Difference between 'vitamins', 'minerals' and 'supplements'
Definitions, health benefits and safe usage of mineral and vitamin supplements
If you're starting a new health regime, or if you're exposed to various forms of advertising, it's highly likely you've heard the words 'vitamins', 'minerals' and 'supplements' being thrown around! Personal trainers, nutritionists and other health advocates will constantly remind you to take in sufficient vitamins and minerals, but the average person doesn't always know what these terms actually mean.
Do vitamins, minerals and supplements all mean the same thing? What are the guidelines to taking them in a safe and healthy way? Where does one get them from? And what exactly are their health benefits? If you've been asking yourself these questions, you've come to the right place! We're going to break it down for you by explaining the difference between vitamins, minerals and supplements, and how each group is vital for your health!
Before we commence, it's important to mention that while vitamins, minerals and supplements are great for health, they may come with negative side effects if used inappropriately! Read on and we'll help you make sense of it all.
What are supplements
A supplement is a product one takes to, you guessed it, supplement your diet! Dietary supplements come in a variety of forms: capsules, tablets, powders or liquid. The purpose of the supplement will determine which dietary ingredients it contains, e.g herbs, vitamins, minerals, amino acids etc. People take supplements when they don't get sufficient nutrients from their food, which often ends in some sort of health deficiency!
Many people take daily multivitamin/multi-mineral supplements as it's well-known that the nutritional value of foods is decreasing. People were once able to eat foods that were packed with nutrition and were provided with all the vitamins and minerals they needed. Nowadays, due to farming methods, mass production and pollution, our soils and food sources are depleted. People are also spending less time outdoors, therefore receiving less Vitamin D! Supplements can be taken daily in order to make sure that your body is getting everything it needs, or higher dosage supplements may be taken if a person is malnourished, pregnant, sickly or suffering from a deficiency (anaemia, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue etc.).
While supplements can do wonders for your health, they can also backfire and cause negative side effects! If you suffer from an existing medical condition, it's always best to consult with your GP before taking any form of supplement or medication. In certain cases, some supplements may interfere with the effects of anaesthesia. Some supplements which contain Vitamin K may cause bleeding and thinning of the blood, and some supplements, as well as conventional medicines, may interfere with the use of contraceptive pills, anti-depressants and other drugs. Those taking supplements should take care not to exceed the stated maximum dose!
What are vitamins
Vitamins are organic compounds found in natural food sources, including fruit, vegetables, herbs and meat. Vitamins are essential in small quantities in order to sustain life! It's important that humans take in a variety of vitamins from a variety of sources, because the human body does not produce enough of them, or does not produce any at all. It's so important to eat a varied diet, with as much fresh produce as possible. If the body does not receive sufficient vitamins, vitamin deficiencies, then malnutrition and pathologies may develop!
While vitamins do not directly serve as a source of energy for the body, they do assist enzymes and are involved in many essential biological functions. Vitamins are used in many different ways inside your body: they help the body with growth, maintenance, absorbing nutrients, blood clotting, neurological function, boosting the immune system, production of DNA and much more!
"The 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines focus on the overall diet as the best way to get enough nutrients for good health. Vitamins should come firstly from a balanced and varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables." - www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/195878.php
There are 13 known vitamins in total, and 2 classifications of vitamins: fat-soluble and water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed through the intestinal tract with the help of fats, or lipids. They are then stored in the fatty tissues of the body and the liver and can stay in the body for days, sometimes months! Out of the 13 known vitamins, 4 of those are fat-soluble, namely Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Vitamin K.
Water-soluble vitamins do not stay in the body for long because the body cannot store them. Soon after they're ingested, they are excreted in urine! Because of this, water-soluble vitamins need to be replaced more often than fat-soluble ones. Examples of water-soluble vitamins include Vitamin C, and all the B Vitamins.
