What Are Vitamins and Minerals According to the Nemours Foundation?
Vitamins and minerals make people's bodies work properly. Although you get vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat every day, some foods have more vitamins and minerals than others.
Vitamins fall into two categories: fat soluble and water soluble. The fat-soluble vitamins - A, D, E, and K - dissolve in fat and can be stored in your body. The water-soluble vitamins - C and the B-complex vitamins (such as vitamins B6, B12, niacin, riboflavin, and folate) - need to dissolve in water before your body can absorb them. Because of this, your body cannot store these vitamins. Any vitamin C or B that your body does not use as it passes through your system is lost mostly through urination, so you need a fresh supply of these vitamins every day.
Whereas vitamins are organic substances (made by plants or animals), minerals are inorganic elements that come from the soil and water and are absorbed by plants or eaten by animals. Your body needs larger amounts of some minerals, such as calcium, to grow and stay healthy. Other minerals like chromium, copper, iodine, iron, selenium, and zinc are called trace minerals because you only need very small amounts of them each day.
What Do Vitamins and Minerals Do?
Vitamins and minerals boost the immune system, support normal growth and development, and help cells and organs do their jobs. For example, you have probably heard that carrots are good for your eyes. It is true! Carrots are full of substances called carotenoids that your body converts into vitamin A, which helps prevent eye problems. Another vitamin, vitamin K, helps blood to clot (so cuts and scrapes stop bleeding quickly). You will find vitamin K in green leafy vegetable, broccoli, soybeans, and oatmeal. And to have strong bones, you need to eat foods such as milk, yogurt, and green leafy vegetables, which are rich in the mineral calcium.
Fuel for Growth
People go through a lot of physical changes - including growth and puberty - during their teenage years. Eating right during this time is especially important because your body needs a variety of vitamins and minerals to grow, develop, and stay healthy.
Eating a variety of foods is the best way to get all the vitamins and minerals you need each day, as well as the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and calories. Whole or unprocessed foods - like fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy products, meats, fish, and poultry - are the best choices for providing the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy and grow properly. It is OK to eat foods like potato chips and cookies once in a while, but you do not want to overdo high-calorie foods like these that offer little nutritionally.
To choose healthy foods, check food labels and pick items that are high in vitamins and minerals. For example, if you are choosing beverages, you will find that a glass of milk is a good source of vitamin A and the minerals calcium, phosphorous, and potassium. A glass of soda, on the other hand, offers very few vitamins or minerals. You can satisfy your taste buds without sacrificing nutrition while eating out as well. Vegetable pizzas or fajitas, sandwiches with lean cuts of meat, fresh salads, and baked potatoes are just a few delicious, nutritious choices.
If you are a vegetarian, you will need to plan carefully for a diet that offers the vitamins and minerals found primarily in meats. The best sources for the minerals zinc and iron are meats, fish, and poultry. However, you can get zinc and iron in dried beans, seeds, nuts, and leafy green vegetables like kale.
Vitamin B12, which is important for manufacturing red blood cells, is not found in plant foods. If you do not eat meat, you can find vitamin B12 in eggs, milk and other dairy foods, and fortified breakfast cereals. Vegans (vegetarians who eat no animal products at all, including dairy products) may need to take vitamin supplements. If you are thinking about becoming a vegetarian, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about how to plan a healthy, balanced diet.
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