Skip to 0 minutes and 15 secondsJANEANE DART: There's a range of essential micronutrients that our diet should provide, and our micronutrients to refresh our vitamins and our minerals. So there are 13 essential vitamins that our diet needs to provide, and there are 16 essential minerals that our diet needs to provide. With the vitamins, vitamins don't contain any kilojoules or any calories, but what vitamins are, they're the helpers. They facilitate protein and carbohydrates and fats in the roles that they play in their body in releasing energy, and in many of the small reactions or different things that happen within our body to help us grow, to help us repair, and to be able to maintain all the things we need to live.

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 secondsSo vitamins are vital to life. That's where their name comes from. They've been around since the-- or they were first discovered in the early 1900s. And what we've got here is just a selection of some rich food sources from vitamin B1 here, vitamin A, and folate. Folate is a key vitamin that women who are thinking about, and in the early stages of pregnancy are encouraged to take a supplement. So folate is one of the B group vitamins that's really essential in preventing those neural tube defects. All right, these are some of the richest sources. Folate is found in much of our fruit and veg, and also in our grain products.

Skip to 1 minute and 40 secondsSo with vitamins-- there are 13 essential vitamins of which four of them are fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K. And the remainder are water soluble vitamins, so our B vitamins and vitamin C, which I'm sure many of you have heard of. So with our vitamins, they can be sensitive to things like heat, and also to cooking. We can lose some of our water soluble vitamins if we're cooking vegetables in lots of water. So they're quite sensitive things. So I think that's a really important thing in terms of some messages around how we prepare and store and cook foods.

Skip to 2 minutes and 14 secondsWith vitamin A, vitamin A is present in dairy foods-- so in milks and cheeses and margarines and butters-- but it's also present in some of our vegetable and fruit sources. So generally dark, yellow, and orange vegetables and fruits. So mango, carrots, and sweet potato are three of the highest sources. But broccoli also-- not being dark, yellow, or green is also a source of vitamin A as well. And vitamin B1, a really important nutrient in terms of energy release and lots of the little reactions that happen-- enzyme reactions or smaller reactions. And pork is a fabulous source of vitamin B1. And then, again, lots of from our whole grain breads and cereals. Watermelon is a fabulous source.

Skip to 2 minutes and 59 secondsSo some are really great. Our intakes of watermelon tend to really-- obviously very seasonal. Tomato juice and soy milk. Vitamins are required for virtually every bodily function. What's important to-- I guess to remember, is that vitamins, when they're existing in food, come in a really unique range. And I guess it's very difficult to overdose on vitamins through food alone, unless we have a naturally restricted diet. For example, broccoli, really great source of folate-- many of the other B vitamins. It's a source of vitamin C, but it's also got iron and zinc in it.

Skip to 3 minutes and 36 secondsSo broccoli, while not being perhaps people's favorites, if it's stir fried or steamed, it's an example of a vegetable that's quite abundant in a range of different nutrients. Vitamins are really crucial for a range of different functions. So all the reactions that we're oblivious that our body's doing all the time, so healing and repair and growing and developing. Vitamins are key. They're helpers. They facilitate all of those reactions to happen. And so without them our body gets out of balance. And I suppose then it might be when people look to supplements, or they're reading on the internet for something to help them-- some panacea to help them feel better. And again, it's back to the message of diversity of food.

Skip to 4 minutes and 17 secondsTry and have 20 different foods a day if you can. A variety of different things. Try things you don't normally try, because I guess the range of nutrients that we'd get from different foods is-- it's unique, and it's flavorsome. That's the other thing to say, that in season something like a mango or a watermelon are really delicious. So again, the flavor compounds, we know in something like a mango, yes it's a great source of vitamin A. It's a source of carbohydrate and fiber. But there are things about, for example, a mango we still don't properly understand-- all the nutrients and how they exist within that. So it's a really interesting area that will develop into the future.

Skip to 4 minutes and 55 secondsDeficiencies are less common these days in developed countries, such as Australia. But they certainly still exist for some individuals and for some vulnerable groups in the population, but also in some of the developing nations. For example, there are nations whose populations have been-- there's been evidence to support the examples of things like beriberi, or pellagra, or blindness caused by the overdosing from supplementation or inadequacies in their diet from things like vitamin B1 and vitamin A. So it's not sexy. It's not dynamic, the message, but a variety and a balanced diet to give you all that you need is really what we're trying to promote.

Skip to 5 minutes and 42 secondsAt times people will require a specific supplement-- vulnerable groups, certain illnesses, et cetera-- but overall, in a country such as Australia with a really established food system and food supply, we can get what we need from our diet. There are 16 minerals that are essential for our body's function. Here we've got some examples of calcium rich food sources. So calcium is a really important nutrient that, without adequate amounts, can lead to brittle bone disease, or osteoporosis as it's known, it's scientific term. We have an example here of some really good dietary sources of iron and zinc. I'm sure you've heard of iron and zinc. Iron and zinc are really essential minerals for our bodies, and for our function.

Skip to 6 minutes and 29 secondsSo iron plays a crucial role in transporting oxygen around our body, and therefore-- and supporting all the energy release, and giving us energy. Iron deficiency can present as anemia. And again, I'm sure many of you have heard of that. But the impacts that can have on fatigue and people's quality of life can be really significant, but also iron deficiency can have an impact on our immunity, and again, all the consequences that can sit with that. So promoting a good iron intake is a really important part of what dietitians do, but again, that people by eating foods from the meat and alternative group. And when I say the alternatives-- so meats, and nuts, and seeds, and legumes.

Skip to 7 minutes and 12 secondsAnd here we've got some red meat and some oysters. So smoked oysters, really very high in iron. Natural oysters are one of the highest source of zinc. Parsley, so things like tabbouleh, or some other cultures that eat a lot of parsley naturally in their diets-- really good vegetable- or plant-based source of iron, as is broccoli and tomato juice. So with zinc, zinc has a really important role to play in many of the small reactions that occur within our body-- to release energy, for healing, for repair. But also it plays an important role in growth, and also in taste perception.

Skip to 7 minutes and 48 secondsSo a zinc deficiency can result in stunted growth when it's- in children, zinc deficiency can have significant impacts on people's brain and central nervous system development. And also, again, it can play out in poor healing and repair. In summary, eating a range of foods provides us with the core micronutrients we need for growth, development, repair, and maintenance. But also it provides us with really key and essential micronutrients, the vitamins and minerals that we need, again, to support and sustain our health and well-being. So eating a variety of foods across the different food groups, a range of different colors, a range of different flavors really sets us up to have the best diet that we can.

Skip to 8 minutes and 33 secondsOf course there are people who can't always afford access to good nutritious food. But the key message, I guess, we want to impart is really eating as varied a diet as you can afford and you're able. As many different flavors as you can. And what is important, I guess, is to try different things to what you might try, or to continue to promote to your peers, to your family, and to children, again, a diet that's very varied and diverse.


Watch Janeane talk about the role that micronutrients play in our health and how they enable our body to function.

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In the See also section of this step, you can access links to additional information about micronutrients published by the National Health and Medical Research Council and the United States Department of Agriculture.

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