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Facts about Vitamins and Minerals and Their Functions

Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients required by the body, and you should include them in the daily diet. Altogether, six vitamins and 15 minerals are needed to perform various biochemical functions. Therefore, it is essential to have a balanced diet to maintain good health. Any imbalance in the diet can lead to insufficient or excess intake of these vitamins and minerals and even excess intake of vitamins and minerals can also be harmful and can lead to mineral toxicity, and inadequate amounts can lead to deficiency diseases.

Vitamins

Vitamins are the organic compounds found in fruits and vegetables that ensure the body’s average growth and functioning. These vitamins can be fat-soluble and water-soluble. For example, vitamin A, D, E and K are fat-soluble vitamins whereas, vitamin C and B complex are water-soluble. The human body naturally cannot produce vitamins; therefore, it is vital to have a balanced diet to obtain them externally.

All these vitamins are present in elemental form in various foods, i.e., acids, flavonoids and other compounds. For example- vitamin C is present in ascorbic acid. Vitamin B1 is in the form of Thiamine and so on.

Different vitamins have different roles in the body:

1. Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, and the recommended daily intake for adult men is 900mcg, and for adult women should be 700mcg. It is present in food in the form of retinol. However, this is because the body converts vitamin A into retinol and retinal, an active form that is easily absorbed.

According to a study, vitamin A supports cell growth, vision, immune function and foetal development. The primary role of vitamin A is in improving vision and eye health. It provides essential molecules which are necessary for the eye cells. They help to protect the cornea and keep the cone cells healthy. Cone cells in the eyes are responsible for coloured vision.

Carrots, lettuce, broccoli, cod liver oil, sweet potato are a few food sources rich in vitamin A.

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is also a fat-soluble vitamin. The recommended daily intake for vitamin D for men is 90mg and for women is 75mg. Vitamin D aids in calcium absorption and helps maintain strong bones and teeth. It is a very interesting vitamin. Its synthesis is initiated from skin being exposed to sunlight. According to research, vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium absorption.

Vitamin D also helps regulate the cell life cycle; it promotes cell death when the life cycle completes, essential to prevent cancerous growth.

Eggs, milk, mushrooms and salmon fish oil are sources of vitamin D. Daily sun exposure also helps synthesise vitamin D in the body.

3. Vitamin E

Vitamin E is also a fat-soluble vitamin. The daily recommended intake for this vitamin is 15mg for adults. As per a study, vitamin E works as an antioxidant and protects the cell and membranes from the oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals bind to the oxygen molecule, depriving the healthy cells of oxygen, known as oxidative stress. Vitamin E helps to eliminate these free radicals. As a result, it keeps the skin cells healthy and promotes healthy hair.

In addition to playing a role as an antioxidant, it is also involved in many physiological functions such as gene expression, cognitive performance, controlling inflammation etc.

Tomato, olives, bell pepper, almonds, sunflower seeds, spinach, seafood, and peas are excellent sources of vitamin E.

4. Vitamin K

As per research, vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, and the recommended daily intake for women is 90mcg and 120mcg for men. Vitamin K is essential for the body as it helps initiate the clotting factors. For example, the blood platelets help clot the blood to prevent excess bleeding whenever you get a cut or injury. Vitamin K is required to initiate this clot.

Cabbage, liver, collards, kale, eggs, milk and sprouts are rich in vitamin K.

5. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, and the recommended daily intake for adult men is 90mg and for adult women is 75mg. It is essential for the body as it makes up the immune system and helps produce white blood cells responsible for the body’s immunological response. It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The antioxidant properties help to fight free radicals and improve cell health.

According to a study, vitamin C also helps boost collagen production in the body, responsible for maintaining skin elasticity. Strawberries, papayas, lemons, oranges, limes, and other citrus fruits are the best source of vitamin C.

6. Vitamin B-complex

Vitamin B complex includes- vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B 7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid) and B 12 (cobalamin). Each of these essential vitamins contributes to overall bodily functions.

Recommended daily intake:

B1- 1.1- 1.2mgB2- 1.1-1.3mgB3- 14-16mgB5- 5mgB6- 1.3mgB9- 400mcgB7- 30mcgB12- 2.4mcg

Vitamin B complex contributes to cell health, growth of red blood cells, healthy brain function, proper nerve function, cardiovascular health. In addition, vitamin B complex is essential for pregnant females as it promotes healthy foetal growth and brain development. While in men, it increases testosterone levels.

