Importance of Vitamins And Minerals - How To Make Most Out of Them?

Importance of Vitamins And Minerals - How To Make Most Out of Them?

Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet is of paramount importance to gain a healthy body. Healthy eating does not mean you always pick a couple of nutritious foods and avoid the others. There should be a balance of every nutritious component in the body to keep it up and working.

When it comes to healthy eating whether you are an everyday workaholic or a fitness freak, most of us focus on only macronutrients such as proteins and carbohydrates. We don’t give a second thought to micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. These micronutrients are often overshadowed as they make up very small part of our diet. But they are as critical as our daily calorie need. Vitamins and minerals play a crucial role in maintaining the structure of our body.

So let’s break it down as to why vitamins and minerals are crucial lifesaver.

The Importance of Vitamins

Vitamins are basically natural components of foods and can be defined as organic micronutrients essential for sustaining life. The vitamins are vital for normal physiological functioning of the body such as maintenance of metabolism, blood circulation and various others. 

If vitamins are absent from the diet, they can cause numerous problems in the body for instance myelopathy, a disorder of spinal cord and brain. There is sufficient evidence that ample amount of vitamin can fight depression.

There are two types of vitamins; soluble and insoluble.

Soluble or water-soluble vitamins 

These vitamins can dissolve well in water. Below is the list of soluble vitamins with its function and source food.

  1. Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) – Essential in strengthening immune system. This type of soluble vitamin can be found in mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, peas, pistachios, fish and whole grains.
  2. Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – Required for proper energy metabolism and processing nutrients in cardiovascular system. Mushrooms, eggs, cheese, milk, yogurt, spinach, and almonds are an excellent source of Vitamin B2.
  3. Vitamin B3 (Niacin) – Addresses cardiovascular issues such as heart attack and fights depression. Vitamin B3 can be found in peanuts, eggs, whole grains and salmon fish.
  4. Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) – Turns carbohydrates into energy processing food and fights fatigue. Cauliflower, mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli, sweet potato, and eggs offers good amount of vitamin B5.
  5. Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) – Helps in the formation of red blood cells. Bananas, oats, potatoes, garlic, spinach, beans and salmon fish contains Vitamin B6.
  6. Vitamin B7 (Biotin) – Helps body in processing fat and sugar. Whole grains, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, eggs, and carrots are good source of vitamin B7.
  7. Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid) – Needed for proper health and metabolism of the body. Vitamin B9 or folate is also essential for proper growth and development of fetus in pregnancy. Lettuce and citrus fruits such as grapefruit and oranges are an excellent source of vitamin B9. Other sources include cauliflower and black beans.
  8. Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) – Required for formation of red blood cells and helps in circulation of blood. Vitamin B12 can be found in salmon fish, eggs, and yogurt.
  9. Vitamin C – The powerful antioxidant helps form collagen in bones, muscles and blood vessels. It is available in abundance in green leafy vegetables, mango, citrus fruits, kiwi, broccoli, and potatoes.

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Fat Soluble or Insoluble vitamins

These vitamins dissolves well in fat or lipids. Below is the list of soluble vitamins with its function and source food.

  1. Vitamin A – Essential for vision and strengthening immune system. High in animal and fish livers while its sufficient amount is found in milk and cheeses as well. Vitamin A can also be found in red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables.
  2. Vitamin D – Needed for strong bones and teeth. Can be derived from fortified cereals and oatmeals. Eggs, salmon and sardine fish are also high in vitamin D.
  3. Vitamin E – This antioxidant protects cells from damage and supports immune functionality. Found in green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains and peanut butter.
  4. Vitamin K – Plays role in blood clotting. Green leafy vegetables are the best source of Vitamin K.

The Importance of Minerals

Like vitamins, minerals too are needed in small amounts and help you stay healthy. Right from regulating normal cellular functionality to providing strength to bone and teeth, minerals have several tasks to perform. The source of the majority of minerals should be your daily nutritious diet rather than supplements. Below list will give you an idea what are those important minerals your body needs to deliver optimum performance.

Before we go into the list, it is important to note that minerals come in two forms; macro and micro minerals.

  • Macrominerals are those which our body needs in large amount such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sulfur and chloride.
  • Microminerals, on the other hand, are often referred to as trace minerals, means they are available or present at low levels in the body and required in small quantities. These include chromium, copper, cobalt, iron, fluorine, iodine, molybdenum, manganese, selenium, and zinc.

Sources of macro and micro minerals

  1. Calcium – Needed for healthy teeth and bones, nerve functioning and blood pressure regulation. Calcium can be found in green leafy vegetables, almonds, beans, tofu and dairy products.
  2. Iron – A part of red blood cells that carries oxygen in the body. Red meat, organ meat, dried fruits, egg yolks, spinach, dairy products, potatoes, cashews and kidney beans are excellent sources of iron.
  3. Copper – A part of an enzyme needed for energy metabolism. Copper can be derived from hazelnut, cashews, chocolate, almonds, whole wheat, and mushrooms.
  4. Potassium – Required for nerve transmission, proper fluid balance, and muscle contraction. Milk, meat, fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains offer a good amount of potassium.
  5. Magnesium – Found in bones, it is necessary for making protein, maintains nerve transmission and immune system health. Magnesium can be derived from green leafy vegetables, nuts, seafood, and chocolates.
  6. Chromium – Helps in the regulation of blood sugar levels. Good sources of chromium include nuts, whole grain, cheeses and unrefined foods.
  7. Zinc – Required for making protein, play role in taste function, production of sperm, wound healing and development of immune system health. Zinc can be found in fish, meat, poultry, and vegetables.
  8. Iodine – Helps in normal thyroid functioning which in turn regulate growth and metabolism. Sources of iodine include dairy products, bread, and iodized salt.
  9. Phosphorous – Is found in every cell, vital for healthy teeth and bones and part of the system that regulates acid balance. Phosphorous can be derived from poultry meat, milk, eggs, and fish.
  10. Selenium – An important antioxidant that can be found in seafood, grains, and meat.
  11. Fluoride – Helps in formation of teeth and bones and also prevents them from decay. Drinking water is the primary source of fluoride while it can also be found in fish and most teas.
  12. Chloride – Required for adequate fluid balance and stomach acid. Chloride can be found in table salt, meats, vegetables, bread and soy sauce.

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How to make the most of these vitamins and minerals?

The first thing that pops in mind is whether multivitamins supplements can cover vitamin deficiency or not. Well, no doubt multivitamins are helpful, but they should not act as a substitute for your daily diet since food contains numerous beneficial compounds that cannot be found in multi-vitamins supplements. Below tips can be helpful in getting maximum benefits from the food we eat.

  • We should always choose from every food group and make the most out of vitamins and minerals. If possible, try to fill your plate with 2-3 food groups.
  • Micronutrients add up colors to foods we eat. If we incorporate different colored foods in our diet, then it’s the easiest way we can derive maximum and variety of vitamins and minerals.
  • Minimize the number of processed foods since they have low nutritional value. Always try to eat fresh but if not possible, frozen fruits and vegetables also work fine.
  • Avoid overcooking and boiling your foods, this can break down certain vitamins and minerals.
  • Try to make a combination of foods for better absorption of vitamins and minerals. For example, consume iron-rich food such as spinach and beans with citrus dressing or a little squeeze of lemon juice.

Each vitamin and mineral serves an important purpose in the body. It is possible to be malnourished due to lack of micronutrients even if you think you are eating a wholesome diet full of protein and carbohydrates. So the best bet is to always choose foods from different groups rather sticking to only a couple of them.