Vitamins vs Minerals

What is the difference between minerals and vitamins? In this vitamins vs minerals guide we compare the two to find out, discussing which ones you need, what purpose they serve and what the major differences are between these two nutrients.

Vitamins vs Nutrients: Chemical Structure

Chemically speaking the differences between minerals and vitamins are that the former are inorganic compounds while the latter are organic compounds. Vitamins are obtained from plants and animals, while minerals come from soil and water. To put it one way, vitamins come from life and minerals come from the earth.

That’s not all, as there are also major differences in the way that the human body uses these nutrients as well as whether or not it even needs them. In other words, while they are often grouped together and lumped under the banner of “nutrients”, minerals and vitamins have more differences than similarities.

Vitamins can be water soluble or fat soluble. If they are water soluble then it means that they are not stored in the body. The body simply uses what it needs and then passes the rest out in the form of urine. If you have ever taken an excessive amount of Vitamin C or a multivitamin and watched as your urine turns a neon color, then you will have experienced this mass-excretion of water soluble vitamins yourself.

Fat soluble vitamins are more problematic and it is from these that you may have heard many scare stories of vitamin overdose. These vitamins are stored in the fat and when more is taken, the amount that is stored builds up over time, potently reaching a dangerous level. That’s why you need to be very careful when consuming vitamins in general, but even more so when these are not water soluble.

Vitamins vs Minerals for Humans

There is a huge difference between these two when it comes to what is needed by humans. Firstly, we need all vitamins in varying amounts. These are stored and used in different ways by the body and the amount that we need will differ greatly, as will the ways that they help our bodies to function and the issues they can cause when we are deficient in them.

For instance, a lack of vitamin C can cause problems with the skin and can lead to serious diseases such as scurvy, while other deficiencies can deplete bone marrow and cause cognitive problems.

Minerals, on the other hand, are not always needed for the human body to function. Some minerals can help with an array of functions in the body, including sodium and iron, others, like Gold and Silver, are not needed at all. For the minerals that the human body needs there are two types. These are “Macro Minerals” which are needed in large quantities and “Trace Minerals”, which are needed in small quantities.

The body often uses minerals to help the teeth and bone, but also to assist with coagulation of the blood and contraction of the muscles. Vitamins, on the other hand, are used to form red blood cells and to assist with processes that help to keep the skin and the organs healthy. They can also be used to help release energy.

Are Vitamins and Mineral Supplements Dangerous?

This is an increasingly common question. It stems from the knowledge that this industry is unregulated, which means a governing body isn’t testing and approving each supplement that goes out. There are also concerns with regards to just how effective synthetic vitamins and minerals are and whether they are even needed.

This is a two-sided coin. On the one hand, it is always better to get vitamins from food and you should only look to supplement with them if you believe you are deficient or if you’re not going to consume a massive RDA percentage. On the other hand, the supplement industry is cleaner and more tightly controlled than naysayers would have you believe. We’re talking about multi-million dollar companies who rely on their reputation, not to mention the fact that customers, independent testers and websites are known to run tests on products that they doubt the legitimacy of.

Add the potential for legal issues, including product liability and negligence, and you begin to understand that most supplement companies really do care and typically go out of their way to provide safe products.

Vitamins vs Minerals: Preparation Cooking

Vitamins can be easily destroyed during the cooking process. You may have heard that fresh fruit and vegetables are best when eaten raw or when they have been frozen straight away. That’s because as soon as they are picked they begin to lose their nutrient value, with the vitamin levels slowly ebbing away.

If they are cooked then the heat will further damage the nutrients and bring those vitamin numbers down even further. However, the same can’t be said for minerals. Minerals are not diminished when cooked because they are not vulnerable to heat. In fact, minerals are pretty much indestructible, whereas vitamins are very fragile and easily destroyed.

Vitamins vs Minerals: Supplementation

Vitamin or Mineral

You should always try to get enough vitamin and minerals. If your body needs them then you should try to make sure you get them. However, supplementation may not be the answer. Time and again research has shown that people who take multi-vitamins have a shorter lifespan than those that do not.

There may be some other factors involved with this. It may be that a large number of the people included in these tests were taking multivitamins because they had some other issue and that this issue skewed the results. However, there are also suggestions that supplementation in this way overloads the body with vitamins and doesn’t, as previously believed, simulate the process of getting these naturally.

You should always try to get your vitamins and minerals from natural sources and should avoid overloading with any single vitamin or mineral, even if it is water soluble. A healthy, balanced diet that contains a wealth of natural forming vitamins and minerals is the best possible diet. No one is disputing that and there is no research to suggest anything to the contrary, nor will there ever be.

However, people are definitely disputing the benefits of getting these nutrients in synthetic form, especial if they are ingested as one-a-day multivitamins.

Minerals vs Vitamins: What are the Differences?

So, to summarize, there are a wealth of differences between vitamins and minerals and the only similarities, really, is the fact that the human body needs most of them in order to function optimally. The major differences are the ways that these nutrients are gathered and structured. One is organic, the other is not; one is easily destroyed and needs to be handled with care, the other is practically indestructible.

As far as benefiting you, they both play an important role. It sounds like a lot and it’s amazing to think that the human body can rely so strongly on such an array of vitamins and minerals when you consider that many populations of humans have not lived anywhere near a source of them and that we don’t understand how much we needed them for the vast majority of our existence on this planet. But that’s just one of the many mysteries of humanity and the answer to those questions are left for another day and another article.

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