Vitamins and Minerals and other Famous Combos
We say it without thinking invariably linking vitamins and minerals together just like we do peanut butter and jelly, oil and vinegar, and Bonnie and Clyde. And like those famous combos, vitamins and minerals complement each other while retaining their own identities and having their own roles or function when it comes to our health. We mention them together as if they are one and the same. But, they are not.
Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients. “Essential” holds a special meaning when it comes to nutrition. It does not mean what you might think. It is true that vitamins and minerals are absolutely necessary for our health, but they are “essential” because the body cannot make them. And, that’s what the word “essential” means when we talk about nutrition – something the body cannot make on its own.
How Vitamins and Minerals Differ
Vitamins are organic compounds (contain carbon) while minerals are inorganic elements. Both are considered micronutrients because they are needed, but only in small amounts for optimal function. Whereas macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are needed in larger amounts.
Vitamins are classified as either water soluable or fat soluble. Fat soluable vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K. Everything else is water soluable. Vitamins A and E are antioxidants. Vitamin D and K play a role in bone health with vitamin K playing a role in blood clotting and vitamin D a role in immune function.
The B vitamins are water soluable and act as coenzymes facilitating a number of biochemical processes. Vitamin C is involved in metabolic functions and immune function and also an important antioxidant. There are other vitamins beyond these mentioned here.
Minerals comprise only 4% of body weight but without them you could not live. Minerals are necessary for vital processes and are important structural compounds. Minerals include: calcium, chloride, chromium, cobalt, copper, fluoride, iodide, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, sulphur, and zinc.
One thing to be aware of is this. Just because a food contains certain amounts of vitamins and minerals does not mean your body will absorb them fully. Absorption of vitamins and minerals is affected by other foods, how food is prepared or cooked, and presence of any gastrointestinal disease.
In general, physically active individuals need 2-3 times the RDA (recommended daily allowances) for optimal health. RDAs were developed as the minimum amount of a nutrient to prevent disease. They do not represent the ideal amount to achieve optimal health.