The Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients that the body needs to perform a number of normal functions. However, these micronutrients are not produced in our body and must be derived from the food we eat. Like vitamins, minerals also help the body function. Minerals are elements that our bodies need to function and are found in soil and food.

Some minerals, such as iodine and fluorine, are only needed in very small amounts. Others, such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, are needed in large quantities. As with vitamins, if you follow a varied diet, you'll probably get enough of most minerals. Vitamin A is an essential vitamin that comes in two forms.

One type comes from animal food sources. It helps you see at night, produce red blood cells and fight infections. The other type is found in plant-based foods. It helps prevent cell damage and an eye problem called age-related macular degeneration.

However, too much vitamin A can damage the liver. Although they are all considered to be micronutrients, vitamins and minerals differ in basic ways. Vitamins are organic and can be broken down by heat, air, or acid. Minerals are inorganic and maintain their chemical structure.

While the body needs all the vitamins, only a few minerals are needed for nutrition. Examples of minerals needed include calcium, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium and zinc. Minerals and trace elements are found mainly in meat, cereals, fish, milk and dairy products, vegetables, nuts and nuts. Vitamins and minerals are a form of nutrient (called micronutrients) that are needed in small amounts.

Although micronutrients don't give us energy, they participate in metabolic processes that allow us to obtain energy from carbohydrates, proteins and fats, which are also known as macronutrients. Vitamin D allows the body to extract calcium from food sources that pass through the digestive tract instead of extracting it from bones. You can get the recommended daily amount of vitamin E by eating a variety of foods, such as vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, green vegetables, and fortified cereals. Vitamin B9 (folic acid) may help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine, known as neural tube defects.

Vitamins were only obtained from food until the 1930s when commercially manufactured supplements for certain vitamins became available. The kidneys continuously regulate the levels of water-soluble vitamins and remove excesses from the body through the urine. Fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K) dissolve in fat and tend to build up in the body. If your diet includes a wide variety of foods including whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, nuts, seeds eggs and meats you're likely to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

Vitamin E is used for cellular communication to strengthen the immune system and to form red blood cells. There are 13 essential vitamins (A B C D E and K with 8 vitamins in the B complex) and many minerals the body needs for optimal health. Erythrocyte hemolysis is another deficiency: it is seen in babies who are born before the mother transfers vitamin E to them before birth. Vitamins and minerals are considered essential nutrients because acting together they perform hundreds of functions in the body.

Beware of unproven claims about the benefits of taking higher than recommended amounts of any vitamin or mineral. The B-complex vitamin family is made up of 8 B vitamins each of which plays a different important role throughout the body (Online table). Eating a healthy diet is still the best way to get enough of the vitamins and minerals you need.

Ben Liebhardt
Ben Liebhardt

Amateur travel fanatic. General web buff. Certified travel junkie. Twitter nerd. Infuriatingly humble web practitioner. Certified beer nerd.

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