Vitamins and Minerals 101

VitaminsAndMinerals101By Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

Vitamins and minerals are considered essential nutrients because, by acting in concert, they perform hundreds of roles in the body every day.  The human body requires these vital nutrients in order to function properly, grow and develop normally and prevent disease.  There are 13 essential vitamins and each play a role in crucial body functions.  Deficiencies in these vitamins can and do lead to health problems.  Just as insufficient amounts of key micronutrients can cause significant harm to your health, sufficient quantities can provide a substantial benefit. 

The essential 13 and their optimum daily intake:

  • Vitamin A – Also known as retinol, vitamin A strengthens immunity, supports healthy vision and assists in formation and maintenance of healthy teeth, bones, skin, soft tissues and mucous membranes.  5,000-10,000 IU
  • Vitamin C –  Also called ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an important antioxidant that supports the immune system, promotes wound healing, assists in iron absorption and promotes healthy teeth and gums.  1,000-3,000 mg
  • Vitamin D –  Known as the “sunshine vitamin” because the body needs sunshine to produce it, vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption and aids in maintaining proper blood levels of phosphorus, both of which are needed for normal development and maintenance of healthy teeth and bones.  400 IU
  • Vitamin E -  An antioxidant, known as tocopherol, that plays a role in the formation of red blood cells and assists in the use of vitamin K.  Although vitamin K is not listed as one of the essential 13, it aids in the formation of red blood cells and promotes bone health.  200 IU
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) –  Essential to heart function and healthy nerve cells, vitamin B1 helps in the conversion of carbohydrates into energy.  50-100 mg
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)  –  While working in tandem with other B vitamins, vitamin B2 supports production of red blood cells and is essential for growth.  15-50 mg
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin) –  Considered to have cholesterol-lowing effects, vitamin B3 helps maintain healthy skin and nerves.  15-50 mg
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) –  Essential for food metabolism, pantothenic acid supports the production of hormones and cholesterol.  50-100 mg
  • Vitamin B7 (Biotin) –  Necessary for the metabolism of protein and carbohydrates, biotin also aids in the production of hormones and cholesterol.  400-800 mcg
  • Vitamin B6 –  Also called pyridoxine, vitamin B5 helps form red blood cells and maintain brain function.  50-100 mg
  • Vitamin B12 –  Needed for metabolism, vitamin B12 helps maintain the central nervous system and helps form red blood cells.  200-400 mcg
  • Vitamin B9 (Folate or Folic Acid) –  Working in conjunction with vitamin B12, folic acid is needed for the production of DNA, which controls tissue growth and cell function.  400-800 mcg

There are basic differences between vitamins and minerals.  Vitamins are organic and can be broken down by heat, light, air or acid.  Minerals are inorganic and hold onto their chemical structure.  Minerals found in soil and water have an easy route to your body through plants, fish, animals and fluids that you eat and drink.  Vitamins, on the other hand, are more fragile and can become inactive through cooking, storage and exposure to light and air.  Many vitamins and minerals work cooperatively to help your body absorb and use their nutrients.  Vitamin C, for example, aids in iron absorption and vitamin D enables your body to use the calcium you ingest, rather than extracting it from your bones. 

Vitamins are typed as either water-soluble or fat-soluble.  Water-soluble vitamins are found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  Water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C, B complex and folic acid, are easily absorbed by the body and are not stored in large amounts.  Because water-soluble vitamins are not stored, more consistent intake is important.  Any excess of these vitamins is removed by the kidneys and excreted.  Fat-soluble vitamins are found in animal fats, vegetable oils, dairy foods, and oily fish.  Fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D, and vitamin K, are absorbed though the intestinal tract with the help of bile acids and are stored in the liver and fatty tissues for use as needed.   

Essential roles of water soluble vitamins:

  • Produce energy
  • Release energy from food
  • Build proteins and help cells reproduce
  • Make collagen for wound healing, support vessel walls and form a base for teeth and bones

Essential roles of fat soluble vitamins:

  • Aid in keeping eyes, skin, lungs, gastrointestinal tract and nervous system in good repair
  • Build bones
  • Aid in absorption of other nutrients
  • Antioxidant protection

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, many of us consume more calories than we need yet without taking in the recommended amounts of numerous nutrients.  Low dietary intake of these nutrients can become a cause for concern.  These nutrients include deficiencies in:

  • For adults – Calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E.
  • For children and adolescents -  Calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium and vitamin E.
  • For specific population groups, such as women of childbearing age, adults with darker skin and those with insufficient exposure to sunlight  – Vitamin B12, iron, folic acid, and vitamin D.

Minerals, which are necessary for building strong bones and teeth, controlling body fluids inside and outside cells and turning foods into energy, include but are not limited to:

  • Calcium Calcium, which has several important functions, is the most abundant mineral in the body.  Functions include helping to build strong bones and teeth, regulating muscle contractions, including heartbeat, and assisting in blood clotting.  1,500-2,000 mg
  • Iron –  Iron helps make the red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. Excess iron cannot be excreted by the body.  Consult your healthcare provider before taking supplements containing iron.  Supplementation with iron is not recommended for children under 18 years of age.   18-30 mg
  • MagnesiumMagnesium supports the parathyroid glands, which produce hormones for bone health, and helps turn food into energy.  750-1,000 mg
  • Potassium –  Potassium has many important functions including controlling fluid balances in the body and maintaining healthy blood pressure.  99-500 mg
  • Beta- caroteneThe body turns beta-carotene into vitamin A and, as such, performs the same function in the body as vitamin A.  5,000-25,000 IU
  • Zinc –  Zinc aids in processing carbohydrates, protein and fat, helps make new cells and enzymes and assists in wound healing.  30-50 mg

Dietary supplements ensure that adequate amounts of nutrients are obtained on a daily basis especially when optimal amounts are not obtained through a healthy, varied diet.  Whether you are a youngster or a senior, male or female, there is a multivitamin and mineral supplement that is right for you.  If you are on medication or have a health condition, please check with your health provider to determine the best supplement to meet your individual needs. 

Basic Maintenance Multi-Vitamin/Mineral Supplement Without Iron by Metabolic MaintenanceA daily multi-vitamin/mineral supplement which includes all the essential nutrients for organ function and protection. It contains the finest hypo-allergenic ingredients to guarantee optimal absorption and utilization.

Bio-Multi Plus Iron Free by Biotics ResearchVersatile, balanced multiple vitamin and mineral supplement supplying unique forms of important micro-nutrients available exclusively from Biotics Research Corporation. 

Complete Nutritional System Multivitamin by Rainbow Light NutritionA special blend of essential vitamins and minerals plus superfoods and botanicals to promote increased natural energy production, immune support and healthy stress levels.  Contains iron. 

PhytoMulti without Iron by MetagenicsA proprietary blend of 13 concentrated plant extracts and phytonutrients with scientifically tested biological activity for complete wellness support. 

Daily Best by DaVinci Laboratories of VermontA balanced blend of high potency, daily multiple vitamins and minerals with antioxidants.  Provides support for bone health, cardiovascular health, metabolic function and fat metabolism.  Contains iron.

Multi-Nutrients 3 Citrate/Malate Formula (without Copper and Iron) by Vital Nutrients A comprehensive multivitamin/mineral formula with potent antioxidants in a gentle bioavailable formula.

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