You likely know that vitamins and minerals are an essential part of a healthy diet. When part of a well-balanced diet, they provide support for a healthy, functioning body. While some vitamins and minerals have complementary effects on your health, these two groups of nutrients differ in their chemical structure -- and of course, they contain different sets of nutrients.
Vitamins and minerals vary mostly in their composition. Vitamins are naturally occurring organic nutrients, which means they're based on the elements carbon and hydrogen. Minerals are inorganic compounds -- ones not based on carbon and hydrogen -- and are smaller particles that come mostly from natural geological processes. They have a simple chemical structure compared to vitamins, which can have large and complex chemical structures.
Vitamins -- such as A, C, D, E, K and the B vitamins -- are identified with letters, but can also be called by their chemical names. For example, vitamin C also goes by "ascorbic acid," while vitamin B-12 can be called "cobalamin." Most vitamins facilitate processes inside your body. They aid in the absorption, digestion and metabolism of other nutrients. Other vitamins play more specialized roles, such as keeping your eyes and nerves functioning properly. Daily recommendations are different for each vitamin.
Major minerals include calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulfur. Trace minerals such as chromium, iron, iodine, copper, selenium and zinc are needed in very small amounts in your diet. Minerals are responsible for maintaining the acid-base and electrolytic balance of your blood and cells. Other minerals have specialized roles; for example, calcium helps bone growth. Iron, a trace mineral, has the special job of maintaining healthy red blood cells.
Any healthy and well-balanced diet assures that you are getting adequate vitamins and minerals. Although they are two different substances, many vitamins and minerals work together to maintain bodily processes. For instance, without vitamin D, calcium would not be able to promote proper bone growth. In addition, vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, so that you can reap iron's full health benefits.
- "Nutrition: Concepts and Controversies"; Frances Sizer and Eleanor Whitney; 2004
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Vitamins and Minerals
- MedlinePlus: Vitamins
- healthy diet image by anna karwowska from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.