Nutrition 101: Vitamins & Minerals [INFOGRAPHIC]

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Nutrition 101: Vitamins & Minerals [INFOGRAPHIC]

When you pick up a new food in the grocery store and look at a nutrition label, where do your eyes first land? Do you instantly look at the calories or grams of carbs, protein and fat per serving? You’re not alone. We often choose foods based solely on their macronutrient content (carbs, protein and fat) without thinking much about what micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) they provide.

Micronutrients are often overshadowed because they make up a much smaller part of our diet than the macronutrients. Micronutrients get less of our mindshare, too, because they don’t impact our weight the way the macros do.

Though they may seem less significant, vitamins and minerals are actually just as critical as the calories we eat. They play critical roles in the structure of our bodies. For example, calcium mineralizes our bones, and Vitamin C makes our collagen strong. Micronutrients also impact how well our bodies function:

  • Sodium, potassium and calcium work together to moderate hydration and muscle contractions.
  • Vitamin K allows blood to clot if we get a cut.
  • Vitamin E, an antioxidant, protects healthy cells from being damaged.

The list goes on and on. The takeaway point is this: even though we need less of them in our diet than macronutrients, vitamins and minerals are no less important to our health.

It’s not necessary to know every function of every vitamin and mineral to understand their importance. There is a dizzying number of details and the scientific research changes almost daily. The idea behind this infographic is to show you just some of the major functions of these micronutrients, and some of the foods you’ll find them in. Instead of putting together an exhaustive list, I thought it’d be more beneficial to share some tips on how to get the most micronutrients from the foods you eat.

How to Maximize Those Micros:

Eat from every food group. Protein foods, dairy, grains, fruits and veggies can all be great sources of vitamins and minerals. But no single food, or food group, is a great source of everything. At mealtime, fill your plate with 3-4 food groups, and try to incorporate the ones you miss into snacks throughout the day. For example, if you have a bowl of cereal with milk and a hard boiled egg for breakfast, grab a piece of fruit to snack on later in the day.

Incorporate lots of color. Micronutrients contribute color to foods. These colors are often associated with certain vitamins and minerals. Eating a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables is an easy way to make sure you’re getting a great variety of micronutrients.

Eat fresh or frozen when you can. Food processing, as well as exposure to light and air, can degrade important vitamins and minerals

  • Minimize the amount of processed and fast food you eat. These foods typically have low nutritional value when it comes to vitamins and minerals, and can be high in saturated fat, sodium, added sugar, and calories.
  • Don’t let your farmer’s market finds sit around too long before you eat them–even when those fruits and veggies are tucked away in the crisper section of the refrigerator.
  • Stock up on frozen produce. Frozen fruits and vegetables are commonly picked at peak freshness and quickly processed, which preserves their nutrient value.

Know a few kitchen basics. Certain vitamins and minerals can be lost or broken down in cooking, while others can be better digested and absorbed when paired with certain foods. Here are a few rules of thumb:

  • Eat some produce raw and avoid overcooking the rest.
  • When cooking: steaming, roasting or sautéing will generally preserve more vitamins and minerals, compared to boiling.
  • Eat iron-rich plant foods like lentils, spinach, tofu and beans with a squeeze of lemon juice or citrus dressing. The Vitamin C increases iron absorption.
  • For better absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K,  pair with a heathy fat, like oil & vinegar dressing. This is a great reason to choose low-fat milk instead of fat-free.

Choose foods over supplements. Vitamin and mineral supplements can be beneficial when treating nutrient deficiencies or certain medical conditions, but for most of us, they’re not necessary.  It’s possible to get a wide variety of micronutrients, and plenty of them, from a healthy, well-balanced diet.

As you make decisions about what foods to eat, keep in mind it’s not all about calories, carbs, protein and fat. It’s entirely possible to be malnourished from a lack of micronutrients even if you’re eating plenty of calories and macronutrients! A vitamin and mineral-rich diet is essential for good health. And the best way to get enough of these is by eating a healthy variety of colorful foods from the different food groups.