Biotin and folic acid are essential vitamins for nail and hair growth, while B6 is necessary for the functioning of the nervous system and RBC.

Sunflower seeds, spinach, chicken, avocado, fish, lentils are some foods that are rich in the vitamin B complex.

Minerals

The human body requires fifteen essential nutrients for proper functioning. Depending on the quantity of each mineral requirement by the human body, they classify into major or trace minerals.

1. Calcium

Calcium is one of the significant minerals and an essential electrolyte. It plays a vital role in maintaining healthy bones and teeth; it also assists in blood clotting, muscle contractions, nerve impulses etc.

Calcium makes up the main skeletal structure in our body, i.e., our bones and also makes up the tooth’s enamel, which prevents the underlying nerves. Because of the calcium influx in the muscle cells, we can contract and relax our body muscles and do various activities.

The recommended daily intake for men and women is 100-1200mg. Cheese, milk, chia seeds, sardines, yoghurt, fortified foods like soy and cereal are some of the best food sources for calcium.

2. Chloride

Chlorine is also a significant mineral as it acts as an electrolyte and regulates various fluids in the body. For example, it helps regulate the osmotic pressure and maintain the water balance. It also helps control the pH levels in the body and provides an acidic medium to activate the gastric enzymes, which help with digestion. Chloride also helps to activate the salivary amylase.

The primary source of chloride is table salt, and the recommended daily intake is 2.3g for both men and women.

3. Chromium

Chromium is a trace mineral required by the body in small amounts that helps break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins and helps in their absorption. In addition, chromium aids the action of insulin in the body and can help control the blood sugar levels in the body.

Beef, broccoli, eggs, live, oyster, poultry, and wheat germ are some sources of chromium. The recommended daily intake of chromium for men should be 30-35mcg for men and 25-20mcg for women.

4. Cobalt

Cobalt is another trace mineral, and it helps in the absorption and processing of vitamin B12. It also helps to treat anaemia and certain infectious diseases. Cobalt is a requirement by the body to repair the outer protective membrane of the nerve cell. Cobalt is also responsible for haemoglobin formation.

Beef, liver, fish, yeast, shellfish, and fortified nutritional foods are rich cobalt sources.

5. Copper

Copper is another trace mineral required by the body for various essential functions. For example, copper is necessary for cell production and iron absorption in the body. It is also responsible for regulating the heartbeat, blood pressure and development of connective tissue, bones and internal organs.

The recommended daily intake of copper is 900mcg for both men and women. Cocoa, organ meat, shellfish, soybeans, whole grains are excellent sources of copper.

6. Iodine

Iodine is also a trace mineral and plays a vital role in thyroid production. Because of this, it directly affects the thyroid hormones. That’s why it is essential to take sufficient amounts of iodine to have a proper thyroid function. In addition, iodine is also responsible for neurodevelopment during pregnancy, improving cognitive function and birth weight.

The recommended daily intake of iodine is 150mcg for both men and women. You can get your daily source of iodine from dairy, eggs, shrimp, whole grains and iodised salt.

7. Iron

Iron is an essential trace mineral and is in two forms heme-iron which is in animal foods, and non-heme iron, which is present in plant foods. It is also responsible for haemoglobin production, an essential part of the red blood cells, as it carries oxygen to the body’s healthy cells.

The recommended daily intake for iron is 8mg for men and 8-18mg for women. Females between the ages of 19-51 require more amounts of iron. Dairy, spinach, kale, soybeans, red meat and eggs are excellent sources of iron.

8. Magnesium

Magnesium is a significant mineral and acts as an electrolyte. It is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body. It is involved in many cellular reactions, helps to make DNA, and is responsible for causing muscle contractions.

Magnesium coordinates with calcium and is essential for causing the heart muscles to contract (generating heartbeat), just like that magnesium also plays a role in helping the muscles relax by acting as a calcium blocker.

The recommended daily intake for magnesium is 400-420mg for men and 310-320mg for women. You can meet your daily magnesium requirements by consuming almonds, cocoa, leafy green vegetables and pumpkin seeds.

9. Manganese

Manganese is a trace mineral required by the body in small amounts and plays a vital role in enzyme expression. It is present in enzymes in the mitochondria, which protects against oxidative damage. It also plays an essential role in fatty acid and glucose metabolism.

