Vitamins and minerals are substances needed, in varying small amounts, to sustain life, to ensure correct body functioning and to maintain overall health. They are obtained from your diet and a lack of a particular vitamin or mineral results in the body’s improper functioning and in severe cases of diseases, related to vitamin or mineral deficiency, such as scurvy caused by a long term Vitamin C deficiency.
Symptoms of a deficiency disease range from minor problems such as poor skin, hair and nails to serious conditions such as anemia, which can be caused by too little Iron.
All vitamins and minerals work with each other in order to ensure their effectiveness.
These have many functions: they are involved in processes such as digestion of food, resistance to infections, energy production and growth and repair of body cells. Your body can make small quantities of some vitamins (e.g. Vitamin D), but relies on the diet to provide the quantity needed to maintain good health. Vitamins can be destroyed by light, heat, smoking, and alcohol.
Vitamins are usually divided into two categories:
Fat Soluble Vitamins, which require an adequate supply of fats and minerals to be absorbed by the body. Fat soluble vitamins are stored in the liver for use when needed. They are:
⦁ Vitamin A – According to the Institute of Medicine, the average adult male needs 900 micrograms of vitamin A daily. The average adult female needs 700 milligrams, while a pregnant woman should avoid it. A breastfeeding mother needs 1,300 milligrams daily.
⦁ Vitamin D – All things considered, a daily vitamin D intake of 1000–4000 IU, or 25–100 micrograms, should be enough to ensure optimal blood levels in most people.
4000 IU is the safe upper limit according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Make sure not to take more than that without consulting with a health professional.
⦁ Vitamin E – The average adult needs 15 milligrams of vitamin E daily. The recommendation is the same for pregnant women, but breastfeeding mothers should aim for 19 milligrams a day.
⦁ Vitamin K – the recommended adequate intake for vitamin K depends on age and gender. Women aged 19 years and over should consume 90 micrograms (mcg) a day, and men should have 120 mcg.
Water Soluble Vitamins need to be replenished frequently, because unlike the fat soluble vitamins they are not stored by the body. Any excess is excreted in the urine. The water soluble vitamins are Vitamin C and the B Vitamins, collectively called the B Vitamin Complex. The Vitamin B Complex consists of:
⦁ B-Complex Vitamins – (Bl (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic Acid), B6 (Pyridoxine), B12 (Cobalamin), Folic Acid, Biotin) The B-complex group consists of eight vitamins all used together for the overall growth, maintenance and development of the body.
This group of vitamins consists of vitamin B-1 and B-2, which work together to support the health of muscles, nerves and the heart; B-3 and B-6, which help to maintain the nervous system; B-5, which influences growth and development; B-7, which helps the body produce hormones; and B-9 and B-12, which both work to produce blood cells.
Most B vitamins are found in fortified grains and cereal; however, you can also take a B-complex supplement or a complete multivitamin, which contains them all.
⦁ Vitamin C – A normal man needs 90 milligrams of vitamin C every day, while a normal woman needs 75 milligrams. Pregnant women need slightly more, at 85 milligrams a day, while breastfeeding women need 120 milligrams. Vitamin C is water soluble, which means your body uses what it needs, and excretes the rest in urine. Vitamin C needs to be replaced daily though diet or supplements.
How do vitamins & minerals work together?
Vitamins and minerals have different functions in the body, but may work together at times. Vitamins and minerals are needed to maintain the health of tissue, organs, muscles, bones and blood. In addition to working together within the body, certain vitamins are needed to absorb certain minerals.
Vitamin D and Calcium: Calcium is a mineral found in most dairy products. This mineral is needed for the protection and development of teeth and bones, nerve transmission, blood clotting and to regulate muscle contractions. The WHO recommends eating at least 3 cups of non-fat or low-fat calcium-rich dairy per day. To absorb calcium, you must consume vitamin D. According to the NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center, without vitamin D, the body can’t form a hormone called calcitriol, which will contribute to insufficient dietary calcium absorption. If the body doesn’t get enough calcium, it will pull it from the bones.
Vitamin C and Iron: Iron is a mineral that is present in both meat and vegetarian sources. Iron comes in two categories: heme and non-heme. Heme iron sources come from hemoglobin, which is present in meat. Non-heme iron is present in fortified cereals, legumes, and green leafy vegetables. The Office of Dietary Supplements states that heme iron is more easily absorbed by the body than non-heme iron. Non-heme iron is better absorbed if eaten with a vitamin C source. Approximately 50 percent of iron in red meat is heme, although you only absorb about 20 to 25 percent of it; non-heme iron makes up 80 to 90 percent of your dietary iron and yet you only absorb about 2 percent of it. Vitamin C helps the absorption of this iron by producing an electron to the iron, which makes it easier to absorb by the body.