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Vitamins And Minerals: Overview

Updated on December 1, 2012

Difference between vitamins and minerals

Most of the time nutritionists use both words together that is why the difference between them is unknown to many of us. Distinguishing fact about them is that vitamins are organic compounds and minerals are inorganic elements or molecules. Biologically vitamins are product of cell metabolism in living plants and animals, and minerals are initially absorbed by plants and animal directly from atmosphere, water and land, and later on they can be transferred in food chain.

An overview of vitamins and minerals


Vitamins are not source of energy themselves but they help in the release of energy from carbohydrates, and fats. Therefore, food must contain required amounts of vitamins. There are various types of vitamins. A particular vitamin or a group of two or more vitamins, protect the health and assist in the work of a particular organ of our body. Each vitamin has a specific function and cannot substitute for another. They can be obtained from plant and animal foods. Vitamins are required in small amounts and their prolonged deficiency in food results in various deceases. In order to correct this situation, sometimes vitamins have to be given as tonics or medicine.

Types of Vitamins

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is needed for healthy eyes, smooth skin and glossy hair. Many children go blind because of vitamin A deficiency. This could be easily prevented, because foods containing vitamin A, like carrots and green vegetables, are easily available.

Vitamin B

vitamins of the B group have many sub-groups. These have different functions but their source is more or less the same. Sometimes children or even adults complain of lack of appetite. They never seem to be hungry for meals. This is due to the deficiency of vitamin B group, which leads to under nutrition and retardation of growth.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is present in fresh fruits and vegetables, especially in citrus fruits and guava. It is essential for the health of the mucous membrane which lines out mouth, nose and inner organs. It helps in building resistance against infections like common cold.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D, which is present in eggs, milk, butter, etc., helps in proper formation of bones. Its deficiency leads to weak bones or physical deformities like bow legs in children. This is the only vitamin which our body can make in the skin, by the action of sunlight which is plenty in world and costs nothing. Vitamin D is also called “sunshine vitamin”.

Important things to know about vitamins

Their excess is stored in the body. And overdose of vitamins can also cause illness. They should be taken, as a tonic or medicine, only after consulting a doctor. It has recently been found that indiscriminate use of vitamin B complex and vitamin C leads to wide range of adverse effects on health, such as headache, irritability, insomnia, nausea, etc.

Vitamins are susceptible to destruction under certain conditions. Therefore, great care should be taken to retain them while cooking. vitamin B and C are water soluble therefore they cannot be reclaimed in the body and should be included in our daily meals, being water soluble, being are washed off when we cut or wash the vegetables or fruit. Vitamin C gets destroyed in cooking at high temperature. Therefore, Alma, green pepper, lemon and other citrus fruits which are rich sources of vitamin C should be eaten raw, instead of being cooked. Vitamin b2, which is present in millet, cereals and vegetables, etc., is destroyed by long exposure to sunlight.

In general, the following precautions should be taken while cooking, so as to retain maximum amounts of vitamins in the food.

  • Use as little water as possible for washing and cooking
  • Do not throw the water used form soaking or cooking rice, purses vegetables, etc. it must either be used for cooking or consumed in some other way.
  • Vegetables should be washed before cutting; otherwise the vitamins will leak out from the cut vegetables into water and get washed away.
  • Vegetables should be cooked soon after cutting.
  • Cook for the shortest possible period and serve it immediately.
  • Do not use baking soda because it destroys vitamin C.


About 17 different minerals are necessary for healthy functioning of our body, though their amount is insignificant in comparison the bulk of food taken by us. Hence these minerals are often referred to as “micro nutrients”. Some of these minerals are constituents of the body cells and the body fluids, and as such take part in chemical reactions in the cells.

Types of Minerals


Have you heard of fluoride toothpastes? Fluorine is essential to produce strong teeth that resist decay. That is why the tooth pastes containing fluorine are being promoted these days. But excess of fluorine also is harmful. Water of some districts in Indian states like Punjab and Andhra Pradesh has excess of fluorine. Consumption of this water results in lusterless stained teeth and weakened enamel.

Sodium Chloride & Iodine

We all take common salt in every meal. It is essential for the proper working of the body. Common salt is chloride of sodium. A minute amount of iodine is an important part of the hormone produced by thyroid gland in the neck. Its deficiency caused thyroid glands to swell, a condition known as goiter. Now iodized salt is available in the market which can provide us with iodine.


Our bones and teeth contain large amounts of calcium. An adult has a total of about 1 Kg of calcium and a baby has about 30g in their bones. So, during the period of growth from baby to an adult, large amount of calcium has to be added to the bones, therefore, doctors prescribe calcium tablets to children and pregnant women. Calcium is always present in the body in combination with mineral, phosphorus. Milk and green leafy vegetables are a very good source of calcium. It is also required for proper working of muscles and for clotting of blood.


Another important mineral is iron which is required for making hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin gives red color of the blood. In comparison to 1kg of calcium, the total amount of iron in the body is about 3gm. Iron Is necessary for growing children and pregnant women. During the menstrual period women lose iron and therefore, they need extra iron,


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    • dinkan53 profile image

      dinkan53 5 years ago from India

      I just wanted to comment and say that I really enjoyed reading your article here. It was very informative. Thanks for sharing and keep writing.