The recommended daily intake for manganese is 2.3mg for men and 1.8mg for women. In addition, you can get magnesium from whole grains, legumes, nuts, potatoes and shellfish.

10. Molybdenum

It is one of the lesser-known minerals but an essential one. Molybdenum is a part of various vital enzymes. These enzymes are necessary for actions such as the metabolism of iron. It is a cofactor and helps express enzymes, oxidase, aldehyde oxidase and mitochondrial amidoxime.

The recommended daily intake of molybdenum is 45mcg for both men and women. Lentils, dried peas, lima beans, soybeans, eggs, carrot, peanuts, sesame seeds, fennel are some sources of molybdenum.

11. Phosphorous

Phosphorus is one of the significant minerals and is a part of a substantial component of the bones. Phosphorus is required to store and transfer energy, overall growth and development of the body and repair of tissue cells. It is also a part of the DNA and RNA and carries the genetic information which marks the protein synthesis function. In addition, phosphorus makes up the basic structure for most biochemical compounds in the body, such as enzymes, hormones and even haemoglobin.

The recommended daily phosphorus intake is 700mg for both men and women. In addition, you can get phosphorus from beef, cashews, nuts, cheese, milk, fish, yoghurt and lentils.

12. Potassium

Potassium is another primary essential mineral and also acts as an electrolyte. It works in coordination with sodium and chloride to maintain fluid balance within the body and regulates blood pressure. Therefore, you should take a high potassium diet to manage high blood pressure as it counteracts the sodium and lowers the blood pressure.

The recommended daily potassium intake is 3400mg for men and 2600mg for women. Legumes, meat, potatoes, seafood, and spinach are potassium-rich foods.

13. Selenium

Selenium is a trace mineral but an integral part of many antioxidant enzymes and proteins. It also improves the immune response, participates in antioxidant activities, and fights the free radicals to prevent oxidative damage. It also shows anti-inflammatory properties and helps to maintain a healthy metabolism.

The recommended daily intake for selenium is 35mcg for both men and women. Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, sardines, eggs and spinach are some foods that are rich in selenium. 

14. Sodium

Sodium is one of the major nutrients required by the body in large amounts. It works with potassium to regulate the material exchange in and out of the cells, maintain water balance, assist in nerve functioning. As a result, sodium plays a significant role in nerve and muscle functioning and maintaining proper blood pressure.

The recommended daily sodium intake is 2400mg for both men and women. The primary source of sodium for humans is salt, but beetroot, seafood, dairy, sweet potato, yoghurt are some sodium-rich foods.

15. Zinc

Zinc is one of the trace minerals and plays a vital role in the immune system. For example, it helps to fight inflammation during a common cold. Zinc also aids wound healing and assists in cell division. Zinc also helps in the gene expression and expression of various enzymes.

The recommended daily zinc intake is 11mg for men and only 8mg for women. Oysters, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, shellfish are some foods that are rich sources of zinc.

Deficiency Diseases

Since the human body cannot naturally produce the essential vitamins and minerals, It is necessary to take them from an outside source and have a balanced diet. It would help if you consumed all the vital vitamins and minerals according to the recommended amount. Having an incomplete diet that lacks certain nutrients can lead to various deficiency diseases. Some of these diseases can leave a long-term impact on the body.

Scurvy

Scurvy is a disease characterised by bleeding gums, skin spots and swelling in joints. This is due to deficiency of vitamin C. As a result, there is a constant feeling of weakness, soreness of arms and legs, and the gums bleed very quickly and are more prone to other gum diseases.

This disorder is treatable, and you can improve it by taking foods rich in vitamin C, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and taking lots of antioxidant-rich foods.

Night Blindness

Night blindness is a type of vision impairment, where the person experiences a poor vision in dim light or at night time. Some cases of night blindness are treatable, while others are not. A deficiency of vitamin A causes it. It is necessary for transforming the nerve impulse into images in the retina. Sometimes it can also be caused due to pre-existing eye conditions like cataracts, weak eyesight or some genetic disorder.

It is essential to have a vitamin A-rich diet to avoid issues related to eyesight.

