• Remana Jamal

Why Vitamins & Minerals are Important?

Updated: Oct 10, 2019



Vitamins and minerals are very important and they can play different roles in metabolism, growth, immune system, bone health and much more. Our bodies can’t produce vitamins and minerals, so we have to obtain them from a wide variety of food.

There’re two types of vitamins, fat-soluble and water-soluble. The fat-soluble vitamins are dissolved and stored in the liver and the fatty tissues for later use. The four fat-soluble vitamins are, vitamin A, D, E, and K.

Water-soluble vitamins, on the other hand, are dissolved in water and are not stored in your body; they exit the body through urine and sweat. There’re nine water-soluble vitamins, Vitamin B complex, and vitamin C.

Just like vitamins, there’re two types of minerals, macro-minerals (needed in large amounts) and trace minerals (needed in small amounts). Macro-minerals include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, sulfur, and chloride. On the other hand, trace minerals include iron, copper, iodine, manganese, zinc, selenium, and fluoride.


Functions & food sources:


· Vitamin A

Function: maintain a healthy vision, immune system, skin, bone, and lower risks of prostate and lung cancer.

Food sources: beef liver, shrimp, eggs, dairy products, fish, carrot, sweet potato, and spinach.


· Vitamin D

Function: regulates the absorption of calcium to maintain healthy bones, reduces depression, and slows down the progression of cancer.

Food sources: fatty fish and fortified dairy products. The most important source of vitamin D is sunlight.


· Vitamin E

Function: Vitamin E is antioxidant, which is essential in protecting against free radicals that cause cancer.

Food sources: almonds, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds.


· Vitamin K

Function: helps in the formation of blood clots and bone health.

Food sources: liver, kale, egg yolk, spinach, butter, and parsley.


· Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)

Function: converts nutrients in foods to energy, creates brain chemicals, produces fatty acids, and makes hormones.

Food sources: brown rice, nuts, seeds, legumes, soy, watermelon, and mussels.


· Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Function: converts nutrients in foods to energy, converts tryptophan into Vitamin B3, it’s needed for healthy brain, skin, blood, and hair.

Food sources: liver, oatmeal, fortified breakfast cereals, leafy vegetables, cheese, yogurt, almonds, and mushrooms.


· Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Function: it plays a role in glycolysis (the breakdown of sugar into energy), and it’s an antioxidant.

Food sources: meat, fish, poultry, peanuts, whole grains, potato, butter, turkey, and sunflower seeds.


· Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)

Function: it forms proteins fats, hormones, and hemoglobin. It’s also important for metabolism.

Food sources: liver, sunflower seeds, chicken, egg yolk, whole grain, mushrooms, broccoli, avocado, and tomato.


· Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

Function: it forms red blood cells, amino acid metabolism, breakdown the stored body sugar, brain development, and stronger immune system.

Food sources: pistachio, liver, salmon, sunflower seeds, banana, chickpeas, turkey, potato, legumes, and tofu.


· Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

Function: it’s essential for metabolism, regulates DNA, and forms glucose.

Food sources: eggs, salmon, beef, sunflower seeds, dairy products, leafy greens, nuts, and mushrooms.


· Vitamin B9 (Folate)

Function: amino acid metabolism, DNA formation, red and white blood cell formations, prevents brain and spinal birth defects, lowers risks of cancer, and heart disease, and it’s important for cell growth.

Food sources: green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, liver, avocado, orange juice, fortified grains, peanuts, edamame, legumes, sunflower seeds, okra, and tomato juice.


· Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

Function: metabolism, brain function, the formation of red blood cells and DNA, lowers risk of heart disease, and protects neurons.

Food sources: poultry, fish, beef, beef liver, dairy products, eggs, fortified cereals, and fortified soya milk.


· Vitamin C

Function: it’s an important antioxidant, immune system, forms collagen, and lowers risks of some cancers.

Food sources: citrus fruits, strawberry, papaya, bell peppers, kiwi, guava, broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprout, and tomatoes.


· Calcium

Function: bone health, muscle function, blood clotting, stronger teeth, and regulates blood pressure.

Food sources: milk products, sardines, fortified juices, leafy green vegetables, and tofu.


· Iron

Function: transports oxygen to muscles, makes amino acids, collagen, and hormones.

Food sources: poultry, red meats, oysters, spinach, fortified bread, and fortified grains.


· Iodine

Function: regulates thyroid hormones.

Food sources: seaweed, seafood, iodized table salt, and yogurt.


· Magnesium

Function: regulates blood pressure, bone and teeth health, blood clotting, and muscle contraction.

Food sources: cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, spinach, broccoli, legumes, and dark chocolate.


· Phosphorous

Function: bone and teeth health, and helps in metabolism.

Food sources: turkey, salmon, dairy products, meat, poultry, liver, almonds, broccoli, potato, and eggs.


· Potassium

Function: muscle contractions, regulates blood pressure, keeps heartbeat steady, and helps in nerve impulses.

Food sources: banana, acorn squash, and lentils.


· Sodium

Function: maintains blood pressure, and sends nerves impulses.

Food sources: salt, soy sauce, and canned soups.


· Chloride

Function: balances fluids, and helps in making stomach acid.

Food sources: salt, soya sauce, seaweed, and celery.


· Sulfur

Function: gives protein their structure, healthy skin, nail, and hair.

Food sources: fish, meat, poultry, nuts, garlic, legumes, Brussels sprout, and eggs.


· Manganese

Function: born formation, metabolizes carbohydrates, amino acids, and cholesterol.

Food sources: fish, legumes, nuts, pineapple, tea, and whole grains.

· Copper

Function: makes red blood cells, involved in the function of the brain, nerves, and the immune system.

Food sources: liver, cashews, cocoa, shellfish, nuts, seeds, crabs, beans, whole grains, and black pepper.


· Zinc

Function: immune function, wound healing, growth, forms some enzymes, new cells, and proteins.

Food sources: chickpeas, crabs, red meat, poultry, seafood, fortified cereals, nuts, and beans.


· Fluoride

Function: bone and teeth formation.

Food sources: seafood and fruit juices.


· Selenium

Function: it’s an antioxidant, and regulates the activity of the thyroid hormones.

Food sources: Brazil nut, seafood, walnuts, grains, and sardines.





Vitamins and minerals are important for the normal function and development of the body. The dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that people can get their vitamins and minerals requirements from healthy eating habits with a wide variety of foods. Some people don’t get enough vitamins and minerals from food alone due to certain medical conditions; these people require a single-nutrient supplement, or multivitamins or multiminerals supplements.

















Sources:

Fletcher, J. and Debra Rose Wilson, C. (2019). Fat-soluble vitamins: Types, function, and sources.

Berry, J. and Alan Carter, P. (2019). Types of B vitamins: Functions, sources, and deficiencies.

Healthline. (2019). The Water-Soluble Vitamins: C and B Complex.

Megan Ware, L. and Debra Rose Wilson, C. (2019). Vitamin D: Health benefits, facts, and research.

Harvard Health. (2019). Listing of vitamins - Harvard Health.

Healthline. (2019). Micronutrients: Types, Functions, Benefits and More.

NCCIH. (2019). Vitamins and Minerals.

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