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7.2: Minerals and Vitamins- a closer look

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    Learning Objectives

    • List reasons why vitamins and minerals are critical to a healthy diet.
    • Describe the functional role, intake recommendations and sources of vitamins and major minerals.
    • Learn about the importance and sources of dietary fiber.
    • Learn about the importance of water.

    Vitamins and minerals are essential to human health and can be obtained in our diet from different types of food. 

    Dietary Minerals

    Minerals in food are inorganic compounds that work with other nutrients to ensure the body functions properly. Minerals are abundant in our everyday lives. From the soil in your front yard to the jewelry you wear on your body, we interact with minerals constantly. There are 20 essential minerals that must be consumed in our diets to remain healthy. The amount of each mineral found in our bodies vary greatly and therefore, so does consumption of those minerals. When there is a deficiency in an essential mineral, health problems may arise.

    Major minerals (Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\)) are classified as minerals that are required in the diet each day in amounts larger than 100 milligrams. These include sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and sulfur. These major minerals can be found in various foods. Consuming a varied diet significantly improves an individual’s ability to meet their nutrient needs. The most common minerals in the body are calcium and phosphorous, both of which are stored in the skeleton and necessary for the hardening of bones. Most minerals are ionized, and their ionic forms are used in physiological processes throughout the body. Sodium and chloride ions are electrolytes in the blood and extracellular tissues, and iron ions are critical to the formation of hemoglobin. There are additional trace minerals that are still important to the body’s functions, but their required quantities are much lower.



    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\) The major and trace minerals. Image by Allison Calabrese / CC BY 4.0.


    Like vitamins, minerals can be consumed in toxic quantities (although it is rare). A healthy diet includes most of the minerals your body requires, so supplements and processed foods can add potentially toxic levels of minerals. Tables \(\PageIndex{1}\) and  \(\PageIndex{2}\)  provide a summary of minerals and their function in the body.

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\) Major Minerals and their Function in the Body.

    Major Minerals
    Mineral Sources Recommended daily allowance Function Problems associated with deficiency
    Potassium Meats, some fish, fruits, vegetables, legumes, dairy products 4700 mg Nerve and muscle function; acts as an electrolyte Hypokalemia: weakness, fatigue, muscle cramping, gastrointestinal problems, cardiac problems
    Sodium Table salt, milk, beets, celery, processed foods 2300 mg Blood pressure, blood volume, muscle and nerve function Rare
    Calcium Dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, blackstrap molasses, nuts, brewer’s yeast, some fish 1000 mg Bone structure and health; nerve and muscle functions, especially cardiac function Slow growth, weak and brittle bones
    Phosphorous Meat, milk 700 mg Bone formation, metabolism, ATP production Rare
    Magnesium Whole grains, nuts, leafy green vegetables 310–420 mg Enzyme activation, production of energy, regulation of other nutrients Agitation, anxiety, sleep problems, nausea and vomiting, abnormal heart rhythms, low blood pressure, muscular problems
    Chloride Most foods, salt, vegetables, especially seaweed, tomatoes, lettuce, celery, olives 2300 mg Balance of body fluids, digestion Loss of appetite, muscle cramps


    Table \(\PageIndex{2}\) Trace Minerals and their Function in the Body.

