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Vitamin pills? Better to Eat in Colour

It’s not difficult to get your daily vitamin needs from fruit and vegetables and it’s a lot tastier than taking a pill.

Fresh produce is the main source of vitamin C, folates (an essential type of B vitamin) and vitamin E. It’s also important for carotene, which is turned into vitamin A in the body. Beta carotene is an anti-ageing antioxidant that protects against heart disease and cancer. It’s found in yellow, orange and red fruit and green (leafy) vegetables. There’s no recommended daily intake (RNI) in the UK, however, the government has RNIs for other essential nutrients so we know how much to eat.

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Folates - (an essential type of B vitamin) to protect against heart disease, keep the blood healthy and help prevent birth defects, Adults need 200 micrograms (mcg) a day* . One generous portion (approximately 100g) of brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, kale or lettuce will provide half this daily requirement.

Vitamin C – To help prevent and fight colds and infections and to increase iron uptake from vegetables which prevent anaemia and tiredness. Your body also needs vitamin C to make collagen which is essential for healthy gums, teeth, bones, skin and cartilage. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s an antioxidant as well, which means it helps slow down the signs of ageing. Adults need 40 milligrams (mg) a day. You get all this from one orange, eight strawberries, a large handful of blueberries, half a grapefruit and a portion of kale.

Beta-carotene (the pigment that gives colour to carrots, squash, cantaloupe, apricots, sweet potato and other yellow red and orange fruit, its also found in green leafy vegetables) is an antioxidant which is turned into vitamin A in the body and protects against heart disease, strokes, cancer – and wrinkles, so it’s anti-ageing. It’s also essential to healthy growth and cell development, vision and our immune system. Adults need 0.7mg (milligrams) a day, which you can get from one medium carrot (78g), a portion (175g) of Cantaloupe or a 100g serving of sweet potato.

Vitamin E – is an antioxidant with a similar role to beta carotene. Antioxidants also help prevent age-related eye problems. Adults need between three and four mg a day. A 100g serving of sweet potato, a small avocado or a portion of blackberries contains the daily requirement.

Fibre (in all fruit and vegetables) prevents constipation, helps lower levels of harmful cholesterol and feeds friendly gut bacteria. Adults should consume 18g of fibre a day.

Calcium – (broccoli and greens) for strong bones and teeth Adults need 700 mg a day and a 40g portion of dried figs or 70g of kale or broccoli provides a100mg of calcium.

High energy
Need an energy boost? Bump up your energy levels with a banana, a pear or some fresh dates and figs.

* women who might become pregnant need 400 mcg until the 12th week of pregnancy and are recommended to take a supplement.

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Meet the superstars

Peas - a 70g serving provides half your vitamin C for the day. Peas also contain lots of fibre, B vitamins (such as folates, unusual for a veg), plus iron and zinc. Wow – and they taste great.
Carrots – can help you see in the dark because they are rich in carotenoids that the body turns into vitamin A, needed for night vision.
Guavas contain around three times more vitamin C than green kiwi fruit and they in turn contain 10 times more than an apple.
Blueberries and blackberries - top the league of most powerful antioxidant fruit. Antioxidants, are anti-ageing and protect against disease.
Kale and spinach – would like it pointed out that they top the league of most powerful antioxidant vegetables.
Dark green leafy vegetables, red peppers, sweetcorn, peas and celery all contain antioxidants (lutein, zeaxanthin) that can help prevent age-related macular degeneration, the commonest cause of sight problems and blindness in the over 50s.
Tomatoes – contain lycopene that helps protect against certain cancers (prostate). Cooking tomatoes turns the antioxidant into a form that’s easier for the body to use – anyone for fried tomatoes, tomato soup?
Watercress – contains a great combination of iron and beta-carotene for boosting the oxygen in red blood cells. They should put a bunch beside each starting block at the Olympics. Eat it raw for maximum nutrients.

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