We know that vitamins and minerals are crucial for our health and wellbeing and they are a pair that seem to be inseparable. It’s easy to get confused. What’s the difference between vitamins and minerals and how does it influence the way we nourish ourselves?
There are 6 major categories of foods that we need to keep our body’s running:carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water.
The foods we need in large amounts are called macronutrients and they are what we get our energy from. Micronutrients are what help our bodies perform necessary physiological processes.
Vitamins and minerals are both micronutrients, so how do they differ in their functions in our body and how does this affect how we nourish oursleves?
Where do they come from?
Vitamins are organic compounds (they contain carbon) obtained from plants and animals. All vitamins are needed in the body. We need to supplement where we are not getting adequate levels from our diet. Our bodies can in fact synthesise some vitamins such as Vitamin D which is made by the skin using sunlight.
Minerals are elements that originate in the Earth and cannot be made by living organisms. They are obtained from the soil and water, and so if our soils and waters were healthy we should not need supplementation. Poor soil leads to poor quality plants with poor quality nutritional value and polluted water can contain heavy metals which are also minerals but are toxic to our bodies, such as lead and mercury.
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How are they classified?
Vitamins can be water-soluble or fat-soluble. If they are fat soluble, it is important not to take too many of them as they can be stored in our fat tissue and build up whereas water soluble vitamins can be excreted in our urine.
There are nine different water-soluble vitamins: vitamin C and the eight B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, folate, biotin, and pantothenic acid); and, 4 different fat-soluble vitamins: vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Minerals are divided into macro minerals and trace minerals.
There are 16 essential minerals in the body. We need macro-minerals in larger amounts (calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, and sulfur) and trace-minerals (iron, iodine, zinc, chromium, selenium, fluoride, molybdenum, copper, and manganese) in much smaller amounts.
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How does this affect my nutrition?
Vitamins are destructible and can be destroyed while cooking due to heat or chemical agents. This means it is tougher to shuttle vitamins from food into your body. Eating organic wholefoods that have been minimally processed, as well as raw food can help preserve vitamins.
Vitamins release energy from the food, develop red blood cells, help in blood clotting and help in maintaining healthy skin, eye, and hair. They are also essential catalysts for many processes in your body and are many are valuable antioxidants that protect our bodies such as Vitamin A, C and E.
Minerals are indestructible and are not vulnerable to heat or chemical reactions or sunlight. That means the minerals in soil and water easily find their way into your body through the plants, fish, animals, and fluids you consume. However with poor modern farming methods that deplete the soil, we are often lacking in vital minerals, or overloaded with toxic minerals. Minerals also act as catalysts for body processes and are involved in creating structural body tissues such as teeth, skin and bones.
You can make sure you get in enough vitamins and minerals by staying faithful to nature – eating nutrient dense wholefoods, superfoods and fresh foods grown organically, as well as taking a good quality general supplement in a form your body can recognize and assimilate easily.
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