The Ultimate Guide to Vitamins and Minerals

We see cartons of juice and boxes of cereal trumpeting their vitamin and mineral content, but why are these microscopic nutrients so important? From helping the body turn food into fuel, to fortifying bones and eyesight, vitamins and minerals are health superstars for sure. While the average diet usually includes adequate amounts of the essential nutrients without issue, it doesn’t hurt to be a little more aware of the vitamins and minerals that keep us living and smiling. But first, let’s iron out some key terms.

Getting Started

Vitamins: Organic substances required for normal cell function, growth, and development. There are 13 essential vitamins. (More on that below)

 

Fat-Soluble VitaminsFat-soluble vitamins are those that bind to fat in the stomach and are then stored in the body for later use. We are less likely to become deficient in these vitamins (A, D, E, and K), but more likely to build up to toxic levels, usually due to extreme overconsumption or overzealous supplement use. (Or maybe just an unhealthy obsession with kale chips…)

Water-Soluble Vitamins: The rest of the vitamins are water-soluble, meaning they can be absorbed directly by cells. When in excess, these vitamins are flushed out of our system with each bathroom break. The water-soluble vitamins — biotin, vitamin C, niacin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, and the four B complex vitamins — need to be restored more frequently, but the body can tolerate higher doses.

MineralsMinerals are inorganic substances (meaning they contain no carbon), and all hold on place on the good ol’ periodic table (flashback to 6th grade chemistry class!). They’re also necessary for normal body function and development. There are two groups of minerals: macrominerals (which the body needs in large doses) and trace minerals (only a pinch required).