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Why Do We Need Vitamins and Minerals?

Why Do We Need Vitamins and Minerals?

In this post, I would like to explain the difference between vitamins and minerals and also why our body needs them. We tend to use these terms interchangeably, but minerals and vitamins differ in some very important aspects which will ultimately affect how your body receives and absorbs them. Yes, vitamins and minerals are both considered micro nutrients, because the body does not need a large amount of them, in order for them to perform the really important bodily functions that they control. Like everything else, too little levels or too high levels of vitamins or minerals is unhealthy for the body and can lead to disease. So why do we need vitamins and minerals? In short, vitamins and minerals are considered essential nutrients because they perform hundreds of roles in the body. But we will further discuss what they do in more detail.

Vitamins – The Basics

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Vitamins are organic and can be broken down by heat, air, or acid. This means that vitamins are harder to successfully get inside your body because many things can damage or inactivate their structure, for example simply cooking the food can eliminate the vitamin benefits.

There Are 2 Types of Vitamins:

1. Water-soluble vitamins are:

  • found in the watery portions of the foods you eat;
  • absorbed directly into the bloodstream during digestion;
  • the body is made up of 75$ water therefore water-soluble vitamins have no problems getting around inside the body to where they need to go;
  • kidneys are responsible in regulating the levels of water-soluble vitamins;
  • excess is removed through our urine;
  • vitamin B complex and vitamin C.

The Role of Water Soluble Vitamins

Water soluble vitamins do MANY things in the body, but they can be categorized into two main roles:

  • Maintain tissues healthy: by producing collagen using vitamin C and by building proteins and cells with Vitamin B complex.
  • Produce and release energy from the food we ingest.

2. Fat-soluble vitamins:

  • are found in fatty foods and oils that we eat;
  • there are 4 main fat-soluble vitamins: Vitamins A, D, E and K.
  • fat tissues and liver are responsible for controlling the release of these vitamins when needed by the body;
  • fat-soluble vitamins are not as easily absorbed by the body as water-soluble ones are;
  • fat-soluble vitamins need to be ”broken” down in the small intestines by a substance produced by the liver called bile;
  • only after this break-down, can fat-soluble vitamins be absorbed by the body through the small intestines.

In total, there are 13 essential vitamins that our body needs to stay healthy and you can get them all in your diet, without the need for supplementation. Here is a complete list of food containing vitamins.

The Role of Fat Soluble Vitamins

These 4 fat soluble vitamins work in sync to do their job. One without the other can cause health issues. The 3 main roles they play are:

  • Bone formation;
  • Vitamin A protects your vision;
  • Protect the body because Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant (I will explain this just below).

IMPORTANT NOTE REGARDING ALL VITAMINS

It is true that some water-soluble vitamins need to be replenished every few days, but some of them, like ALL fat soluble vitamins, can be stored in the body for very long periods of time. This is why it is very important to not just take supplements without being recommended by your doctor and confirming that you have a certain vitamin deficiency. Toxic levels of vitamins can cause damage.

Antioxidants

I think it is important to take a pause here and explain what is an antioxidant. I know this term is thrown around a lot when it comes to certain foods and drinks. But when someone says ”eat this, it is a good antioxidant”, do we really know what that means, other than it is good for you in some way?

Let us have a closer look:

Antioxidants is an all-inclusive term that includes any substance that helps control and damage molecules in the body that are unstable and therefore toxic to cells and DNA.

The name given to unstable compounds in the body is free radicals. Free radicals have been linked to a variety of diseases, including heart disease and certain cancers. (1)

Although our body produces antioxidants naturally, there are many foods you can eat that can provide extra antioxidants for your body.

What is really important to know, is that evidence suggests that antioxidant supplements do not work as well as the naturally occurring antioxidants in foods such as fruits and vegetables. (1) AGAIN, more reason to avoid supplementation by just following a healthy and balanced diet.

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The main source of antioxidants are in fruits and vegetables. If you consistently eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily, you will definitely be getting enough antioxidants. If you want a detailed list of foods, you can go here.

Minerals – The Basics

Minerals are inorganic and hold on to their chemical structure meaning that they are more easily consumed and absorbed by the body.

Types of Minerals

  1. Major Minerals
  • Have this name because they are found and stored in the body in larger amounts compared to trace minerals;
  • They are Calcium, Chloride, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium and Sulfur;
  • Like water and fat soluble vitamins, each of these major minerals are absorbed in 1 of 2 ways: either directly into the bloodstream or require another substance to assist with the transport and absorption.

The Role of Major Minerals

  • To regulate water level in the body
  • To develop and maintain healthy bones and teeth
  • Stabilize protein structures like hair, nails and teeth.

2. Trace Minerals

  • Do not underestimate their importance, even though they are find in extremely tiny quantities in the body;
  • They are Chromium, Copper, Fluoride, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum. Selenium and Zinc.

