Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Vitamins from oranges

Vitamins from oranges
beginning of content

Vitamins and minerals

Vitamins and minerals are essential parts of the food you eat. If you eat a variety of foods from the 5 food groups and have a balanced diet, you’ll get all the vitamins and minerals you need.

Most people don’t need supplements as high doses of supplements can cause problems.

The role of vitamins and minerals

Your body has thousands of chemical reactions going on in each cell, every second of the day. The cells continually process the proteins, fats and carbohydrates from the foods you eat.

Vitamins and minerals are essential parts of those chemical reactions. Without them, essential body functions couldn’t take place, but you only need very small amounts of them. For most people, you can get all the vitamins and minerals you need from a healthy diet.

Here’s a list of all the important vitamins and minerals, why they’re important, and what foods you can get them in.

Vitamin Why it’s needed Where it’s found
Vitamin A
  • eyesight
  • growth
  • immune system and defence against infections.
  • full cream dairy products
  • margarine
  • brightly coloured fruits and vegetables
Vitamin B1 (thiamin)
  • processing carbohydrates to energy
  • healthy working of your heart, digestive system, nervous system
  • control of cholesterol
  • bread
  • oats
  • cereals
  • fish
  • pork
  • nuts
  • seeds
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
  • tissue growth and repair including skin and eyes
  • liver
  • yoghurt
  • milk
  • seafood
  • meat
  • muesli
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
  • processing foods to energy
  • liver
  • chicken
  • meat
  • fish
  • peanuts
  • mushrooms
  • brown rice
  • muesli
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
  • processing foods to energy
  • operation of nerves and muscles
  • liver
  • seafood
  • chicken
  • meat
  • yoghurt
  • beans
  • mushrooms
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
  • processing proteins and carbohydrates
  • making red blood cells
  • brain function
  • immune system
  • nerves and muscles
  • salmon
  • pork
  • potatoes
  • lentils
  • bananas
  • vegetables
  • peanuts
Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin)
  • new red blood cells
  • new nerve cells
  • processing fats and carbohydrates
  • liver
  • kidney
  • seafood
  • chicken meat
  • milk
  • eggs
Folate (vitamin B9)
  • new red blood cells
  • healthy nervous system
  • nervous system development in pregnancy
  • liver
  • legumes
  • spinach
  • cabbage
  • leafy vegetables
  • oranges
  • bread
  • wholegrain
  • breakfast cereals
Vitamin C
  • bones
  • blood vessels
  • cartilage
  • gums
  • protection against infection
All fruits and vegetables, especially:
  • red capsicum
  • broccoli
  • oranges
  • pawpaw
  • kiwi fruit
  • strawberries
  • cauliflower
Vitamin D
  • healthy bones and bones
  • many organs including the intestine, liver, and kidneys
  • Vitamin D forms in the skin when it is exposed to the sun
  • salmon
  • herrings and sardines
Vitamin E
  • keeps the membranes around cells healthy
  • sunflower seeds
  • wheatgerm
  • oats
  • seafood
  • sunflower oil
  • safflower oil
  • vegetables
Vitamin K
  • blood clotting
  • spinach
  • green vegetables
  • parsley
  • peas
Minerals Why it’s needed Where it’s found
Calcium
  • strong bones
  • muscle and nerve function
  • blood clotting
  • milk
  • cheese
  • yoghurt
  • canned sardines
  • salmon
  • Asian green vegetables
  • tofu
Iodine
  • thyroid gland function
  • brain function
  • normal growth
  • seaweed
  • fish
  • milk
  • bread made with iodised salt
Iron
  • red blood cell function
  • liver
  • kidney
  • mussels
  • oysters
  • meat
  • pumpkin seeds
  • chicken
  • baked beans and other legumes
  • green vegetables
  • tofu
  • eggs
Zinc
  • Wound healing
  • oysters
  • seafood
  • meat
  • chicken
  • brown rice

 

Do I need supplements?

It’s easy to get all the vitamins and minerals you need from a healthy diet. The exceptions are:

  • pregnant women, who should take folic acid
  • vegans, who need a B12 supplement
  • people with particular medical conditions.

Supplements can be dangerous if you take too much of any one. High doses of vitamin C can cause diarrhoea and kidney stones. Too much vitamin A is harmful, especially for pregnant women. You should also be careful with doses of vitamins D and E. Minerals are also harmful in high doses.

Most importantly, there is no evidence that supplements of vitamins and minerals make any difference to the health of most people.

If you’re not sure about whether or not you need supplements, check with your doctor.

Last reviewed: June 2016

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 141 results

Children and vitamins

There are lots of vitamin and mineral supplements available for children, but are they necessary? Very few kids actually need to take supplements and get everything they need from a balanced diet.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Vitamins and nutrition in pregnancy

Information on pregnancy vitamins and minerals including iron, folate, iodine, zinc, vitamin D and C, supplements, plus links to trusted resources.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Vitamins - common misconceptions

There are many misconceptions about vitamins and the health benefits they offer. Vitamins play an important role in keeping the body healthy. However, taking large doses of certain vitamins can actually be harmful. For most people, it is best to get the vitamins our bodies need from eating a variety of healthy, unprocessed foods rather than by taking supplements.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Vitamins and minerals | Raising Children Network

We need vitamins and minerals to grow and stay healthy. Read this essential guide to make sure your family gets all the vitamins and minerals you need.

Read more on Raising Children Network website

Kids' Health - Topics - Vitamins and minerals

Vitamins are substances that your body needs so that it can work properly.There are two types of vitamins.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Vitamin and Mineral Requirements and Supplements During Pregnancy | myVMC

To avoid poor nutrition, pregnant women must consume a range micronutrients, to maintain specific body functions. Micronutrient supplements may be necessary for women who are unable to meet their demands for particular micronutrients from their diet.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Can I eat eggs if I want to be healthy? Dietitians Association of Australia

Can I eat eggs if I want to be healthy? Eggsare an economical and nutrient rich food withgood quality protein along with other vitamins and minerals

Read more on Dietitians Association of Australia website

Cheese in the diet - myDr.com.au

Cheese is a good source of protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals and is a good way to fulfil one of the 2-3 recommended daily serves of dairy.

Read more on myDr website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Fruit and vegetables for young children

Fruit and vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals for good health. They have no artificial colours or flavours. Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables every day can help prevent overweight and obesity, and constipation.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Nuts and seeds

For a hit of the healthier fats, add some nuts and seeds into your diet every day. Nuts and seeds are delicious and nutritious. Nuts and seeds provide healthy unsaturated fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals.

Read more on Heart Foundation website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback