Your body performs numerous functions every day. It produces skin, bone and muscle and also sends out nerve signals and produces new red blood cells to carry nutrients and oxygen throughout the body.
However, to perform so many functions, it needs raw materials. Your body needs at least 30 minerals and vitamins and other dietary components to function properly, every day. These nutrients need to be consumed via food and water because the body cannot produce its own.
Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients because they have hundreds of roles to play in your body. However, keeping track of the functions of each nutrient may be a bit daunting.
The difference between vitamins and minerals: Biological functions
Vitamins and minerals are generally called micronutrients because your body only requires small amounts of each. However, failing to fulfill your body's demands for these micronutrients can result in adverse effects.
- Scurvy, because of inadequate Vitamin C in the body: Vitamin C is richly found in most fresh fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits, berries and capsicums
- Blindness, from lack of vitamin A consumed. Vitamin A is found in foods such as carrots and almonds
- Rickets caused by vitamin D deficiency. This occurs because of soft and fragile bones and the development of bowed legs. Vitamin D can be found in milk, eggs and most fruits and vegetables
However, getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals can result in the following benefits:
- Healthy teeth: Fluoride is mineral that facilitates bone formation and combats cavities
- Strong bones: Calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, vitamin D and vitamin K are major micronutrients that help in the formation for healthy bones
- Prevention of birth defects: Folic acid supplements during early pregnancy can significantly reduce the chances of brain and spinal birth defects in the baby
While you may need all vitamins, such as A, B, C, D, E and K, to name a few, you may not need all minerals. Some minerals that should not be missed are calcium, magnesium, zinc, iodine, copper, sodium, iron, potassium and phosphorous.
Unfortunately, most vitamins are destroyed during cooking due to excessive heat and chemicals used. Therefore, to conserve the benefits of organic food varieties, it is important that you keep in mind what heat damage can do to your food. Ideally, you must also consume certain fruits and vegetables raw.
On the other hand, minerals are not vulnerable to chemicals, heat or even sunlight. So you can say that minerals are indestructible, while vitamins are not.
This simply means that minerals in water and soil can be easily taken into your body via animals, fish, plants and the fluids you consume. However, it may be hard to conserve the benefits of all vitamins contained in food due to cooking, exposure to air and sunlight and storage.
How vitamins and minerals interact
Most micronutrients tent to interact amongst each other. For example, vitamin D allows the body to withdraw calcium from the food you consume, through the digestive tract instead of getting the same calcium from your bones. Similarly, vitamin C is also friendly with iron as it aids in its absorption.
However, sometimes, vitamins and minerals may not be cooperative. For example, a small rise of manganese from its normal composition may exacerbate iron deficiency. Vitamin C can also tamper the body's ability to absorb and assimilate copper.
The different types of vitamins and minerals
Vitamins are classified into two types: water-soluble and fat-soluble.
Some examples of water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C and the B complex vitamins. Since most of your body consists of water, these vitamins are easily circulated throughout the body. Water-soluble vitamins play a role in releasing energy, producing energy, making collagen, and protein and cell development.
Water-soluble vitamins are only stored in the body for a short period, therefore, regular intake is recommended. Avoid taking too much of these vitamins in the form of supplements as they may be harmful always stick to the recommended dosage. (Source: https://www.doctortipster.com/18699-dietary-supplements-can-harm-our-health.html)
Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin A, D, E and K. They play a major role in bone development and formation, healthy vision, facilitating the assimilation of other vitamins and protecting the body against free radicals.
Minerals can be classified into major minerals and trace minerals.
Major minerals are mainly involved in osmosis, maintaining a proper balance of water in the body. Major minerals include:
Although consumed in very tiny amounts, these minerals play major roles in the body such as bone formation and prevention of tooth decay.
- Immune processes in vitamin deficiency states1,2 https://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/24/2/265.short
- Delay of Natural Bone Loss by Higher Intakes of Specific minerals and vitamins https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/20014091091805#.UqpIyNIW0Ro