Essential nutrients for your body
Every day, your body produces skin, muscle, and bone. It churns out rich red blood that carries nutrients and oxygen to remote outposts, and it sends nerve signals skipping along thousands of miles of brain and body pathways. It also formulates chemical messengers that shuttle from one organ to another, issuing the instructions that help sustain your life.
However, to do all this, your body requires some raw materials. These include at least 30 vitamins, minerals, and dietary components that your body needs but cannot manufacture on its own in sufficient amounts.
Vitamins and minerals are considered essential nutrients—because acting in concert, they perform hundreds of roles in the body. They help shore up bones, heal wounds, and bolster your immune system. They also convert food into energy, and repair cellular damage.
Nevertheless, trying to keep track of what all these vitamins and minerals do can be confusing. Read enough articles on the topic, and your eyes may swim with the alphabet-soup references to these nutrients, which are known mainly be their initials (such as vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K—to name just a few).
In this article, you’ll gain a better understanding of what these vitamins and minerals actually do in the body and why you want to make sure you’re getting enough of them.
The difference between vitamins and minerals
Although they are all considered micronutrients, vitamins and minerals differ in basic ways. Vitamins are organic and can be broken down by heat, air, or acid. Minerals are inorganic and hold on to their chemical structure.
So why does this matter? It means the minerals in soil and water easily find their way into your body through the plants, fish, animals, and fluids you consume. But it’s tougher to shuttle vitamins from food and other sources into your body because cooking, storage, and simple exposure to air can inactivate these more fragile compounds
It is no secret that vitamin D is an essential nutrient. You can find it in breakfast staples like eggs, milk, and fortified orange juice, as well as in some mushrooms and in fatty fish such as halibut, salmon, and herring. Your body can even make it when you spend time in the sun.
Still, how much do you really know about what vitamin D can — and can’t — do for your health,
“We’re discovering that vitamin D behaves much less like a vitamin and much more like a hormone,” That means vitamin D acts as a messenger rather than a participant in metabolism, potentially affecting everything from weight to how organs function.
That is why many people take vitamin D supplements. The Endocrine Society recommends that adults take 1,500–2,000 IU per day in supplements to avoid vitamin D deficiency, and 1,000 IU per day for infants and children. Yet recommendations vary widely. Keep in mind that there can be too much of a good thing with vitamin D, which is why the FNB set an upper limit of 4,000 IU per day in supplementation for people over age 9 — and 1,000–3,000 IU for infants and children up to age 8, depending on age. Dosages beyond those increase the risk for death, cancer, and cardiovascular events, as well as falls and fractures in seniors.
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