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Watch Janeane talk about the role that micronutrients play in our health and how they enable our body to function.
JANEANE DART: There’s a range of a central micronutrients that our diet should provide, and our micronutrients to refresh are our vitamins and 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 the body in releasing energy, and in many of the small reactions or different things that happen within the body to help us grow, to help us repair and to be able to maintain all the things we need to live.
So vitamins are vital to life, that’s where the 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’s 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 isn’t — is one of the B group vitamins that’s really essential in preventing those neural tube defects. These are some of the richest sources, folate’s found in much of our fruit and veg and also in our grain products.
So 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 our 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. With 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 fruit. So mango, carrots and sweet potato are three of the highest sources, but broccoli is also a source of vitamin A as well. And Vitamin B1, really important nutrient in terms of energy release and lots of the little reactions that happen, enzyme reactions or smaller reactions and pork’s a fabulous source of Vitamin B1 and then again lots of from our whole grain breads and cereals. Watermelon’s a fabulous source, so 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 — 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, a 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. So broccoli while not being perhaps people’s favorites, if it stir fried or steamed, it’s an example of a vegetable that is 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 is doing all the time, so healing and repairing and growing and developing, vitamins are key, they’re helpers, they facilitate all those reactions to happen and so without them a 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, try 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 get from different foods is, it’s unique and it’s flavoursome, that’s the other thing to say that, you know, in season something like a mango or a watermelon are really delicious. So again those flavour, the flavour compounds we know in something like a mango, yes it’s a great source of vitamin A, it’s a source of carbohydrate and fibre, but there are things about for example the 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. Deficiencies are less common these days in developed countries such as Australia but they certainly exists 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.
At times people will require a specific supplement, vulnerable group, certain illnesses etc. but overall in a country such as Australia with a really established food system and food supply we can we can get what we need from our diet. There are 16 minerals that are essential for our bodies 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 its 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 for our bodies and for our function. So iron plays a crucial role in transporting oxygen around our body and therefore in supporting all that 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 intakes are really important part of what dieticians do, but again that people by eating foods from the meat and alternative group, and when I say the alternative, meats and nuts and seeds and legumes, and here we’ve got some red meat and some oysters. So smoked oysters, really — very high. Natural oysters are one of the highest source of zinc. Parsley, so things like tabouli or some of the cultures that eat a lot of parsley naturally in their diet, 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 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. So zinc deficiency can result in stunted growth when it’s — in children a 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 macronutrients 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 wellbeing. So eating a variety of foods across the different food groups, a range of different colours, a range of different flavors really sets us up to have the best diet that we can.
Of 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 is 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 — 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.

Find out more

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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Food as Medicine

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