In a perfect world, you would get the daily recommended intake of minerals and vitamins from a healthy diet. However, this becomes impossible due to several factors, which is why multivitamins and mineral supplements come in handy.
If you have had trouble identifying the essential vitamins and minerals you should be taking, their importance, and whether or not you should take multivitamins and mineral supplements, this article is for you.
This article explores eight essential minerals and multivitamins you should take to improve your overall health.
Since we first need to understand what vitamins and minerals are before focusing on multivitamins and multiminerals, let’s start with a foundational overview.
What are Vitamins?
Vitamins are chemical compounds that provide essential nutrients for our body. Vitamins come in two types, as either Fat-soluble vitamins or water-soluble vitamins.
Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin K, E, D, and A. They are stored in the body, which makes taking excess amounts a health risk. Fatty animal-based foods like oily fish and dairy have fat-soluble vitamins.
Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body. The body releases them through its natural excretions like urine. As such, we need daily intakes of these vitamins to ensure the body has enough supply. Vitamins B and C are water-soluble.
Functions of Vitamins
Vitamins serve a myriad of purposes in the human body, with each vitamin serving one or multiple purposes. Some of the functions of vitamins include (but not limited to) the ones below:
- Enhancing the immune system to protect the body against infections and diseases
- Regulating cell structure
- Protecting cells and tissues and helping wounds to heal
- Formation of red blood cells
- Maintaining a healthy thyroid
- Managing the body’s functions like activating or shutting off a gene
- Maintaining healthy bones and teeth
- Maintaining good eye health
- Maintaining healthy nerves
- Helping the body obtain energy from food
- Allowing your blood to clot properly
- Antioxidation – preventing or delaying some types of cell damage, thus reducing the risk of inflammation and cancer
What are Minerals?
Minerals are inorganic solids found in foods and on the earth, and which may be compounds or elements. They also support important body functions. Minerals are available in plenty in bones, blood, and tissues. Some like iron are found in every living cell.
The most vital minerals for the human body include potassium, iron, calcium, sodium, manganese, molybdenum, copper, selenium, zinc, chloride, phosphorus, iodine, fluoride, magnesium, and chromium.
Functions of Minerals
Just like vitamins, minerals also serve different purposes, with some being multifunctional. Some of the critical functions of minerals include (but not limited to) the ones highlighted below:
- Being part of RNA and DNA
- General body functions like metabolism
- Maintaining a proper acid-base balance in the body
- Preventing certain diseases and conditions like brittle bones, weak teeth, developmental issues in children, goitre, obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease
How Can You Get Vitamins and Minerals?
The primary source of vitamins and minerals is naturally occurring foods. Food contains not only vitamins and minerals but also other vital components like fibre. Foods are either plant- or animal-based, with each type having its own share of both advantages and shortcomings.
Some vitamins and minerals are available in both animal and plant-based foods.
What About Multivitamins and Multiminerals?
To ease up things here, the vitamins and minerals as discussed above are usually referred to as single or individual vitamins and minerals. They occur naturally in various foods.
Multivitamins and multiminerals contain a combination of various vitamins and minerals. They may also have other ingredients like fatty acids, herbs, and amino acids. They are also known as multiples or multis. Some people simply call them vitamins and minerals.
Multivitamins and mineral supplements are recommended when you can’t get the right amounts of minerals and vitamins from food. Their key purpose is to supply the body with the proper nutrients required for the many functions of vitamins and minerals, as discussed earlier.
Sources of Multivitamins and Multiminerals
If your body can’t take in all the necessary vitamins and minerals from the food you take, a medical doctor, dietician, or nutritionist may propose that you take any or a combination of the following sources of multivitamins and minerals:
- Fortified foods (like orange juice and cereals, which are a good source of single and multivitamins)
- Chewable gummies
It’s worth observing that the nutrients in multivitamins and minerals may be obtained from real, naturally occurring foods or made synthetically in a lab. It’s thus essential that you should buy your preferred supplements from reputable manufacturers.
The Eight Essential Multivitamins and Minerals for Fine-tuning Your Health
It’s important to note that the multivitamins and minerals industry is highly unregulated, and the nutrients packed into every supplement may differ from one brand to the other. The same case goes for the combinations of vitamins and minerals in each product.
For the above reason, we will look at the eight main vitamins and minerals essential for the proper functioning of your body. These will help you fine-tune your health if taken in the right amounts and combinations. Let’s look at each briefly.
The four fat-soluble vitamins are as discussed below:
Also known as retinol, Vitamin A enhances the immune system for optimum protection against diseases and infections. It is crucial for maintaining healthy eyes. It also keeps the skin and flesh healthy.
You should be keen on how much vitamin A you take, since too much of it makes the bones vulnerable to fracturing later in life.
Vitamin A is one of the antioxidant vitamins.
Animal-based foods like liver, yoghurt, cheese, low fat spreads and eggs are good sources of vitamin A. Plant-based foods that contain vitamin A include carrots, fortified cereals, sweet potatoes, and spinach.
Also known as calciferol or lightly as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is derived from a reaction the human skin has to the sun. It is also found in powdered milk, oily fish, breakfast cereals, fish liver oils, and eggs.
Vitamin D is crucial for healthy bones and muscles, a robust immune system, and proper coordination between the brain and the rest of the body. It regulates the amounts of phosphate and calcium in the body.
Vitamin D deficiency causes rickets in children and osteomalacia in older adults.
Vitamin E is another antioxidant vitamin. It helps with regulating cell structure and protecting cells against damage.
