Vitamins and minerals might not always get the love they deserve, but the truth is that they are as essential for living as the air you breathe and the water you drink. They keep you healthy and functional and help offer protection from plenty of diseases.

These essential life components easily get thrown together, but the truth is that they are quite different.

Vitamins are organic substances that come from plants and animals. They are often called “essential” because, other than vitamin D, the body doesn’t synthesize them on its own; that’s why we have to get them from food.

Minerals, on the other hand, are inorganic elements that come from rocks, soil, or water. You get them indirectly from plant foods or animals that have eaten certain plants.

Both vitamins and minerals come in two forms. Vitamins can be water-soluble, which means the body expels what it does not absorb, and fat-soluble, where leftover amounts are stored in fat cells.

Vitamin C, as well as the B-complex vitamins (1,2,3,5,6,7,8,12) are water-soluble. The fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K.

Minerals are classified as either major or trace. Majors aren’t necessarily more important than a trace. It just means that you need more of them. Calcium is an example of a significant mineral, whereas copper is a trace mineral.

It can be challenging to follow all the daily recommended amounts outlined in the federal health guidelines. Instead, it’s easier to follow this one piece of advice: eat a good variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, dairy, and meat.

If you’re deficient in a particular nutrient, or a doctor recommends increasing intake of one or another, supplements may be useful.

Otherwise, your diet should be able to take care of everything you need to remain functional and healthy.


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