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 list 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.
- I’m only including vegetarian sources in this list.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Sweet Potato – 204% RDI per serving (1 cup)
- Kale (cooked) – 98% RDI per serving (1 cup)
- Carrot – 44% RDI per serving (1 medium carrot)
- Vitamin A is fat soluble
- More information on good sources of vitamin A
- Vitamin A is is important for maintaining good vision and immune function, and for the development of babies in the womb
- More information on the beneficial effects of vitamin A
- Evidence suggests that it is far better to get your vitamin A from whole plant sources as opposed to supplements. Excessive vitamin A supplementation has been shown to be harmful.
- High amounts of vitamin A can harm unborn babies. Therefore, pregnant women should avoid foods that are very high in vitamin A, such as liver.
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)
- 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)
- Peanuts – 25%-30% RDI (Two tablespoons)
- Avocado – 21%-25% RDI (Per avocado)
- Brown rice – 18%-21% RDI (One cup, cooked)
- 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)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Egg Yolk
- 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)
- Chick Peas – 55% RDI (1 Cup)
- Sweet Potato
- Green Peas
Vitamin B9 (Folate)
- Lentils – 90% RDI (Per cup)
- Kidney Beans – 33% RDI (Per cup)
- Asparagus – 34% RDI (Per half cup)
- Oranges – 14% RDI (Per orange)
- 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.
- Most natural sources are meats and animal products
- I get my B12 from nori
- You can also take vitamin B12 supplements
- Top 12 Foods That Are High in Vitamin B12
- 9 Health Benefits of Vitamin B12, Based on Science
- B12 supports nerve function, blood cell formation, and DNA synthesis.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- Wheat germ: 135% RDI (Per tablespoon)
- Sunflower seeds: 66% RDI (Per ounce)
- Almonds: 48% RDI (Per ounce)
- Avocado: 28% RDI (Per avocado)
- Some people reactive negatively to vitamin D supplements.
- It is very hard to develop a vitamin E deficiency.
- Kale: 443% RDI (Per cup)
- Spinach: 121% RDI (Per cup)
- Broccoli: 92% RDI (Per half cup)
- 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.
- Chia seeds
- Dried figs
- Sunflower seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Brazil nuts
- Sweet Potatoes
- All of the foods listened above contain more potassium (per pound) than bananas.
- Pumpkin seeds: 37% RDI (Per ounce)
- Black nuts: 30% RDI (Per cup)
- Cashews: 20% RDI (Per ounce)
- Avocados: 15% RDI (Per avocado)
- 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)
- Hemp seeds: 31% RDI (Per 3 tablespoons)
- Cashews: 15% RDI (Per ounce)
- Dark Chocolate: 30% RDI (Per bar)
- 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)
- Brown Rice
- Kombu Kelp – 2000% RDI (Per gram)
- Wakame Seaweed – 44% RDI (Per gram)
- Nori Seaweed – 11%-29% RDI (Per gram)
- Brazil Nuts (Contain so much selenium that you shouldn’t eat more than three per day. Eating too many can lead to selenium toxicity)
- The amount of selenium in most plant sources is a function of how much selenium was in the soil where they were grown.
- Green Beans