We all know a nutritious diet is important for general health, but it's also worth knowing which specific vitamins are needed to help keep key organs working well so you can make sure you're looking after yourself as much as possible. Here's a rundown of vital vitamins for the eyes, brain and heart.
Important for the health of the retina (the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye), vitamin A helps to maintain vision. The Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) per day is 700mcg for men and 600mcg for women. The RNI is the amount of a nutrient that's enough to meet the needs of most people. For vitamin A, oily fish, carrots, egg yolks, spinach, broccoli, tomato and red peppers are good sources. Liver is another good source, but should be avoided if you’re pregnant.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Helps to support normal vision. The RNI per day is 1.3mg for men and 1.1mg for women. Food sources include milk, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, rice and mushrooms.
Helps to protect cells from oxidative stress. The RNI is 40mg for adults, and you can find it in citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, dark green vegetables and peppers.
Helps to protect cells from oxidative stress. The RNI is 4mg for men and 3mg for women. Plant oils, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables and wheatgerm are good sources.
Contributes to the maintenance of normal vision. The RNI is 9.5mg per day for men and 7mg per day for women. It can be found in meat, shellfish, milk, cheese, bread and cereal products.
Remember to have your eyes tested every two years or as advised by your optometrist, and to always seek medical advice if you have any concerns.
Some B vitamins have been found to support the health of the brain and nervous system. Good sources of B vitamins include eggs, wholegrains, meat, fish, fortified cereals and green leafy vegetables. Here are some functions of different B vitamins:
- B1 (thiamin) helps to maintain a normal, healthy nervous system and normal psychological function. The RNI is 1mg for men and 0.8mg for women
- B2 (riboflavin) contributes to normal functioning of the nervous system
- B3 (niacin) supports a normal nervous system and a normal psychological function. The RNI is 17mg for men and 13mg for women
- B6 contributes to the normal function of the nervous system and the immune system. It also helps to maintain a normal psychological function. The RNI is 1.4mg a day for men and 1.2mg a day for women
- B7 (biotin) contributes to normal functioning of the nervous system. There is no RNI, but you should be able to get all you need from a balanced and varied diet
- B9 (folic acid) aids normal psychological function. The RNI is 200mcg (micrograms) for most adults. It's recommended that women who are pregnant or trying to conceive take a daily supplement containing 400mcg of folic acid from the time of stopping contraception and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy
- B12 (cobalamin) supports a normal nervous system and psychological function. The RNI is 1.5mcg for adults
- Panthothenic acid supports normal mental performance
Omega-3 fatty acids:
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fat which contributes to normal brain function. You can find them in oily fish, nuts and seeds. Oily fish is a good source of long chain omega-3s. Aim for at least two portions of fish per week, including at least one of oily fish. It's also important to stimulate your brain to keep it healthy. Learning a new language, taking up a creative hobby, or simply just doing the crossword regularly can help.
Vitamin B1 (thiamin)
Vitamin B1 contributes to normal heart function.
Vitamin Dcontributes to the maintenance of normal muscle function. Your heart is a muscular organ, with its muscle allowing it to pump blood throughout your entire body. Vitamin D has other important roles in the body, including supporting your immune function, aiding calcium and phosphorus absorption, and helping to maintain healthy teeth and bones. The government recommends that everyone aged five and over should consider taking a supplement of 10mcg (micrograms) per day in the darker autumn and winter months. Sunshine is the best source – although you should take care to avoid over-exposure and always wear sun cream – but it's also found in small amounts in oily fish, fortified plant milks and cereals, and eggs.
Omega-3 fatty acids
DHA and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are omega-3 fats which support the normal function of the heart.
- Eat a varied and balanced diet that's rich in key minerals and vitamins
- Talk to your pharmacist if you think you may need a supplement
- If you’re concerned about your brain or heart, make an appointment with your Doctor. If you’re concerned about your eyes, schedule an appointment with an optician who will be able to examine and test them thoroughly