The Role of Trace Minerals

Trace minerals have many functions, and here are only just a few:

  • Protect cells;
  • Forming of key enzymes or enhancing their activity;
  • Transport oxygen in the body;
  • Involved in taste and smell;
  • Helps the immune system;
  • Prevents or minimizes blood clots.

IMPORTANT NOTE REGARDING ALL MINERALS

Like with vitamins, too much or too little levels of minerals can have serious health implications. Most OVER CONSUMPTION of minerals, is due to taking supplements and not from food. Foods containing high levels of minerals can be found here.

This really goes with my strong belief for not taking supplements unless absolutely necessary. And by necessary, I mean you have clear blood tests indicating you have low levels and your doctor advises you to take a supplement. I would never just take a vitamin ”just because it is good for you”. Nothing is good for you in high amounts. It becomes toxic.

I have mentioned in many of my previous posts, like when I a supplement called cortisol manager for stress or types of iron supplements, that I would never encourage or recommend for you to take a supplement. I myself, have taken supplements only twice in my life and I am almost 38 years old, and the second time is because I am pregnant and taking folic acid. I am a very strong belief in healthy eating over supplements. There are always exceptions, especially when there are other health implications involved that makes it difficult to maintain a healthy level of nutrients. So ALWAY, and I mean ALWAYS, discuss supplementation with your doctor – no exception.

Take Away

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The take away is simple. And it is what I have mentioned from my very first article on this site and I will continue to mention through many other posts because the ”rule” holds true all the time, when it comes to health and even fitness. BALANCE and MODERATION. Too much of anything or too little of anything is not good. Learn to make healthy choices but to add variety in order to get everything your body needs and also so you do not get bored and as a result, slip off the healthy eating train because you will say that eating healthy is boring! Good food it really not boring. There are so many delicious foods and dishes that can be made from whole foods and fresh vegetables.

Some simple advice can be to try to choose a variety of foods from each food group each week and change every alternate week. This way, it will not be too difficult to keep up with and it can be done each week you head out to do the groceries. For example, choose seafood instead of meat twice a week, or turkey instead of chicken. One week, have broccoli, carrots and eggplants, and the next week asparagus, brussel sprouts and green beans. The choices are endless and you will definitely enjoy the change.

Did any of you learn something new from this article? Have you been or have you ever supplemented for minerals and vitamins? If so, which ones and why? Please share your comments and personal experiences below:)

 

 

14 thoughts on “Why Do We Need Vitamins and Minerals?”

  1. Hi, 

    A really great in depth article. I learnt a lot of information by reading this post and whilst my understanding of getting a balanced diet made sense it is good to know that a healthy diet shouldn’t be substituted by taking vitamin supplements.

    I wasn’t aware of the key roles of minerals. I was pretty ignorant infact and knew only that calciium was good for the teeth.

    I gave blood once and was told that I needed to get more iron so have looked into this and take an iron supplement. I will now have a little more red meat and fish. But as you say all in moderation.

    Thanks for the post. 

    Reply
    • Hello Mike,

      Thank you so much for sharing your feedback with regards to my article. I am glad you learned something from my article.

      Regular blood work is the best way to determine if their is a need for supplementation and I am glad that you did that before taking supplements. If there is one thing I want people to learn or remember from this article, is to not take supplements mindlessly.

      Are you still taking iron supplements? I would really recommend you read my articles on iron function and what I recommend as the best iron supplement I think you would find them very informative.

      Thank you again for your support.

      Reply
  2. Hi Cynthia and thanks for the great article on vitamins and minerals, I tend to forget about the importance of having vitamins and minerals in my body. 

    I would say I am guilty of not eating a lot of fruit in my diet although being in Thailand I do tend to have different types of vegetables and meats. 

    I agree with you when you say you should have to much or to little of one thing in your diet and it is a great idea to interchange your foods week by week. Great article!

    Reply
    • Hello Marc,

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on my post. 

      Living in Thailand must be a whole different world when it comes to eating. I am sure there are dozens of fruits and vegetable that I am not even aware of here in Canada. What would be your favorite Thailand fruit?

      If you are eating lots of red meat, try to mix that up with seafood, white fish or chicken every once and awhile.

      Thanks again!

      Reply
  3. Supplements became a part of my life when I was expecting my first child.  I hadn’t slowed down enough to even think about this part of my life until then.  I am sure that I also had a change in perspective about that time about being a responsible parent and a young married woman working and keeping house and the things we were doing at the time.  So as a reader I found myself reading all I could find about how to know which were for what and how much as well as how often.  Finding that the medical profession was rather indifferent towards supplements made it even more interesting.  Then having a friend go to a natural cure cancer center, I realized we can help ourselves by eating properly and supplements.  

