Best Sources of Vitamins and Minerals

This is a little essential nutrient cheat sheet I recently put together. It contains information on most of the critically important vitamins and minerals out there. Specifically, it will tell you which foods contain them, and some of the physiological processes for which they are important.

This list should only be used as a framework for making dietary decisions, and should not be considered medical advice. I’m not a doctor.

I made this because people, like machines, need adequate levels of certain inputs in order to function properly. Just as a car will begin to experience issues if it runs out of oil or antifreeze, you will begin to experience issues if your body runs out of the nutrients it requires to facilitate the chemical reactions necessary for metabolism. If you want to read more about what can look like, read this list of nutrient deficiency symptoms.

Notes:

  • I’m only including vegetarian sources, as I feel those are the healthiest to eat. If you’d prefer to derive your vitamins and minerals from meat, a quick internet search should get you the information you need.
  • Water soluble vitamins are easily excreted, even if you consume an excess of the recommended daily allowance. Fat soluble vitamins are not, so it’s important to not go overboard with the amount that you ingest.
  • Nutrition science is notoriously mercurial. I’m sure that, within a few years, some of the statements on this page might be proven false. You should consider the information below to be nothing more than a simple cheat sheet / starting point for the creation of a diet plan.
  • Please do your own research before making any drastic changes to the way you eat.

Index:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
  • Vitamin B9 (Folate)
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin K
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Iodine
  • Selenium
  • Chromium

Essential Vitamins:

  • Note: Some vitamins are either so abundant, or required in such small amounts, that I didn’t see the need to include any information on them.

Vitamin A

Sources:

  • Sweet Potato – 204% RDI per serving (1 cup)
  • Kale (cooked) – 98% RDI per serving (1 cup)
  • Carrot – 44% RDI per serving (1 medium carrot)

Additional Info:

The B vitamins (There are 8 in total)

  • I’m only including information on some of them, given how many there are. All the information here will be that which seemed most important to highlight.

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

Sources

  • Eggs
  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes
  • Avocados
  • Kelp
  • Mushrooms

Additional Info:

  • It is a good idea to consume vitamin B2 every day. This is due to the fact that the body can only store small amounts of it, and this supply diminishes quickly.
  • Vitamin B2 is water soluble.
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol increases one’s risk of developing a B2 deficiency.
  • More information on B2.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Sources:

  • Peanuts – 25%-30% RDI (Two tablespoons)
  • Avocado – 21%-25% RDI (Per avocado)
  • Brown rice – 18%-21% RDI (One cup, cooked)

Additional info:

  • There are plenty of meats and fortified breakfast cereals that contain higher concentrations of B3.
  • For more info on sources of B3, click here.
  • Niacin deficiency can lead to a host of problems, including depression.
  • 9 Science-Based Benefits of Niacin

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

Sources:

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Egg Yolk
  • Peanuts
  • Mushrooms

Additional Info:

  • B5 is necessary for the production of blood cells, and involved in biological processes that convert food into energy.
  • What Does Vitamin B5 Do?

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

Sources

  • Chick Peas – 55% RDI (1 Cup)
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Potato
  • Green Peas
  • Bananas
  • Avocado

Additional Information

Vitamin B9 (Folate)

Sources:

  • Lentils – 90% RDI (Per cup)
  • Kidney Beans – 33% RDI (Per cup)
  • Asparagus – 34% RDI (Per half cup)

Additional Info:

  • This one of special importance to me. I have a genetic variation that makes me at risk of folate deficiency, that I didn’t know about until relatively recently. After factoring more folate into my diet, I’ve notice a definite increase in my mood.
  • Folate is involve in the creation and repair of DNA, and the production of red blood cells.
  • Information on the difference between folate and folic acid. Folate is the natural form of the vitamin and folic acid is the synthesized version. I would recommend not taking folic acid, for reasons outlined in the link.

Vitamin B12

Sources:

  • Most natural sources are meats and animal products
  • I get my B12 from fortified non-dairy milks
  • You can also take vitamin B12 supplements

Additional information:

Vitamin C

Sources:

  • Kakadu Plum: 530% RDI (Per plum)
  • Sweet Yellow Peppers: 152% RDI (Per half cup of chopped pepper)
  • Kale: 89% RDI (Per cup raw chopped kale)
  • Oranges: 78% RDI (Per orange)

Additional info:

  • Excess vitamin C is easily secreted, meaning that you can eat many times the daily recommended allowance without causing any issues.
  • Vitamin C is essential for immune function.
  • I have a mutation that makes it a good idea for me to consume slightly more vitamin C than average.

