1. Support Vision

Vitamin A (named because it was the first vitamin to be discovered) improves your sight – hence the age-old saying that carrots help you see better in the dark.

Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children, with an estimated 250 million preschool children suffering from deficiency worldwide. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 vitamin A deficient children become blind every year, half of them dying within 12 months of losing their sight.

Vitamin A is found in fruits, vegetables, eggs, whole milk, butter, meat, liver and some fish. Unfortunately millions of people don’t have access to a diet that contains these foods. Large scale fortification programs add Vitamin A to maize, wheat flour, or oil, providing people with Vitamin A, even if they can’t afford to eat a diverse diet.

2. Boost energy and support good mental health

Iron and Vitamin B12 are essential minerals that fight exhaustion and anaemia by carrying oxygen through the lungs and around the body to maintain a healthy nervous system. Some people recommend having a pint of Guinness, as it’s loaded with iron and antioxidants! At GAIN we are working to fortify staple foods with iron – like baladi bread in Egypt, which allows women to get up to 40% of their recommended daily allowance of iron.

Iron deficiencies can be severe, leading not just to anaemia but resulting in delayed mental and motor function in children and memory or other mental functions in teens. It can also lead to depression and decreased productivity, impacting not just individuals but populations. Iron deficiency is the leading cause of maternal death.

3. Help heal infections and wounds

Zinc is crucial for the immune system, boosting our ability to heal infections and wounds by repairing body tissue. It also supports the development of senses: in particular smell and taste. A zinc deficiency can lead to weight lost, impaired senses, a faulty immune system and in some cases intellectual disability.

Zinc is found in meat, nuts and wholegrain cereals. Zinc deficiency is common in countries like Bangladesh where rice makes up 70-80% of diets. New processes thatimprove the zinc content of rice are being tested.

4. Keep babies and moms healthy

Pregnant women are severely at risk from folic acid deficiency. Folic acid is fundamental for fighting pre-pregnancy defects such as spina bifida, brain damage and poor cognitive development. It is found in leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, Swiss chard and kale, and in countries including America, Senegal and Tanzania flour is fortified with folic acid.

Folic acid supplements and food fortified with folic acid can dramatically improve both the mother and child’s health. It is so necessary that women in developed countries are encouraged to take supplements even before pregnancy occurs. These supplements are known as pre-natal vitamins.

5. Prevent brain damage and even make us smarter

Iodine helps us stay warm, keeping the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should.

Iodine deficiency is the world’s most prevalent, yet easily preventable cause of brain damage. This can take effect during pregnancy, jeopardizing a child’s mental health, and often their survival. 32 countries in the world are still severely iodine-deficient, despite the widely-used practice of salt iodization. The United States has beenfortifying salt with iodine since 1924. The result has been a drop in the number of cases of preventable mental handicaps due to iodine deficiency. A 2013 study went even further — revealing that iodine fortification may have boosted the Americans’ average IQ.

All photos ©World Vision


This post originally appeared on BuzzFeed: 5 Ways Vitamins & Minerals Support Us Every Day

Read more from One Goal on micronutrients: Our takeaways from the micronutrient forum, Nutritional gaps and food fortification, and Recap from the VitaminD and Micronutrient Gathering in Jordan