Check back tomorrow for a brief wrap-up of the Nutrition 101 series, and my top 5 tips to eat more nutritiously!

To read up on our previous Nutrition 101 posts, check out: Calories | Carbohydrates | Proteins | Fats

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  • SheliaandMike Collins

    so if you take a good multi-vitamin daily, does that cover all of these? If not, when or how do you know when you are lacking and need to take this as a supplement? Can you over dose yourself with vitimans and minerals?

    • melinda

      A really good MV will cover these.
      Some vitamins can go over board, mostly your Fat Soluble ones.
      But if you take a multi, they are usually balanced so that doesn’t happen. Usually a deficiency will present itself in someway. And you can be tested for some of the vitamins. If you take them balanced, there is less likelihood of overdosing.

  • pearlmorning

    Thank you for another great lesson and I’ve pinned the chart.

  • emilia morales

    Exelente, I learned a lot….please post more of this info or send it to my e-mail bolanosemilia@yahoo.com…Thanks

  • emilia morales

    Please sent me information about the evaluation of someone that will start excercising….I want to become a Personal Trainer Certified….

  • Skip McDonald

    Thanks for the information, I have lost 58 lbs. since using myfitnesspal.

  • Jo

    When it comes to vitamins, please make sure you have enough b12. Deficiencies result in nerve damage that can be permanent, as I have found out the hard way, and some people can’t absorb it through their food or pills. You can ask the doctor for a blood test to see if you have a deficiency. Levels need to be at least at 500 though doctors routinely don’t feel you have a deficiency if your count is over 150. Mine was at 199, and I still had many symptoms of a b12 deficiency. I am on the b12 shots now, and have recovered some, but have a ways to go. I am posting this because I hope to help others avoid the severe damage that can happen, when prevention is so easy.
    I love Fitness Pal, and will continue to use it to control my eating, and encourage my daily exercising! Its a great help to keep me on track!

    • Montrea Mia

      B12 is not listed on my fitness pal nutrition chart … how do we know if we are eating enough ( besides taking supplements ) ???

  • Eating a lot of fresh friut and veggies will cover most of your needs!

  • Craig

    Great post!

  • Carl

    This is great info! Also, i found that, in some cases, people are not getting all their vitamin and minerals from their food. I work with a doctor that help people with mineral deficiencies. He saved my life! This is my first post and excited to be apart of this!

  • Carl

    This is great info! Also, i found that, in some cases, people are not getting all their vitamin and minerals from their food. I work with a doctor that help people with mineral deficiencies. He saved my life! This is my first post and excited to be apart of this!

  • Carl

    This is great info! Also, i found that, in some cases, people are not getting all their vitamin and minerals from their food. I work with a doctor that help people with mineral deficiencies. He saved my life! This is my first post and excited to be apart of this!

  • Carl

    This is great info! Also, i found that, in some cases, people are not getting all their vitamin and minerals from their food. I work with a doctor that help people with mineral deficiencies. He saved my life! This is my first post and excited to be apart of this!

  • John

    The chart is too small to read

    • blueberry1979

      Right click on the image > Open image on new tab
      On the new tab
      Ctrl and + and it will enlarge it for you

  • Enricopallazzo

    I never use vitamin pills. I just use food.

  • JoyVilla

    Not true: everyone needs to take a multivitamin, it’s impossible to get all these micronutrients in everyday consistently, even for an athlete. I absolutely feel the difference from a daily vitamin plus diet, than diet alone. I’m a vegan and I also believe it IS possible to get all the nutrients you need from one food group, plant based. Of course others will disagree, but for me cutting gluten and starches down and increasing whole, raw foods has given me absolute control of my weight and energy.

    • Lara W

      Not true. Everyone does not need to take a multivitamin. Funnily enough the majority of society gets their vitamin requirements from a balanced diet alone. Don’t lump the entire world into your myopic view

  • Tracie

    Where is the link code to use chart on our own web page like the other 101 topics have? They state “Want to share this image on your site? Simply copy and paste the code below! “

  • Renée Zipp

    Not readable on mobile and your site won’t let me zoom in or save the image 🙁