Medically Reviewed

A Simple, Scientific Guide to the Differences Between Vitamins and Minerals (And Why It Matters for Your Health)

Vitamins and minerals are not the same thing, but they work together to provide critical nutrients you may not be getting from a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Vitamins vs. minerals: what’s the difference?

Vitamins and minerals are both essential nutrients that are primarily derived from a healthy diet, though their fundamental makeup is quite different. Vitamins are organic compounds, meaning they contain carbons. They can be broken down by heat, air, light, and acid, making their process of incorporation into the body potentially difficult. Cooking, storing, processing, or even just transporting the food sources that contain vitamins can diminish the effectiveness of these fragile micronutrients.

Minerals are inorganic compounds, meaning they do not contain carbons. They maintain their chemical structure regardless of external variables. Minerals are found in soil, water, and rocks, and they make their way to the body via the animals, fish, plants, and water humans consume. There are claims that traces of iron can be absorbed in food cooked in a cast iron pan.

In what ways are vitamins and minerals the same?

Vitamins and minerals are both considered essential nutrients that perform hundreds of critical roles to ensure the optimal functioning of the human body. Together, they help strengthen the immune system, heal wounds, maintain strong bones, repair cellular damage, and convert food into energy, just to mention a few. None of these micronutrients can be manufactured in sufficient quantities by the body, so they must be obtained through a healthy diet or supplementation. Both have recommended dietary intakes (RDA) or adequate intakes (AI) and are available in supplement form.

Are vitamins better than minerals, or vice versa?

While they do share the commonality of being essential nutrients, there is no better or worse when it comes to minerals or vitamins. They are fundamentally different in their composition and are derived from completely different sources. Vitamins are organic compounds that come from food. Minerals are inorganic compounds found in soil, rocks, and water. While they are not the same and, therefore, not subject to comparison as better or worse, they work together synergistically to perform hundreds of molecular functions that keep the body healthy and running well. There are many examples of their interdependence for optimal functioning. Magnesium helps to activate vitamin D levels as a cofactor, which promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, while regulating the amount of calcium in the blood. Vitamin D and calcium also help promote healthy bone mass, among many other critical functions. This is but one of hundreds of intricate processes that demonstrate their necessary interconnectedness, but illustrates that any one is neither better or worse than the others.

What do vitamins do in the body?

Vitamins are involved in a multitude of different metabolic processes that keep the body healthy and optimally functioning. Among other things, they boost the immune system which helps fight infections, boost wound healing, promote strong bones and muscles, ensure healthy clotting, regulate hormones, support normal cell growth, collagen formation, and mineral absorption. The best source of vitamins is a healthy, well-balanced diet. Supplementation can fill in the gaps and provide you with sufficient nutrients. Clinically low levels of any vitamins is called a deficiency. It is important to consult your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about your nutritional needs.

What are the most important vitamins to get daily?

There are 13 essential vitamins, A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, pyridoxine, and cobalamin), that help to keep the body healthy and running efficiently. They each play an important part in the overall series of metabolic processes required for optimal wellness. There are a number of opinions as to which are the most important vitamins to take on a daily basis, but they are all essential in some way. If you are experiencing signs of deficiency, or concerned about meeting your needs, you should consult your physician to determine an appropriate course of action. Ideally, you will meet most of these needs with a healthy, varied diet. If supplementation is needed to bridge any gaps, look for a premium brand like Care/of’s Multivitamin.

What do minerals do in the body?

Minerals are inorganic chemical elements that are required for numerous processes in the body that result in healthy bones and teeth, hemoglobin in red blood cells, muscle contraction, nerve impulse transmission, and the release of energy from food. Among the most well-known elements are electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and chloride), which help maintain water balance, regulate acid/base pH level, and transmit nutrients in and waste out of the cells.

What are the most important minerals to get daily?

There are 13 minerals that most healthcare professionals refer to as essential: calcium, sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, iodine, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, sulfur, and selenium. Each plays an important role in the biochemical processes necessary for healthy and optimal functioning of the human body. The best way to ensure sufficient essential minerals is a healthy, varied diet. There is no mineral that is more important than the others in the pursuit of excellent health. Any deficiencies should be discussed with your physician before supplementing.

What is the difference between vitamins and minerals, and proteins?

Vitamins and minerals are classified as micronutrients, while proteins are classified as a macronutrient. (The other two macronutrients are fat and carbohydrates.) Proteins are made up of long chains of amino acids. They are required for hormone function in the body and overall optimal health. The primary sources of protein include animal derived meats, eggs, nuts, seeds, quinoa, dairy, and protein powder like Care/of’s premium Whey Protein and Plant Protein.

Should I consider taking vitamin and mineral supplements?

The decision to take vitamin and mineral supplements should be made in conjunction with your physician or healthcare provider. If you are not meeting all of your nutrient needs with a healthy, balanced diet, high quality supplements can go a long way to fill in the gaps. Premium brands like Care/of offer a full variety of individual nutrients including Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B12.

Key takeaways

Vitamins and minerals are two distinct classes of nutrients that work in tandem to facilitate hundreds of metabolic processes that help to keep the body healthy and functioning properly. The best source of these micronutrients is a healthy, varied diet packed with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and fortified cereals and grains. If your diet is deficient, supplements can help. But it is always best to consult your physician when undertaking a new regimen of supplementation.

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