Vitamins and Minerals – What they are and what they do

Vitamins and minerals are nutrients that are essential for good health. While vitamins and minerals are often lumped together, they are very different in their structure and function. Minerals have more of a ‘structural’ role in the body, while vitamins help support chemical reactions in the body.  

Vitamins are considered organic substances (made by ‘living’ organisms) found in plants and animals. They can be either water or fat soluble. This means they need either water or fat to be absorbed into and transported throughout the body.

Examples of water soluble vitamins are vitamin C and B vitamins. Excesses of water soluble vitamins can be easily eliminated from the body, via urination for example, so toxicity is rare. The downside is that they cannot be stored by the body, so must be replenished every day.

Fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K, need fats to be absorbed, so it’s best to take these vitamins with a meal that includes some fat. They can be stored in fat tissue of the body and organs, especially the liver. Since they can be stored, they don’t need to be consumed every day. High levels can stress the liver and may be toxic, so large doses should not be taken without consulting a health care practitioner.

Here is a list of some of the more common vitamins, their main functions and good food sources:

Interestingly, vitamins need minerals to function properly. So what are minerals?

Minerals are considered inorganic substances (made by processes not related to ‘living’ organisms) found in soil and water. The body cannot use this inorganic form; however, plants can - and they transform them into organic minerals that the body can use when we eat plant-based food.

Our bodies need minerals in small amounts. Minerals are divided into macro-minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, which are required in amounts of 100 milligrams or more per day, and micro-minerals (or trace minerals), such as iron and zinc, which are required in amounts of less than 100 milligrams per day.

Here is a list of some of the more common minerals, their main functions and good food sources:

The best way to maximize the vitamins and minerals you are getting through your food is to eat a wide variety of organically and naturally grown whole foods every day. When selecting fruits and vegetables, make sure you go for a wide variety of colors! Also, avoid processed and packaged foods and drinks, as they rob the body of these important nutrients.

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