In the fast-moving discipline of nutrition, designing a menu goes beyond just focusing on calories; it entails providing essential nutrients that our bodies need to function. Among these nutrients are a collection of vitamins and minerals, also called “micronutrients” as we need them in much smaller amounts than “macronutrients”, such as carbohydrate, protein and fat. 

Vitamins and minerals are deemed essential nutrients as our bodies cannot produce them in sufficient quantities, therefore, we must get them from the food we eat. The exception to this is Vitamin D, which we will discuss further below. 

Each vitamin and mineral plays an important role in supporting our health and wellbeing, so let’s delve deeper into the significant of these important dietary components.  

Fresh Beef


Vitamins can be classified as: 

  • Water-soluble (such as vitamin C): these are lost through bodily fluids and during cooking, meaning we need them on a daily basis 
  • Or fat-soluble (such as vitamin D): excess of these vitamins can be stored in the body, therefore, we don’t need them on a daily basis 

Vitamin A: Our first fat-soluble vitamin plays a role in maintaining normal vision, helping the immune system function normally and maintaining normal skin and mucous membranes (such as the lining of your nose). Foods that are a source of vitamin A include an array of colourful options like carrots, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes and spinach. Additionally, liver and giblets are rich in vitamin A. As excess vitamin A is stored in the body, eating liver more than once a week and/or taking a supplement that is high in vitamin A could mean you are getting too much. It should also be noted that too much vitamin A during pregnancy can harm the baby. Please refer to the NHS website or speak to a healthcare professional for further information. 

Next, let’s talk about a few of the B vitamins; B1, B3, B9 and B12, all of which are water-soluble. 

Vitamin B1: Thiamin, or vitamin B1, helps support a healthy nervous system, as well as helping our body release the energy from the food we eat. Food sources of vitamin B1 include peas, some fresh fruits such as oranges, and liver. 

Vitamin B3: Niacin, or vitamin B3, also helps release energy from food, as well as playing a role in maintaining normal skin and a healthy nervous system. Meat, poultry and fish are good sources of vitamin B3, including fresh tuna, sardines, beef and turkey. 

Vitamin B9: Folate, folic acid (the manmade version) or vitamin B9, helps with the formation of red blood cells, supports immune function and helps reduce tiredness. This B vitamin also plays an important role in the development of the nervous system in unborn babies. Folate is found in a variety of foods, including leafy greens (spinach, kale, cabbage etc.), kidney beans, brussels sprouts, asparagus, liver and kidney. 

Vitamin B12: This vitamin is indispensable for various physiological processes, including normal red blood cell formation, psychological function and it contributes to the reduction of tiredness. Vitamin B12 primarily occurs in animal-derived foods such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Please note if you are vegan, you may not be getting enough vitamin B12. 

Vitamin C: This essential nutrient possesses antioxidant properties and helps to protect our cells from oxidative stress, which is a type of damage. Additionally, vitamin C helps with collagen formation (which is important for the normal function of our skin, teeth and bones) and enhances the absorption of iron. Citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, and broccoli are all excellent sources. 

Vitamin D: this fat-soluble vitamin plays a key role in keeping bones, teeth and muscles healthy by helping to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. Vitamin D is unique as it can be synthesised in our skin upon exposure to sunlight. However, we can also get some from foods including fortified breakfast cereals, dairy products and spreads, as well as oily fish including salmon and mackerel. In the UK, from late March/early April to the end of September, most people should get the vitamin D they need from sunlight on their skin, however, it is advised to take a daily vitamin D supplement during the autumn and winter. Those at high risk of vitamin D deficiency should take a daily supplement all year round. Please refer to the NHS website for more information. 

Vitamin E: Another potent antioxidant, vitamin E also contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress. Moreover, this fat-soluble vitamin supports the normal function of the immune system. Nuts, seeds, plant oils (including olive and rapeseed), avocados and leafy greens such as kale are replete with vitamin E. 

Vitamin K: Our final fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin K, is essential for normal blood clotting and may contribute to bone structure. Leafy green vegetables, including spinach and broccoli stand as prominent sources of this vital nutrient. 


Minerals are inorganic chemical elements that come from rocks, the soil or water. They are absorbed into plants as they grow, or end up in animals when they eat the plants. Try to include each type of mineral in your diet regularly. Minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium are needed in larger quantities. Conversely, iodine, iron and zinc are needed in trace quantities. Let’s talk about some of the main minerals that feature in a healthy, balanced diet. 

Calcium: This essential mineral plays an important role in building and maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Calcium also helps nerves and muscles to function normally. Foods that are a great source of calcium include dairy products, calcium-fortified dairy-alternatives, some leafy greens such as spinach and kale and shrimp. 

Potassium: Involved in regulating the water content in our bodies and maintaining normal blood pressure. Potassium also contributes to the normal functioning of the nervous system and muscles. Potassium rich-foods include potatoes, sweet potatoes, bananas and avocados. Fresh meat options such as lean cuts of beef and pork are also sources of potassium. 

Magnesium: From helping our bodies to release energy from food, to maintaining normal bones and muscle function, magnesium is involved in a huge number of bodily functions. Nuts, seeds, whole grain breakfast cereals and breads and some leafy greens such as Swiss chard are sources. Additionally, seafood like mackerel and fresh tuna can contribute to magnesium intakes. 

Iron: This mineral is essential for the normal formation of red blood cells, which transport oxygen around the body. Iron also contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue, as well as the normal function of the immune system. There are two types of dietary iron; haem iron (comes from meat such as beef and seafood such as oysters and mussels) and non-haem iron (comes from plant sources such as edamame beans, lentils and nuts). Pairing sources of non-haem iron with foods containing animal protein or vitamin C can make it easier for your body to absorb the iron. It is also worth noting that food and drinks containing tannins including coffee, black and herbal teas can reduce iron absorption, therefore, you might want to avoid having these with your meals. 

Zinc: This important mineral supports healthy hair, skin and nails, as well as contributing to normal fertility and reproduction. Zinc-rich foods encompass meat, poultry, some shellfish (such as oysters, mussels and crab), nuts and seeds. 

Iodine: this mineral is essential for normal thyroid function and the production of thyroid hormones, which help keep our cells healthy and regulate metabolic rate. Sources of iodine include fish such as cod and halibut, shellfish such as shrimp and lobster, dairy products and eggs.  

In conclusion, a balanced menu which is abundant in nutrient-dense foods is crucial to helping your customers get the essential vitamins and minerals they need. By integrating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats into your recipes, you can provide nutrients to help support health and wellbeing. Consult with a nutrition professional such as a Registered Nutritionist or Dietitian to customise your menu to meet your diner’s nutritional requirements, ultimately supporting them to make healthier, informed choices. 

CB Nutritional chart graphic

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