    The food quality that we have access to is wonderful considering all the little things that can happen to the nutrition in food.  Picked too soon so it lasts longer on the shelf.  Poor soil.  Shipped too far to get it to us.  Cooked too long, or not enough.  The list is endless, and we are left with bodies that just work with it.  Then wonder if our energy stats lagging.  Or our skin looks dry, or all the other things that bodies do when robbed of proper nutrition.  Supplements can help bridge the gap between what we need and what we get.  

    Reply
    • Hello Sami,

      Thank you for being such a consistent support on my site. I can not help but notice that you have read many of my posts and always take the time to share your thoughts.

      You remind me of myself right now. Being my first pregnancy, I am taking supplements for the 2nd time in my life. The last time I was really desperate as I was not sleeping and tried a cortisol manager which I must say worked wonders. But I have always been of the mindset that I get what I need from my food but now being an expectant mom, I feel like I need to be wiser. 

      And it shows that you are really well educated on the topic and why the food today is not the same quality as it was before our years here on this earth. I am definitely doing a lot of research as well since the pregnancy and this also is why I am really motivated to have a blog – so us women can share our experiences and knowledge.

      Thank you again Sami!

      Reply
  4. Back in the day, there were no such things as vitamins or supplements or even probiotics and this was mainly because organic farming was the norm. But those days are long gone. Farming methods and soil quality are far different now and the minerals that are supposed to be in food are lacking. Taking vitamins makes sense to supplement the minerals that we don’t get enough of from food. I always look for vitamins that have GMP(Good manufacturing practices) in the label. 

    Reply
    • That is absolutely true Sonny. We can not know for certain the quality of foods nowadays. So even if we make the best conscious effort to eat well, may may be still lacking in our essential nutrients. 

      So if you are going to use a supplement, you have the choice in the quality of the supplement that you chose and yes, GMP is a very good place to start when choosing your supplement.

      Reply
  5. Hi, Cynthia, thank you for the comprehensive and insightful post on minerals and vitamins. It is good to know how nature has bountifully provided rich and diverse sources for these nutrients. I appreciate your counsel that for us to access an adequate amount of these nutrients we need to ensure that our foods are diverse. Your suggested strategy to do this is noted. I have not had any cause to supplement my nutrient need at any time. However, I understand that the elderly whose food intake has reduced, it may become necessary for them to supplement some minerals and vitamins.

    Reply
    • Hello Mojisola,

      Thank you so much for sharing your feedback with regards to my article. I am glad you learned something from my article.

      You are write, the elderly can be more susceptible to vitamin or mineral deficiency due to a reduced food intake or other underlying health issues. Regular blood work would be great to determine if there is a need for supplementation for the elderly and for all ages really. I just highly recommend being assessed medically before taking supplements.

      Thank you again for your support.

      Reply
  6. Thank you Cynthia, for your article on Vitamins and Minerals. I liked your recommendations for eating a variety of foods in your diet. Your suggestions of the vegetables to vary over the course of several weeks sounds delicious. It should keep you healthy and avoid getting tired of your diet to add all those colorful foods on a regular basis.
    I enjoyed your breakdown of the different types of vitamins, water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. I remember many years ago, my doctor said it was hard to get too much water soluble vitamins in your diet, as they are flushed out by your kidneys.
    Thanks again for your article.

    Reply
    • Hello Carolyn,

      Thank you reading my of my post and taking the time to share your thoughts.

      We need to really educate our self on our health and  on topics that can really help us do our part because today, we not only have to be really careful on our food choices but also, the food today is not the same quality as it was before our years here on this earth. I am definitely doing a lot of research since I found out I am pregnant. I feel the extra pressure and responsibility now because I am caring for 2! This also is why I am really motivated to have a blog – so us women can share our experiences and knowledge.

      Thank you again!

      Reply
  7. Hi Cinthya,

    I loved the reding; I found your article extremely useful.

    I like eating fruits and vegetables, in fact, every time I have the occasion, I eat vegetables. The problem is that I cook them most of the time. I have a lack of vitamin D, so when I can, I sunbath, and I take vitamin D too. I do have a question if you don’t mind. Is there such a thing overdose of vitamins? I mean, if we take too much of it, would it be dangerous?

    Thanks a lot!

    Reply
    • Hello Daniella,

      Thank you for reading my article and sharing your thoughts. That is great that you are a big eater of fruits and vegetables. That is not a bad habit to have at all. You can always choose a vegetable or two that you can have eat week, to eat in its raw form: like carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, Or when you cook them, do not over cook but have the vegetables still crispy.

      Yes I definitely mentioned this in my article, that over-consumption of minerals or vitamins can cause health issues. For example, having too much selenium could lead to hair loss, gastrointestinal upset, fatigue, and mild nerve damage. Each will have different side effects, some more serious than others. If you have discussed taking vitamin D with your doctor on a regular basis, then you should be ok:)

      Thank you again for stopping by!

      Reply

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