Vitamin D

Sources:

  • The skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight (With a few caveats that are described below)
  • Mushrooms that were grown in a sunlit environment
  • Fortified foods (Think orange juice and milk with added vitamin D)

Additional Info:

  • If you’re anywhere north of the 37th parallel and it’s not summer, standing in the sun will not lead to the synthesis of vitamin D. 
  • That said, I believe that spending at least some time in the sun every day has plenty of other health benefits.
  • Without sufficient levels of vitamin D, the body cannot absorb ingested calcium and will end up leaching the mineral from the bones. This can lead to osteoporosis and an increased risk of fractures.
  • I’ve had my vitamin D levels tested in the late fall, and they were just fine, despite my not having put much effort getting it through my diet. This makes me somewhat skeptical of those who insist that vitamin D deficiencies will develop without conscious effort to keep levels within an optimal range.
  • Significant portions of the U.S population are deficient in vitamin D, as this study shows.

Vitamin E

Sources:

  • Wheat germ: 135% RDI (Per tablespoon)
  • Sunflower seeds: 66% RDI (Per ounce)
  • Almonds: 48% RDI (Per ounce)
  • Avocado: 28% RDI (Per avocado)

Additional Info:

  • Some people reactive negatively to vitamin D supplements.
  • It is very hard to develop a vitamin E deficiency.

Vitamin K

Sources:

  • Kale: 443% RDI (Per cup)
  • Spinach: 121% RDI (Per cup)
  • Broccoli: 92% RDI (Per half cup)

Essential Minerals:

  • There are 16 essential minerals and, like vitamins, they play critical roles in the body’s chemical reactions.
  • Here’s a quick list: Calcium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Sulfur, Sodium, Chloride, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Iodine, Selenium, Molybdenum, Chromium, and Fluoride.
  • Many of the minerals mentioned on the list are either so abundant, or required in such small amounts, that I didn’t see the need to include any information on them.

Calcium

Sources:

  • Chia seeds
  • Almonds
  • Dried figs
  • Sunflower seeds

Phosphorus

Sources:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios

Potassium

Sources:

  • Avocados
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Watermelon

Additional info:

  • All of the foods listened above contain more potassium (per pound) than bananas.

Magnesium 

Sources

  • Pumpkin seeds: 37% RDI (Per ounce)
  • Black nuts: 30% RDI (Per cup)
  • Cashews: 20% RDI (Per ounce)
  • Avocados: 15% RDI (Per avocado)

Iron

Sources:

  • Lentils: 37% RDI (Per cup, cooked)
  • Pumpkin seeds: 23% RDI (Per ounce)
  • Spinach: 20% RDI (Per 3.5 ounces, cooked)
  • Dark chocolate: 19% RDI (Per ounce)

Zinc

Sources:

  • Hemp seeds: 31% RDI (Per 3 tablespoons)
  • Cashews: 15% RDI (Per ounce)
  • Dark Chocolate: 30% RDI (Per bar)

Copper

  • Dark Chocolate: 200% RDI (Per bar)
  • Spirulina: 44% RDI: (Per tablespoon)
  • Shiitake Mushrooms: 89% RDI (Per 15 grams / four dried mushrooms)
  • Cashews: 67% RDI (Per ounce)
  • Cooked Spinach: 33% RDI (Per cup)

Manganese

Sources:

  • Pineapple
  • Pecans
  • Brown Rice

Iodine

Sources:

  • Kombu Kelp – 2000% RDI (Per gram)
  • Wakame Seaweed – 44% RDI (Per gram)
  • Nori Seaweed – 11%-29% RDI (Per gram)

Selenium

Sources:

  • Brazil Nuts (Contain so much selenium that you shouldn’t eat more than three per day. Eating too many can lead to selenium toxicity)

Additional Info:

  • The amount of selenium in most plant sources is a function of how much selenium was in the soil where they were grown.

Chromium

Sources:

  • Broccoli
  • Potatoes
  • Green Beans