Everyone knows that getting the right amounts of vitamins and minerals is an important part of a healthy lifestyle – but what’s often less clear is the quantity of vitamin-rich foods required to meet your needs.
Although getting your vitamins from a wide range of food sources is best, just how much of any single food would it take to meet your daily NHS-recommended intake? The health and nutrition experts at Made4 Vitamins look at the quantities of fruit and veg you’d need to chow through each day to meet your different vitamin requirements.
Vitamin D is an essential part of keeping bones, teeth and muscles healthy – however, in the UK, around 1 in 6 adults have low levels of vitamin D, making it an important vitamin to stay on top of. Whilst most commonly gained from spending time outdoors or through supplementation, it’s also possible to meet your vitamin D intake by consuming certain foods.
Mushrooms are one of the few foods which naturally contain vitamin D, as the ergosterol within mushrooms converts to vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Because of this, the levels of vitamin D in mushrooms vary hugely depending on their levels of sunlight exposure. Your standard store-bought white mushrooms only contain about 0.18mcg of vitamin D per 100g, meaning you’d need to eat about 5.5kg per day or 93 servings of mushroom risotto to meet your requirements.
However, you’ll only need to eat 42 grams of white mushrooms which have been exposed to UV light to meet the NHS guidelines, which means you can meet your requirements with a (far more manageable) single serving of risotto.
Working hand-in-hand with vitamin D to support healthy bones, teeth and muscles, calcium is commonly associated with dairy products – but did you know that green, leafy vegetables like collard greens are actually higher in calcium per 100g than dairy products like milk and yoghurt? Whilst milk contains 125mg of calcium per 100g and yoghurt contains 110mg, the same quantity of collard greens contains 232mg per 100g raw and 141mg per 100g when boiled.
Collard greens might be a powerhouse when it comes to calcium, but you’ll still be chewing for a while if you want to meet your calcium requirements through veggies alone. With around 211mg of calcium per 150g serving of cooked collard greens, it’ll take 3.3 servings each day to reach your 700mg target.
Magnesium is crucial for supporting muscle and nerve function and can help boost exercise performance and prevent muscle cramps, making it another mineral to keep an eye on in your diet.
Legumes like lentils are one of the best ways to meet your magnesium requirements through your diet, but you’d better have quite the appetite worked up to meet your magnesium intake through lentils alone! With 36mg of magnesium per 100g of boiled lentils, you’d need to eat 20 servings of lentil soup to meet your NHS-recommended intake if you’re a woman and 22 servings if you’re a man. Whilst there’s nothing quite like a hearty lentil soup on a winter day, even the most enthusiastic soup fans might struggle to get through 20+ bowls in a single day…
Vital in helping produce new cells and enzymes, zinc is an important mineral for helping your body heal and repair itself over time.
Good news for those of you who are still feeling full after eating all those bowls of lentil soup – just one tablespoon (30g) of hemp seeds contains 2.97mg of zinc, meaning if you add two tablespoons of hemp seeds to your morning porridge, you’ll already be on 84% of your NHS-recommended intake as a woman or 62% of your intake as a man, making for an easy way to boost your zinc intake before you’ve even left the house.
Vitamin C is important for maintaining healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage. Luckily, this is a fairly straightforward one to incorporate into your diet for most people, with foods like citrus fruits, peppers, strawberries and broccoli all high in vitamin C. Getting enough vitamin C for the day can be as easy as having a glass of orange juice alongside your porridge; one medium-sized orange contains 83mg of vitamin C, over double the NHS-recommended intake for adults, whilst just 80ml of orange juice will also meet your vitamin C needs for the day.
Iron is one of the most important minerals for your body, essential for maintaining high energy, attention span and cognition. The NHS advises that men over 18 receive 8.7mg of iron per day, whilst women aged 19 to 50 require 14.8mg per day on average to meet their nutritional needs.
Spinach is an excellent source of iron, as well as being low in calories and high in antioxidants. However, to meet your recommended daily intake as a man through spinach alone, you’d need to eat 244g of cooked spinach daily, or a daunting 314g of raw spinach. For reference, the average supermarket bag of spinach is about 250g, so you’d need to munch your way through 1.3 bags of spinach each day to meet your iron requirements through raw spinach alone. For women, that translates to eating 414g of cooked spinach each day or 548g of raw spinach – better set some time aside in your day if you’re looking to make your way through 2.2 bags of spinach daily.
Dr Bhasha Mukherjee, Medical Lead at Made4 Vitamins, notes: “A varied and balanced diet is key when meeting your vitamin requirements, however, it’s insightful to see how much of different foods would be required to meet your vitamin needs. Including plenty of whole foods in your diet can go a long way towards hitting your daily recommended vitamin intake as well as providing fibre, antioxidants and healthy fats.”