Minerals and vitamins are essential for the body to function properly. Minerals are nutrients found in foods. These are similar to vitamins which are just as essential for good health. These are a part of all cells, tissues, muscles and fluids in the body. Minerals and vitamins are needed for a variety of chemical processes that take place within the human’s body.
What are minerals and vitamins needed for?
Minerals – such as calcium, potassium and zinc – are needed by the body for a number of processes. These include:
- Breaking down, digesting and releasing energy from food,
- Strengthening bones, nails and teeth, as well as
- Regulating fluid and cholesterol in the body.
There are 16 essential minerals required by the body. These are divided into:
- Macrominerals, or minerals that are needed in fairly large quantities,
- Microminerals, which are needed in smaller quantities, and
- Trace elements, which are needed in minute quantities but which are still vital for the body’s well-being.
The benefits of some minerals cannot be seen without the presence of certain minerals and vice versa. For example, vitamin D is required in order to absorb calcium. Iron is absorbed more efficiently together with foods containing vitamin C.
The quantity of minerals contained in certain foods depends on the amount of minerals present in the soil where these foods were grown. Essential minerals and vitamins can be lost through transporting foods over long distances, poor storage and through cooking.
A lack of certain vitamins can lead to fatigue, poor skin, teeth and bones. In some cases, a vitamin deficiency can lead to serious illness.
Vitamins interact with other nutrients in processes such as:
- Developing blood cells.
Some vitamins are said to slow down the ageing process, prevent the development of cancerous cells which attack the body and strengthen the immune system.
There are 13 different kinds of vitamins that can be divided into two categories: water soluble and fat soluble:
- Fat-soluble vitamins are found in animal fats and fatty foods. They are stored in the body for a long time and are available when you need them. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble vitamins. These are absorbed from dietary fats in the intestine and are then stored in the liver until they are needed. This means that they do not have to be consumed every day. This is because any excess vitamins are lost through urine and cannot be stored in the body.
- Water-soluble vitamins can be found in food. The body cannot store them so you have to make sure that you are eating an adequate amount of them for your body to function like it should. As with fat-soluble vitamins, any excess vitamins are lost through urine and cannot be stored by the body.
Water-soluble vitamins play an important part in the break down, metabolism and digestion of protein, fats and carbohydrates as well as the subsequent release of energy into the body. Without an adequate supply of vitamins these processes may not be properly completed.