Foods that contain vitamin E include fortified cereals, almonds, vegetable oils, sunflower seeds, peanuts, soya, peanut butter, nuts, corn and olive oil, and wheat germ.
Necessary for blood clotting and healthy bones, vitamin K is found in green vegetables like collards, spinach, and broccoli. Vegetable cereals and oils also contain vitamin K. Some meats and dairy also have vitamin K.
Vitamins B and C are water-soluble:
The B complex consists of several vitamins that serve various purposes in the body. It includes the following vitamins (among others):
- B1 – Thiamin (Found in whole grains and enriched, fortified products such as cereals and breads)
- B2 – Riboflavin (Found in bread products, fortified cereals, and milk)
- B3 – Niacin (Found in meat, poultry, fish, fortified cereals, and enriched and whole-grain breads)
- B5 – Pantothenic Acid (Found in beef, potatoes, chicken, tomatoes, cereals, and oats)
- B6 – Pyridoxine (Found in chickpeas, organ meats, fortified cereals, potatoes, and fortified soy products)
- B7 – Biotin (Found in liver, meats, and fruits)
- B9 – Folic acid (Found in dry beans, nuts, leafy green vegetables, fruits, and peas)
- B12 – Cobalamin (Found in poultry, fish, meat, fortified cereals, and dairy products)
Vitamin B1 helps the body process carbohydrates and some proteins, while B2 helps convert food into energy and helps with red blood cells.
Vitamin B3 helps the body with digestion and making healthy cholesterol. B5 helps turn proteins, fats, and carbs into energy.
Vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in absorbing folic acid, blood formation, and brain and nerve functioning. Folic acid is essential for women in the childbearing age span. Deficiency in folic acid causes defective development of the spine or brain in babies.
Generally, the B complex vitamins keep the eyes, skin, and nervous system healthy and functioning. They also produce and release energy for the body.
Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is found in vegetables like Brussel sprouts and broccoli and fruits like kiwi, blackcurrants, oranges, avocadoes, strawberries, and mangoes. It is also contained in tomatoes and red and green peppers.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant vitamin. It helps tissues and cells against damage. It also helps the body make collagen, heal wounds, and generally supports the immune system.
People with Vitamin C deficiency develop scurvy, which was historically common among sailors as they couldn’t get enough fresh foods for a long time on the sea. When in excess in the body, Vitamin C can cause diarrhoea and abdominal pain.
There are many minerals that the body requires either in large or small amounts. Let’s discuss some of the essential ones:
Potassium is required by the cells, muscles, and nerves to function correctly. It is essential as it helps with digestion and regulating heart rhythm, blood pressure, and the amount of water in cells.
Different types of vegetables, dairy foods, fruits, and meats contain potassium in high amounts. Foods such as lentils, apricots, and potatoes are excellent sources of potassium. Furthermore, coffee, milk, tea, and many non-alcoholic beverages are rich in potassium.
Iron helps in the making of red blood cells and carrying oxygen in the body. Other critical functions of iron include cell growth and development and the making of connective tissue and some hormones.
Iron is available in fortified cereals, lentils, turkey, spinach, beans, liver, nuts, dark green vegetables, and dried fruits.
Iron deficiency causes anaemia, while an excess of it is bad for your body as it inhibits the absorption of zinc.
The body needs calcium to help in releasing enzymes and hormones for most of the body’s functions. Calcium is also vital for body communication as it helps in sending messages through the body’s nervous system.
The expansion and contraction of blood vessels and muscles also rely a lot on calcium. Calcium is stored mainly in the teeth and bones, where it helps make and keep them healthy and strong.
Modern scientific research posits that calcium has the potential to protect against breast and colon cancer as well as lowering hypertension.
Some mainstream foods rich in calcium include green leafy vegetables, nuts, milk, cheese, tofu, soya, yoghurt, and fortified cereals.
Who Should Take Multivitamins and Minerals?
While multivitamins and minerals are recommended for all people as a way of supplementing the nutrients we gain from our diet, they are highly recommended for some groups of people such as:
- Pregnant women
- Breastfeeding women
- Women of childbearing age
- Old adults
Where to Get Multivitamins and Minerals
You can buy multivitamins from several places, including pharmacies, directly from supplement manufacturers, hospitals, and sometimes over the counter in local shops.
Any Disclaimers on Using Multivitamins and Minerals?
While it’s important to use supplemental multivitamins and minerals, they have some shortcomings that we feel you should be aware of to make the best out of them. Such shortcomings include:
- Inhibition: When taken simultaneously, some vitamins or minerals inhibit the absorption of others in the body. For example, iron inhibits the absorption of zinc, a mineral important for reproduction, nerve function, and immune system health. Beta-carotene inhibits the absorption of potassium.
- Fat-soluble vitamins are harmful when taken in large amounts exceeding what the body requires. They can lead to kidney, liver, and brain damage. For example, excess iron or Vitamin C causes secondary hemochromatosis.
- Toxicity from exceeding the recommended daily intakes
- Resistance or opposition to some medications from some ingredients in some supplements.
However much we may want the world to be ideal so we could get all that we need from one source without much of a struggle, this isn’t always the case. If it were, we wouldn’t need to look for multivitamins and minerals to supplement our diets.
Multivitamins and minerals come in handy when you can’t get all the essential minerals and vitamins from plant and animal-based foods. However, you should take care to ensure you use multivitamins and minerals in the recommended amounts and combinations.