The Real Difference Between Vitamins And Minerals

Many foods advertise their vitamin and mineral content, but what exactly are they selling? Are these nutrients just about the same thing? And which ones do we need?

Vitamins and minerals are both important nutrients that are key elements for a healthy body. The difference comes down to their origin. According to Teens Health, vitamins are organic and derived from plants or animals, while minerals are inorganic and come from soil or water. Both do the work of building a strong immune system, supporting growth, and maintaining organ and system function.

Vitamins are less stable than minerals and break down in heat or over time (via Pharmacy Times). Therefore, storing vitamin supplements in a cool, dry location is key to maintaining their potency. It is also important to note that there are two types of vitamins: fat- and water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins dissolve in fat and the body can store them. Water-soluble vitamins pass through the body and are excreted, so the body does not store what it doesn't use.

Here's which vitamins and minerals your body needs

There are 13 vitamins that are key to health. Theses include vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K, along with eight B-complex vitamins (via Pharmacy Times). Experts at LiveStrong break down the importance of each of these vitamins. For example, vitamin A is important for vision and cellular growth. B-vitamins work with different enzymes in the body. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin D promotes bone development. Vitamin E protects the cell membranes and fights aging. Vitamin K is important in blood clotting. Many people can get the recommended daily amount of each of these vitamins through a balanced diet. For those following a restrictive diet, supplements may be necessary.

There are a few minerals that must be taken in greater quantity. Calcium and magnesium work to build up strong bones and teeth. Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen around the body. Phosphorous helps the cells create energy.

Some minerals — zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium — are called trace minerals because the body only needs a small amount to function well. Zinc helps tissues grow and repair. Copper and manganese are involved in enzyme function. Selenium is an antioxidant for the cells.

During routine visits with your doctor, they may choose to run lab tests which will tell you if you are low on any essential vitamins or minerals.