Vitamins and minerals are essential micronutrients for the body. They help wounds to heal; convert food into energy; transport blood and vital nerve signals around the body, and more. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to sustain life.
Although they are called micronutrients due to the fact we only need very small amounts of each, our body does require 30 different vitamins and minerals, each with different roles to play.
What’s the difference?
A good place to start is to explain their key differences.
While both vitamins and minerals fall under the micronutrient umbrella, their chemical makeup and purposes differ significantly.
- Vitamins are organic substances, which means that they are made by plants or animals.They are classified as either fat soluble or water soluble.
- Minerals, on the other hand, are inorganic elements, which means they are found in the earth and in water. They are then absorbed by plants or consumed by animals.
Let’s start with talking about the two different kinds of vitamins…
1. Water-soluble vitamins breakdown:
Water-soluble vitamins are packed into the watery portions of the foods you eat. They are absorbed directly into the bloodstream as food is broken down during digestion. These include B vitamins and vitamin C.
There are seven types of B vitamins —including thiamin, folate, B6 and B12 —which together are called the vitamin B complex. These are essential for maintaining good health as they have a direct impact on your energy levels, brain function, and cell metabolism.
Usually, they occur together in the same foods and, if you have a balanced diet involving a variety of nutritious foods such as vegetables, nuts, seeds and pulses, then you shouldn’t have a problem in getting enough.
Meanwhile, Vitamin C is essential for helping to protect cells and keeping them healthy. This involves the cells that make up your skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage. This micronutrient also helps with wound healing.
Vitamin C is found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables such as green vegetables and citrus fruits and berries.
2. Fat-soluble vitamins breakdown:
Rather than slipping easily into the bloodstream like most water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins gain entry to the blood via lymph channels in the intestinal wall. This type of vitamin can then travel through the body by proteins, which act as carriers.
Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin A, D, E and K.
- Vitamin A helps keep cells healthy and protects your vision
- Vitamins A, D and K are responsible for bone formation. Without them, this would be impossible.
- Without vitamin E, your body would have difficulty absorbing and storing vitamin A.
- Vitamin E also acts as an antioxidant and helps protect the body against damage.
Now let’s look at the different types of minerals…
Major minerals are no more important to your health than trace minerals; they’re just present in your body in greater amounts.
One of the key tasks of major minerals is to maintain the proper balance of water in the body — sodium, chloride, and potassium take the lead in doing this. Meanwhile, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium are important for healthy bones, and sulphur helps stabilise protein structures, including those that make up hair, skin, and nails.
Trace minerals also carry out important tasks, although they account for a much smaller portion of your body weight.
Iron is best known for transporting oxygen throughout the body. Meanwhile fluoride strengthens bones; zinc helps blood clot and therefore heal wounds; and copper helps form enzymes such as haemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood.
Other trace minerals include iodine, manganese, selenium, and molybdenum. These all perform equally vital jobs, such as helping to protect the body against damage caused by free radicals and enhancing enzyme activity.
Talking of free radicals, this is another crucial element of our diet, along with antioxidants. I will be writing a blog on this soon so stay tuned to learn more.