Beriberi

Beriberi is a condition where the muscles become extremely weak and severe weight loss. Acute deficiency can also lead to cardiac failure and paralysis. It causes due to vitamin B1 deficiency. It is important to eat vitamin B1 rich food and avoid alcohol as it impairs the uptake of vitamin B1. People with one diuretic should take vitamin B1 supplementation to prevent developing this condition.

Rickets

Vitamin D deficiency can develop a condition called rickets, where the person experiences weakening of bones, especially near the joints. It can also lead to tooth decay. Rickets more commonly occur in malnourished children who have a poor diet. It can lead to severe long-term effects on the body and interfere with day-to-day life. Therefore, it is essential to take vitamin D supplements to avoid vitamin D deficiency.

Goitre

Iodine is the essential element required by the body. It is responsible for foetal brain development and also regulates thyroid production. Iodine deficiency can affect the thyroid gland and cause it to generate less hormone or too many hormones.

It can be seen as a bump in the neck as the thyroid gland swells up during this condition. Therefore, it is crucial to manage the iodine levels and keep them according to the RDI amounts.

Anaemia

Iron is a significant part of haemoglobin as it helps carry oxygen from the lungs to the healthy cells in the body. Iron deficiency can cause anaemia, where the blood cannot have the required oxygen to the cells. It results in poor tissue health and cell death. This condition can be severe if you do not take care. Red meat, spinach, poultry are some iron-rich foods.

Mineral Toxicity

Mineral toxicity refers to a condition where the mineral concentration in the body is incredibly high and not within the recommended range.

A rise in sodium concentration within the bloodstream can cause abnormal blood pressure and may lead to seizures and excessive vomiting.

Potassium is also a mineral that can lead to complications if not within the recommended range. For example, high potassium levels can lead to muscle weakness, vomiting, and adverse effects on the kidney and heart.

Wilson’s disease is a genetic disorder triggered due to copper accumulation in the liver, brain and other organs. In this condition, there is a golden-brown discoloured ring around the eye called Kayser-Fleischer rings which you can notice with bare eyes.

Summary

Vitamins and minerals are like the power source for a healthy body. There are 15 essential minerals and six essential vitamins which must maintain good health and perform various biological functions inside the body. These vitamins and minerals make up your body and even strengthens your immune system to fight against diseases. Generally a balanced diet fulfills all needful requirements that the body needs to function. However, one might also consume vitamin and mineral supplements on the go. Remember to consult your doctor before you include any vitamin and mineral supplements. Also, taking them in proper amounts is essential as their deficiency or excess intake can cause various complications.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What are the main essential minerals?

A. There are 15 main minerals, out of which 8 are trace, required in small amounts, and seven in large quantities. Calcium, Chloride, Magnesium, Molybdenum, Phosphorus, Potassium and Sodium are required in large quantities and are considered the main essential minerals. 

Q. Are all vitamins essential?

A. There are six essential vitamins for the human body. Vitamin A, D, E, K are fat-soluble, and Vitamin B complex and C are water-soluble. The body requires both categories for different purposes and help with various biochemical functions. 

Q. What are the four main functions of minerals?

A. Minerals have different functions. 1. Transportation of Oxygen 2. Regulation of Hormones 3. Nerve and Muscle Function 4. Immune Health these are some of the main functions regulated by different minerals. 

Q. How many essential minerals are there?

A. There are 15 essential minerals. Calcium, Chloride, Magnesium, Molybdenum, Phosphorus, Potassium and Sodium, Chromium, Cobalt, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Selenium, Zinc are the essential minerals required by the body. 

Q. What mineral is most important in the body?

A. Calcium is the most abundant and essential mineral for the human body. It is present in bones, teeth, and nails and is also vital for blood clotting, muscle contraction, cell signalling.

Q. What are the ten most essential minerals?

A. Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Selenium, Iodine, Magnesium are the ten most essential minerals. 

Q. What diseases are caused by a lack of vitamins and minerals?

A. Night blindness, Scurvy, Rickets, Hyperkeratosis are diseases caused by vitamin deficiency. In addition, hypertension, weak bones and the immune system are a few diseases caused by mineral deficiency. 

Q. Why are the six essential nutrients vital?

A. All nutrients are required by the body to maintain a healthy body functioning. These nutrients regulate various bodily functions like blood pressure, hormones, cell production, and clotting. 

Tags: Deficiency Diseases of Vitamins and MineralshealthifymeVitamins and Minerals

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