Vitamins and minerals are nutrients that perform thousands of roles in the human body. There’s a very fine line between getting enough nutrients (which is good for you), and getting too much (which is not so good). A healthy and balanced diet should be sufficient to get you all of the nutrients that you need, but sometimes we need some extra help. Every day, your body works at an astonishing rate to break down the nutrients you absorb, and turn them into energy which supports the regeneration of vital cells – which form muscles, organs, and bones. It marches out red blood cells, which move along thousands of kilometers of veins and pathways, to get to the areas that they need to go. Your body is incredible – and you should be supporting it in every way possible. That’s why we’ve put together Health 101: Why You Need Vitamins and Minerals.
The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Nurturing Your Health
“Health” is a big word. These days, there are thousands, if not millions, of resources that tell you what “healthy” is, and how to go about attaining a seemingly unattainable goal. In reality, a “healthy” body looks different for everyone. There is no singular version of health, which is why the picture that gets pandered to you, by every second meat-head gym fanatic, seems entirely unreasonable.
Health doesn’t look one particular way, just as humans don’t look one particular way. We’re all completely unique beings, so “health” is different for each of us. Supporting your body, without judgment, and letting it do its job is likely a good path to get on if you want to be the best version of you.
When it comes to the vitamins and minerals that each of us needs to take, there are obvious differences. Underlying conditions, weight, age, sex, and lifestyle will all contribute to what we need to ingest. To actually fulfill its most basic functions your body needs some raw materials – starting with 30 vitamins, minerals, and dietary components that it desperately needs, but can’t produce enough of on its own.
Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients – together, they help your body perform as it needs to. They help heal your wounds, boost your immune system, and regenerate cells. They convert food into energy and, essentially, keep you alive.
Keeping track of what vitamins and minerals you need to get can feel pretty overwhelming. There are so many articles that tell you what to do, often with pretty confusing information.
Vitamins are generally known by their initials – A, B, C, D, E and K – but what do each of them do, and how do they support us? We’re going to dive into exactly what each of these vitamins and minerals does in your body, and why you should try and ensure that you’re getting enough of them.
The Difference Between Vitamins and Minerals
Although they’re both technically micronutrients, vitamins and minerals do have some key differences. Vitamins are organic, and can be broken down by acid, heat, or air. Contrastingly, minerals are inorganic and will hold on to their chemical structure.
This is important, as it highlights the differences in how minerals and vitamins make their way into your body. It’s harder to take in vitamins from food, because exposure to air, or cooking or storing them improperly, can inactivate their compounds.
Minerals can be easily absorbed by the food that you eat, so they’re much more accessible to the human body.
Minerals and vitamins interact with each other – vitamin D allows your body to take calcium from food in your digestive system, rather than from your bones. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron.
However, they can also interact in negative ways. Vitamin C stops your body from assimilating copper and too much of the mineral manganese can cause, or worsen, an iron deficiency.
Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients which directly affect the daily functions of your body. Health is subjective, but you can support your system with the right food and supplements.
How Your Bodily Health Affects Mental Health
Getting the proper intake of essential vitamins and minerals is not only vital in maintaining a healthy body but a healthy mind. Numerous studies are linking physical and mental health, but you only need to miss a meal or two to start feeling the effects for yourself.
Amid a global pandemic, it is more important than ever to take care of yourself. Even if that means enlisting the help of a partner, friend, healthcare professional, or even AI. Eating right is just one of the many things that can be achieved with relative ease. However, straggling the line between mindfulness and obsession can also be tricky. As a general rule of thumb, avoiding too many processed and sugar-laden foods helps in avoiding inflammation of the body and brain. While they may be a delicious indulgence, the inflammation is known to contribute toward feelings of anxiety and depression.
On the flip side, there is also a range of foods that assist the brain to function at its optimum level. Anything with complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and fatty acids are your friends. Luckily enough, there are plenty of delicious foods that have these in abundance, so you don’t have to feel limited.
One of the most important things to bear in mind when working to maintain general mental health and wellness is to be gentle with yourself. It is very easy to fall into a pattern of self-shaming when striving to attain a physical and mental equilibrium. Ultimately, the perfect mind is as unattainable as the perfect body. The strain of COVID19 has certainly pushed people to focus on the internal more than ever, as the outside world we’ve always known remains largely inaccessible for most of us. Simply being aware of supplementing all the essential vitamins and minerals that are made available to you in the food you eat, is already a huge step toward bettering your mental and physical well-being.
A Closer Look At The Different Types Of Vitamins And Minerals
The first type of micronutrient we’re looking at is water-soluble vitamins. These vitamins are found in the watery parts of the food we eat, and are absorbed directly into your bloodstream during the digestive process.
Water-soluble vitamins are in charge of freeing the energy in the food you’ve ingested. They have so many other uses too. For example, vitamin C helps your body produce collagen, which knits your wounds together, forms a base for your bones and teeth, and holds up blood vessel walls.
Within this category, you’ll find:
- Biotin (vitamin B7)
- Folic acid (folate, vitamin B9)
- Niacin (vitamin B3)
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- Thiamin (vitamin B1)
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
Fat-soluble vitamins only enter the bloodstream via the lymph channels in your intestines. Many of them can only move through the body via protein carriers. You can think of these vitamins as slow-release, they’re stored in the different organs (e.g liver) and released as you need them.
Within this category you’ll find:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin E
Together, these vitamins work to keep your entire system up and running – building bones (A, D, K), protecting your vision (A), and acting as an antioxidant (E).
Your body needs, and stores, pretty huge amounts of major minerals. They’re already present within the system in large amounts and travel through the body in a variety of ways.
Within this category you’ll find:
One of the main jobs for these major minerals is to maintain a balance of water within the system.
The last of the categories in Health 101: why you need vitamins and minerals, is trace minerals. These minerals are just as important as major minerals, they’re just present in the body in smaller amounts.
Within this category you’ll find:
Altogether, these micronutrients work to form the perfect balance – keeping your body in check. That’s why it’s so important that you get just enough of each of them, to maintain harmony.
Food Should Give You All of the Vitamins and Minerals You Need
When we look at health 101: why you need vitamins and minerals, one thing is abundantly clear – food should be enough to give you all of the micronutrients that you need. Unless you’re seriously deficient in one thing, your body will take what it needs from the food that you eat.
As long as those foods are not all junk, and you occasionally supplement with food you know is rich in vitamins and minerals, your body and mind will be sure to find some equilibrium. There is no entirely wrong way of going about your health, because the state of the body and mind are yours to determine. Health is subjective, but treating your body right is universal – do what makes you feel the best.