zinc, magnesium, calcium and vitamin B12.

Tea – black tea is rich in antioxidants, but studies show it’s best not to drink it with meals as the tannins can reduce iron absorption, particularly non-haem iron (the type found in plant foods). Drink tea at least an hour before or after food, especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan.

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