What's the Difference between Vitamins and Minerals?

Your body needs vitamins and minerals for optimum health. The right balance for a healthy body includes a specific combination of 13 vitamins and 19 minerals. Although both vitamins and minerals are important to your body, they do differ in some ways. Here are the reasons why vitamins and minerals differ.

Compounds vs. Elements

Both vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that can be found in a variety of food sources. However, vitamins are classified as chemical compounds, whereas minerals are categorized as chemical elements. Vitamins are composed of different elements such as calcium, magnesium and iron. Minerals are single elements.

Different Functions

Vitamins play a role in the management of the body’s chemical reactions, which involve how the body uses food for energy, and how it maintains and regulates body tissue. Minerals function in the production of hormones, maintenance of regular heartbeat and bone formation.

Vitamins and minerals have very specific roles. Therefore, taking vitamins or minerals only is not enough to support the body’s vital functions. It is important to strike the right balance, because too much or too little vitamins and minerals can cause illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, rickets, goiter, osteoporosis, beriberi and iron deficiency anemia.

Organic vs. Inorganic

Vitamins and minerals differ in origin. Organic vitamins come from plants and animals, whereas inorganic minerals come from soil and water. As such, you can get vitamins directly from eating plant and animal sources, while you can get minerals from plants and water.

Different Amounts Needed by the Body

Your body needs 13 vitamins. These are vitamins A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), B12 (cobalamin), C, D, E, K, biotin, folic acid and pantothenic acid. Some of these vitamins can be stored in your body because they are fat soluble. The fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins K, A, D and E. The other vitamins are water soluble and cannot be stored in your body. The water-soluble vitamins are vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C and folic acid.

Your body needs some minerals more than others. Major minerals (such as calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, cobalt, chlorine and sodium) are needed in bigger doses, whereas trace minerals (such as iron, iodine, copper, fluorine, selenium, chromium and zinc) are needed in smaller doses. The amount of minerals your body needs is based on your age, gender and your body’s reaction to it. Therefore, your mineral needs differ from the needs of other people.

Vitamins Are Destructible, Unlike Minerals

Vitamins can be easily destroyed by agents such as heat or chemicals. Therefore, you should be careful in cooking and storing foods rich in vitamins. Minerals, on the other hand, cannot be destroyed by any agent.

It is necessary to maintain a balanced diet in order to get the vitamins and minerals you need every day. You can get vitamins and minerals from natural sources (such as whole grains, meat, fish, dairy, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and eggs) or from enriched sources (such as fortified foods or supplements).

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