Vitamins vs Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are needed for the general health and efficient growth of tissues and functioning of organs. They boost the immune system, act as cofactors for enzymes and help to keep the metabolic pathways stable. Vitamins can be either fat soluble or water soluble and some are synthesized in the body. Essential vitamins are to be supplemented in diet.
Minerals are inorganic substances which function in a similar way and have to be replenished in the diet. These minerals can be classified into macro minerals and trace minerals. Macro minerals are required in large quantities and trace minerals in smaller quantities.
All vitamins are essential for the body whereas not all minerals are required for the functioning of human organs. Vitamins get destroyed or modified easily into other products in the body and these modified compounds essentially do the functions. Both in general, need to be supplied in the diet for maintaining the normal level in body.
Vitamins are organic compounds required by the body for normal functioning. They help in fixing the energy from food, blood clotting, maintaining vision, development of red blood corpuscles etc. The major source of vitamins is plants and animals. All vitamins find a specific function in the body. They are of two types, water soluble and fat soluble vitamins. These properties make them adapt to better functioning corresponding to the location in which they function. For example, vitamin E is particularly effective against ageing and protects skin under the layers of epidermis and is fat soluble thus facilitating its function and availability at the site.
Fat soluble vitamins require adequate fatty acid levels for transportation and hence fat free diets can affect the availability of these vitamins. These vitamins are stored in the tissues and utilized when required.
Water soluble vitamins on the other hand need to be replenished through the diet. They need to be constantly supplied through food since they cannot be stored. Some such as Vitamin C can neither be synthesized making it a necessity for a good diet supplement. The deficiency below the needed levels can cause diseases which can be sometimes life threatening with associated consequences.
Minerals are inorganic compounds which you need either in large quantities or traces. The major minerals you need include Calcium, magnesium, sodium, boron, cobalt, copper, chromium, Sulphur, Iodine, iron, manganese, selenium, Zinc, silicon, potassium and phosphorus. Trace minerals includes Iron, Copper, Manganese, Iodine, Fluoride, Zinc and Selenium. Minerals are obtained from the soil and water on being absorbed into plants and animals. About 16 of them are required for different functions in the body although at different levels. Most of them are low weight electrolytes.
Minerals help in formation of bone and tooth, coagulation of blood, action of muscles, and in maintenance pH level of blood. Minerals are present in either natural or fortified diets. The deficiency causes some disorders though not classifiable as a disease. Macro-mineral deficiencies however can be serious to other complications. Minerals generally act as cofactors for keeping the enzymes in the activated state and hence have a key role in metabolic pathways.
Difference between Vitamins and Minerals
1. Need– All vitamins are needed by the human body for proper functioning whereas all minerals are not required. Maximum of about sixteen minerals are found to be essential for human body both in large amounts as well as traces.
2. Source– Vitamins are synthesized in the human body and some are synthesized in plants and animals and obtained through diet. The natural and ultimate source of minerals is the soil and water. From soil, it is fixed in plants and gets transferred to animals including humans.
3. Properties– Vitamins are either water soluble or fat soluble. Fat soluble vitamins are stored in the body and they are usually compounds with complex structure. Minerals are mostly elements which are simple and having low atomic weights.
4. Effect of heat – Cooking or heating makes the vitamins to get destroyed or modified to other forms. Some of the forms are inactive and require further processes to get eliminated from the body. Minerals are usually not susceptible to such modifications since they are in the simplest elemental form.
5. Function – The biological functions are different for them each playing significant roles in maintenance, development and growth of tissues.
While vitamins and minerals both serve important metabolic and structural functions in the human body, we cannot get rid of either. Both are needed in right quantities for proper balance and internal homoeostasis. Most vitamins require the presence of minerals for efficient functioning and this co-dependence makes the drug manufacturers to develop supplements which have both the ingredients. A healthy and balanced diet with the adequate amounts of these small nutrients will help to lead a good life style. While cooking, it is essential to preserve the vitamins since they are heat labile and can easily lead to deficiency conditions.