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The Hidden World of Vitamins and Minerals

Welcome to vegcurious – the blog for people who are curious about plant-based eating.

You may be thinking, what hidden world? Vitamins are easy…vitamin C is from oranges, vitamin A is from carrots, vitamin D is from sunlight…easy peasy! Of course, this is true but there are a lot of sources for these, and other vitamins and minerals, that may actually surprise you. For example…did you know that ounce for ounce, broccoli has more vitamin C than an orange*? Or that one cup of cooked collard greens has almost as much calcium as a glass of dairy milk* and is one of your best plant-based sources for calcium? And that’s just the beginning. Vitamins and minerals are hiding out in all our food and often in places where we least expect them. In this blog we’re going to look at some of the best, and often not known, plant-based sources for some of the nutrients we need every day.

Two common misconceptions

1. Oranges are the best source of vitamin C

When it comes to common knowledge about where to get our vitamins and minerals, we have all fallen victim to very clever and very consistent marketing campaigns. Who doesn’t think that oranges are the world’s best source of vitamin C? They’re not.

“Ounce for ounce, broccoli has more vitamin C than an orange*.” 

You have Florida and that state’s citrus commission to thank for that little misconception. They have spent decades and countless millions of dollars to ensure that when you think oranges, you think of not only Florida, but vitamin C and health. The problem with this is that oranges are simply not the best source of vitamin C out there. You can get far more vitamin C in your diet from eating bell peppers. And, you might want to sit down for this one…cup for cup, broccoli has even more vitamin C than an orange, and with broccoli you also get other vitamins and minerals like calcium and iron.    

2. We need milk because calcium is the most important mineral for bone health

This is actually debatable, although dairy farmers would rather you not know this. According to Christopher Gardner, PhD, a Rehnborg Farquhar Professor, and a Professor of Medicine, “Most of us grew up believing that milk is important for children to build strong bones and for the elderly to prevent osteoporosis. But milk, a good source of calcium, isn’t necessarily the most critical factor for bone health.”

The problem with the idea that dairy milk is critical for bone health is, according to Gardner, that there are many countries, like Japan, where the population is primarily lactose-intolerant and milk consumption is very low, yet the incidence of hip fractures is also low. It would appear that other factors, like engaging in weight-bearing exercises, is more closely related to good bone health than calcium intake. Simply put, “It’s better to be physically active than drink milk as a way to strengthen your bones,” says Dr. Gardner.

"A cup of cooked collard greens contains 268 mg of calcium. One cup of dairy milk contains 306 mg of calcium. (Source: USDA)"

This is not to say that calcium isn’t important. It is to say that dairy milk isn’t important. Calcium has many functions in the body and can be found in many different plant-based sources.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the most important nutrients we need to consume each day and some of the surprising sources for these nutrients.

What is it?

What does it do?

Surprise! You can find it here

How much do you get?

Other plant-based sources

Vitamin A and beta carotene

Important for normal vision, the immune system, reproduction, and growth and development. Vitamin A also helps your heart, lungs, and other organs work properly.

Romaine lettuce

1 cup = 23% of your DV**

Kale, sweet potatoes, carrots, red peppers (raw), apricots

Vitamin D

Helps to protect your bones from osteoporosis and well as working to reduce inflammation and modulate bodily processes including cell growth, neuromuscular and immune functions, and glucose metabolism.

Cremini mushrooms***

1 cup= 139% of your DV

Fortified soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, orange juice and breakfast cereals, mushrooms, apricots

Vitamin C

Works to ensure the growth and repair of tissue in your entire body and helps the body make collagen which is an important protein used to make skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels.

Bell peppers

1 cup = 106% of your DV

Guava, kiwi, oranges, mango, papaya, strawberries

Vitamin K

Helps with blood clotting and also plays an important role in bone health.


1 cup (30g) = 120% of your DV

Kale, Swiss chard, mustard greens, broccoli, cabbage, kiwi, green beans


Beneficial for improving bone density, as well as important for other bodily functions related to your heart, muscles, nerves, and circulatory system.

Collard greens

1 cup = 27% of your DV

Broccoli, tofu, fortified nut milks, beans, kale, tahini, chia seeds, almonds, black strap molasses


Plays an essential role in red blood cell formation as well as cell metabolism and nerve function. It also helps to make DNA.

Nutritional yeast

¼ cup = up to 1,000% of your DV depending on the brand

Fortified breakfast cereals, tempeh



Now you know that the nutrients you need each day may be hiding out in places where you least expect them! Check the sources below for more information about plant-based sources for vitamins and minerals.

I hope this blog has helped you find your way to plant-based eating. Remember…the goal is not to be perfect. Do the best you can and enjoy the journey! Sign up for vegcurious to be delivered right to your inbox at


**DV is Daily Value

*** Mushrooms can synthesize vitamin D2 when exposed to UV light. Only wild mushrooms or mushrooms treated with UV light are good sources of vitamin D.

Sources :


Note: It is strongly recommended that you consult with your primary care physician before making any changes to your diet. This blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended to recommend or endorse any particular product, diet or eating plan.



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