Two of the main types of nutrients the body requires to function and remain healthy are vitamins and minerals. Vitamins help the body grow and work the way it does. Vitamins have multiple roles. You can get enough of most of these vitamins from food by following the Dietary Guidelines. Minerals help your body function, as well. Some minerals are only needed in minimal quantities, such as iodine and fluoride. Others are required in larger amounts, including calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
The most frequently used dietary supplements are multivitamins with minerals, with nearly half of adults taking them. Such supplements can not take the place of eating a range of essential foods for a healthy diet. Fiber and other substances which can provide health benefits are also available in many foods. However, some individuals who do not get enough vitamins and minerals from food alone or have specific health issues may benefit from taking supplements, and this includes:
- pregnant or breastfeeding women
- people who smoke, drink alcohol in excess, or use illegal drugs
- people on rigorous diets
- the elderly (especially those who are disabled or chronically ill)
- some vegetarians or vegans
- women with heavy periods
- people with food allergies
- individuals with malabsorption problems
Water-soluble vitamins pass easily through the body, and the kidneys naturally excrete excess amounts. Generally, a healthy diet contains enough of these vitamins.
Thiamin (vitamin B1): enables the body to break down and release food energy and keep the nervous system healthy. Good sources of thiamin include peas, bananas, nuts, wholegrain bread, and liver.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2): keep skin, eyes, and the nervous system healthy and help the body release energy from food. Good sources of riboflavin include milk, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, mushrooms, and plain yogurt. Riboflavin is used as a method of migraine prophylaxis. A study in adults found riboflavin significantly reduces the frequency and duration of migraines. A systemic review also showed that riboflavin is well-tolerated, inexpensive, and has demonstrated efficacy in lowering adult patient’s migraine headache frequency.
Niacin (vitamin B3): helps the body release energy from food and keep the nervous system and skin healthy. Good sources of niacin include meat, fish, wheat flour, and eggs. Taking high doses of vitamin B3 supplements can cause skin flushes and liver damage in the long term.
Pyridoxine (vitamin B6): supports the body to use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates in food and form hemoglobin. Good pyridoxine sources include pork, poultry, peanuts, soya beans, wheat germ, oats, bananas, and milk. Pyridoxine has been shown to improve nausea and vomiting during the first trimester, especially in women with severe symptoms. High doses of vitamin B6 can be toxic and linked to some types of nerve damage.
Biotin (vitamin B7): Biotin is required in small quantities to help the body make fatty acids. The bacteria that live naturally in your intestine can make biotin, so it is not clear if you need any additional biotin from your diet. Biotin is also present in a wide variety of foods, but only at very low levels.
Folic acid (vitamin B9): Folate is a vitamin B present in many foods. The human form of folate is called folic acid. It allows the body to shape healthy red blood cells and decreases the risk of congenital defects called neural tube defects. Good sources include broccoli, leafy green vegetables, such as cabbage, kale, spring greens, and spinach, peas, chickpeas, and kidney beans. By consuming a diverse and balanced diet, most individuals should be able to get the amount of folate that they need. Suppose you’re pregnant, trying for a baby, or could get pregnant. In that case, it’s recommended that you take a folic acid supplement daily.
Cobalamin (vitamin B12): Vitamin B12 helps the body to produce red blood cells, and to keep the nervous system healthy, to release food energy, and to use folate. Good sources of vitamin B12 include meat, milk, fish, cheese, and eggs. You should get some vitamin B12 from your diet if you consume meat, fish, or dairy products. But vegans do not get enough of it because vitamin B12 is not naturally present in fruit, vegetables, and grains.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid): has several essential functions. These include helping to protect cells and keeping them healthy, maintaining healthy skin, blood vessels, bones, cartilage, and wound healing. Vitamin C is present in a wide range of vegetables and fruits. Citrus fruit, broccoli, potatoes, peppers, and strawberries are essential sources. You should be able to get all the vitamin C that you need from your regular diet. Stomach pain, diarrhea, flushing, headache, or insomnia can be caused by taking large amounts of vitamin C.
Fat-soluble vitamins are retained in the body tissues and are not excreted as readily as water-soluble vitamins. They do not need to be ingested as much as water-soluble vitamins, although sufficient quantities are required. It could become harmful if you take too much of fat-soluble vitamin.
Vitamin A (retinol): has a variety of essential roles. This involves making the body’s immune system function properly, helping your vision, and keeping your skin and mucous membranes healthy. Healthy vitamin A (retinol) sources include eggs, cheese, milk and yogurt, oily fish, and liver. You can also get vitamin A by having good beta-carotene sources in your diet, as the body can transform it into retinol. The primary food sources for beta-carotene are yellow, red, and green (leafy) vegetables and yellow fruits such as papaya, mango, and apricots. You should be able to get all the vitamin A that you need from your regular diet. You should be aware of the possible adverse effects of consuming excess retinol. Acute toxicity in high doses can manifest as headaches, blindness, nausea, vomiting, and loss of coordination of the muscles. Since exposure to vitamin A can result in craniofacial, cardiovascular, and central nervous system malformations, pregnant women should not consume high doses. Other evidence indicates that higher retinol concentrations in adults could be associated with decreased bone mineral density and an increased risk of hip fracture by impairing the calcium absorption effect of vitamin D.
Vitamin D: helps to balance the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. Most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from the sun. When outside, the body produces vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin. Vitamin D is also present in a limited number of foods. Sources include oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel), liver, red meat, and egg yolk. Another source of vitamin D is dietary supplements. A daily vitamin D supplement should be given to infants and young children. You need to get vitamin D from your diet during the autumn and winter because the sun is not strong enough to generate vitamin D for the body. But because it’s hard for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everybody should start taking a regular vitamin D supplement in the fall and winter. Over a long period of time, consuming too many vitamin D supplements will cause too much calcium to build up in the body. This can weaken the bones and damage both the heart and the kidneys.
Vitamin K: a group of vitamins required by the body for blood clotting and wounds healing. There’s also some proof that vitamin K can help preserve healthy bones. Green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils, and cereal grains are good sources of vitamin K. By consuming a diverse and nutritious diet, you should get all the vitamin K you need.
Vitamin E: helps keep the skin and eyes healthy and enhances the body’s natural protection against disease and infection. Vitamin E is present in a broad range of foods. Healthy sources include nuts and seeds, plant oils, and wheat germs. By following a diverse and healthy diet, you should get the amount of vitamin E you need.
The body needs large amounts of major minerals like Calcium, Chloride, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, and Sulfur. They retain the correct water balance in the body. Also, they are essential for healthy bones and to stabilize protein structures. Getting too much of one major mineral will lead to another being deficient. These kinds of imbalances are typically induced by supplement overloads, not food sources.
Trace minerals like Chromium, Copper, Fluoride, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Selenium, and Zinc are just as essential as major minerals. Trace minerals carry out a complex collection of activities. Here are a few examples:
- Iron: is best known in the body for transporting oxygen.
- Fluoride: fortifies the bones and prevents tooth decay.
- Zinc: helps to clot blood, is important for smell and taste and supports the immune response.
- Copper helps form multiple enzymes, one of which helps with iron’s metabolism and the formation of hemoglobin that carries oxygen in the blood.
Trace minerals interact, sometimes in ways that can cause imbalances, with each other. Too much of one can force another to be deficient or contribute to it. Food is generally a safe source of trace minerals. Still, it’s crucial to ensure that you don’t exceed safe levels if you take supplements.