Even though they're in almost everything we eat and drink, many people aren't exactly clear what the distinction is between vitamins and dietary minerals. We're told they're important and we need them to keep us healthy, but what's the difference?
What Are Vitamins?
Vitamins are organic compounds the human body needs but doesn't produce enough of on its own; getting them through food or supplementation is necessary. Without, vitamin deficiency may result and can seriously impact our overall health.
There are two categories of vitamins our bodies need: water-soluble, and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins B and C are found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Because they break down easily in water, our bodies flush water-soluble vitamins out through urination, this requires we provide ourselves with an ongoing daily supply.
Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K are absorbed by stored body fat and can be stored for later use. Although our bodies need this type of vitamin less often, overconsumption can be dangerous. These are found most abundantly in naturally fatty foods, such as oily fish, dairy, beef. Vegetarian and vegan-friendly sources include a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, although in much lower concentrations than in animal-based options.
One of the easiest ways to distinguish between water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins when shopping for food at the store is to look at the overall percentage of total daily requirement. Water-soluble vitamins will often appear in extremely large amounts; many over-the-counter multivitamins, for example, contain several hundred, or even thousands of, times the normal recommended amount. Fat-soluble vitamins, conversely, rarely appear in concentrations that exceed 25 to 50 percent of their total daily recommended amount.
What Are Minerals?
Minerals are inorganic and found in water and soil. They can also be divided into two categories. Macronutrients, which our bodies need over 100 mg each day of, include potassium, sodium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. The amount of "trace minerals," or micronutrients, the body needs is significantly less, under 100 mg per day. These include zinc, iron, manganese, copper, iodine, selenium, and molybdenum.
In our bodies, vitamins and minerals support growth, the immune system, and countless biological reactions and processes. The carotenoids in carrots, for example, are converted to vitamin K within the body, hence carrots' reputation as being good for the eyes. This is just one of the many, many processes vitamins and minerals support.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.