Modern Australian

Optimise Your Diet with Multitasking Nutrients

  • Written by Scott Pack


A diet rich in the right kinds and amounts of vitamins and minerals is key to developing lasting good habits and a healthy lifestyle. While most people get enough nutrients through proper eating, some supplementation may help when diets are lacking.

If you feel the need to supplement your daily intake of vitamins and minerals, look for multitasking supplements to give your body the biggest payoff.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is shown to support healthy tissue, skin, and immune function. But one of its most important benefits is to protect your vision—it’s a building block for an essential light-absorbing protein (rhodopsin) in your eyes’ retina receptors.

Your diet provides two types of vitamin A: preformed vitamin A and provitamin. And there’s an easy way to keep them straight. Preformed vitamin A must be converted into active forms like retinol. It’s found in eggs, milk, and cheese. Carotenoids (plant pigments) fall into the category of provitamin A nutrients. Beta-carotene is the most common example. Add it to your diet by eating a variety of green, orange, or yellow fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and spinach.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a hormone that’s naturally produced from cholesterol when your skin is exposed to the sun. But if you’re always covered up or wearing sunscreen while outdoors, you run the risk of deficiency.

This sunshine vitamin helps with development and maintenance of skeletal health—think bones and teeth—and also aids in the absorption and use of calcium and phosphorus.

A few foods naturally contain vitamin D, including coldwater fish and eggs. But there aren’t many, so you’ll need to search out foods that have been fortified. It’s also why supplementation may be a good option.

Calcium

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in your body. Most of it—99 per cent—is stored in bones and teeth. Stored calcium is part of the bone matrix, which gives your bones colour and structure and is essential to maintaining bone strength and density. Additionally, calcium works with other nutrients to help support healthy muscle function and strength.

Similar to iron and vitamin D, calcium is another common nutritional deficiency in Australia. To get enough of this multitasking nutrient, enjoy calcium-rich foods such as fortified cereal, milk, cheese, yoghurt, fish, broccoli, kale, nuts, nut butter, beans, and lentils.

Iron

This trace mineral makes up important proteins in blood and muscles. In fact, your blood’s ability to carry oxygen is built on iron. Haemoglobin—a protein in your blood—uses iron to grab oxygen from the lungs and usher it to the rest of the body. And iron doesn’t just help the blood carry oxygen. It’s a component of myoglobin—a protein in muscles—which your muscles need to absorb oxygen. Plus, iron also supports energy production and assists in the building of DNA.

Like other minerals, the only way to provide your body with iron is through food. Dietary iron is found in two forms—heme and nonheme. Most nonheme iron comes from plants, and heme iron is found primarily in meat, poultry, and fish.

Add iron to your diet by eating beef, lamb, eggs, fish, legumes, nuts, and whole grains.

Bonus Addition: Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids

While they’re neither vitamins nor minerals, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are must-have multitasking nutrients.

Healthy, unsaturated fats are a key part of your diet and can be broken into two categories.

  • Monounsaturated fats, which don’t promote arterial fat deposits, are found in vegetable oils, avocados, nuts, and seeds.

  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids—especially omega-6 and omega-3—are the most beneficial to overall health (learn more below).

It’s important to maintain an appropriate 1:1 ratio of omega-3 and omega-6, as they work together to promote health. However, the average diet contains significantly more omega-6 from poultry, eggs, and unsaturated oils.

Depending on your diet, it may be necessary to supplement omega-3s. EPA and DHA omega-3s play an especially important role to support many of your body’s systems, including cardiovascular, immune, and joint health. The most common way to add this healthy fat to your diet is with oily fish, such as tuna, salmon, and sardines.

Whether you’re shopping for healthy foods or selecting the proper nutritional supplementation to make up for dietary gaps, be sure to target these multitasking nutrients to get the most out of how your fuel your body.

About the Writer

Scott Pack is a health and lifestyle communicator based in Salt Lake City, Utah in the United States. He holds bachelor and master’s degrees in English from Weber State University.

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