- Vitamin A - eyes and vision, immune system, skin, reproduction, antioxidant
- Vitamin D - bones and teeth, calcium absorption, insulin levels, blood pressure, antioxidant
- Vitamin E - heart and circulation, brain and nervous system, female reproduction and hormones, strength and endurance
- Vitamin K - wound healing, bones, blood clotting, heart health
- Vitamin B1 (or Thiamin) - nervous system, brain, muscles, heart, stomach and intestines
- Vitamin B2 (or Riboflavin) - cell growth and function, eyes, muscles, bones, skin, brain
- Vitamin B3 (or Niacin) - cardiovascular system, depression, mental health, digestion
- Vitamin B5 (or Pantothenic Acid) - blood, skin, hair, eyes, liver, hormones
- Vitamin B6 (or Pyridoxine) - mental health, mood, nervous system, blood, female reproduction and hormones, immune system
- Vitamin B7 (or Biotin) - metabolism, creating important enzymes, female reproduction, breastfeeding, pregnancy, hair, skin, nails, diabetes, nervous system
- Vitamin B9 (or Folic Acid or Folate) - anemia, liver, kidneys, pregnancy, cardiovascular system, bones, nervous system, muscles, mental health
- Vitamin B12 - nervous system, blood, anemia, pregnancy, breastfeeding, bones, eyes and vision, mental health, energy, hair, skin, nails
- Vitamin C - collagen, cartilage, bones, teeth, wounds, immune system, cardiovascular system, anti-ageing
Remember that not all vitamin supplements are equal! Some contain substances that are not conducive to health and others may be in a less absorbable form, meaning that your body does not get the full benefit. At Feelgood Health, we select only the best, closest to nature vitamins and make sure that they do not contain added sugar, fillers and unhealthy substances like preservatives.
What are minerals
A mineral is an element or chemical compound present in nature, that's usually formed as a result of geological processes. Minerals are found in water, rock and soil, and small amounts are also found in meat and plants. We don't manufacture essential minerals in the body so we therefore have to get them from our diet.
"What are minerals, exactly? They are any substance that meets these four specific qualities:
- Minerals are natural: These substances that form without any human help.
- Minerals are solid: They don't droop or melt or evaporate.
- Minerals are inorganic: They aren't carbon compounds like those found in living things.
- Minerals are crystalline: They have a distinct recipe and arrangement of atoms." - https://www.thoughtco.com/what-are-minerals-1440987
Just like vitamins, minerals help your body maintain healthy physiological functioning. The body needs minerals to perform many different functions, from building strong bones and developing a healthy digestive system, to transmitting nerve impulses and maintaining healthy blood.
There are 2 categories of minerals: macrominerals and micro minerals (or trace minerals).
The macromineral group is made up of:
- Calcium - bones, heart, teeth, nervous system, muscles, blood clotting
- Phosphorus - bones, teeth, muscles, nervous system, kidneys, cardiovascular system
- Magnesium - energy, blood sugar levels, mood, cardiovascular system, nervous system, muscles
- Sodium - fluid balance, nervous system, muscles, cardiovascular system
- Potassium - nervous system, fluid balance, cardiovascular system, muscles, bones
- Chloride - fluid balance, digestion, pH levels, liver detox
- Sulfur - antibacterial, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, liver detox, antioxidant, hair, skin, nails, bones
Trace minerals includes:
- Iron - energy and strength, blood, immune system, anaemia, brain
- Manganese - bones, blood sugar levels, brain, nervous system, female reproduction, thyroid, collagen
- Copper - bones, blood vessels, nerves, anemia, immune function
- Iodine - thyroid, hormones, pregnancy, antibacterial,
- Zinc - immune system, digestive system, brain, wound healing, reproduction, diabetes, nervous system, mood and mental health
- Cobalt - help absorb and process vitamin B12, anemia, nervous system, cardiovascular system
- Fluoride - teeth
- Selenium - antioxidant, immune system, cardiovascular system, thyroid, mental health, nervous system, respiratory system
'Macro' means 'large' in Greek, therefore it makes sense that our bodies require large amounts of macrominerals. 'Micro' means 'small' in Greek, therefore it makes sense that our bodies require only a little bit of micro minerals. Minerals are most potent when they come from food, especially fresh food! Fresh foods aren't our only source of dietary minerals, however. Some processed foods, like breakfast cereal or health bars, may be fortified with minerals
If you're struggling with a mineral deficiency, you may need to take supplements. The same cautions of inappropriately taking vitamins applies to minerals, too.
If you have any questions, please contact our team for FREE health advice or leave a comment below. We always love hearing from you!