    Trace Minerals
    Mineral Sources Recommended daily allowance Function Problems associated with deficiency
    Iron Meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, dark leafy green vegetables 8–18 mg Transport of oxygen in blood, production of ATP Anemia, weakness, fatigue
    Zinc Meat, fish, poultry, cheese, shellfish 8–11 mg Immunity, reproduction, growth, blood clotting, insulin and thyroid function Loss of appetite, poor growth, weight loss, skin problems, hair loss, vision problems, lack of taste or smell
    Copper Seafood, organ meats, nuts, legumes, chocolate, enriched breads and cereals, some fruits and vegetables 900 µg Red blood cell production, nerve and immune system function, collagen formation, acts as an antioxidant Anemia, low body temperature, bone fractures, low white blood cell concentration, irregular heartbeat, thyroid problems
    Iodine Fish, shellfish, garlic, lima beans, sesame seeds, soybeans, dark leafy green vegetables 150 µg Thyroid function Hypothyroidism: fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, temperature sensitivity
    Sulfur Eggs, meat, poultry, fish, legumes None Component of amino acids Protein deficiency
    Fluoride Fluoridated water 3–4 mg Maintenance of bone and tooth structure Increased cavities, weak bones and teeth
    Manganese Nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes 1.8–2.3 mg Formation of connective tissue and bones, blood clotting, sex hormone development, metabolism, brain and nerve function Infertility, bone malformation, weakness, seizures
    Cobalt Fish, nuts, leafy green vegetables, whole grains None Component of B12 None
    Selenium Brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, liver, butter, fish, shellfish, whole grains 55 µg Antioxidant, thyroid function, immune system function Muscle pain
    Chromium Whole grains, lean meats, cheese, black pepper, thyme, brewer’s yeast 25–35 µg Insulin function High blood sugar, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels
    Molybdenum Legumes, whole grains, nuts 45 µg Cofactor for enzymes Rare


    The Vitamins: Vital, but Not All are Amines

    Vitamins are organic compounds found in foods and are a necessary part of the biochemical reactions in the body. They are involved in a number of processes, including mineral and bone metabolism, and cell and tissue growth, and they act as cofactors for energy metabolism. The B vitamins play the largest role of any vitamins in metabolism (Tables \(\PageIndex{3}\) and  \(\PageIndex{4}\))

    You get most of your vitamins through your diet, although some can be formed from the precursors absorbed during digestion. For example, the body synthesizes vitamin A from the β-carotene in orange vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes. Vitamins are either fat-soluble or water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, are absorbed through the intestinal tract with lipids in chylomicrons. Vitamin D is also synthesized in the skin through exposure to sunlight. Because they are carried in lipids, fat-soluble vitamins can accumulate in the lipids stored in the body. If excess vitamins are retained in the lipid stores in the body, hypervitaminosis can result.

    Water-soluble vitamins, including the eight B vitamins and vitamin C, are absorbed with water in the gastrointestinal tract. These vitamins move easily through bodily fluids, which are water based, so they are not stored in the body. Excess water-soluble vitamins are excreted in the urine. Therefore, hypervitaminosis of water-soluble vitamins rarely occurs, except with an excess of vitamin supplements.


    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): The Vitamins. Image by Allison Calabrese / CC BY 4.0.

    Fat Soluble Vitamins

    From the structures shown below, it should be clear that these compounds have more than a solubility connection with lipids. VitaminsA is a terpene, and vitamins E and K have long terpene chains attached to an aromatic moiety. The structure of vitamin D can be described as a steroid in which ring B is cut open and the remaining three rings remain unchanged. The precursors of vitamins A and D have been identified as the tetraterpene beta-carotene and the steroid ergosterol, respectively.


    Table \(\PageIndex{3}\) lists the different fat soluble vitamins and its function.

    Table \(\PageIndex{3}\)  Fat Soluble Vitamins and Their Function.

    Vitamin and alternative name Sources Recommended daily allowance Function Problems associated with deficiency



    retinal or β-carotene

    Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, milk, liver 700–900 µg Eye and bone development, immune function Night blindness, epithelial changes, immune system deficiency




    Dairy products, egg yolks; also synthesized in the skin from exposure to sunlight 5–15 µg Aids in calcium absorption, promoting bone growth Rickets, bone pain, muscle weakness, increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, asthma in children, cancer




    Seeds, nuts, vegetable oils, avocados, wheat germ 15 mg Antioxidant Anemia




    Dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage 90–120 µg Blood clotting, bone health Hemorrhagic disease of newborn in infants; uncommon in adults


    Web link

    More detailed information on the different fat soluble vitamins can be found on the link  below.

    Water Soluble Vitamins

    All water-soluble vitamins (Table \(\PageIndex{4}\)) play a different kind of role in energy metabolism; they are required as functional parts of enzymes involved in energy release and storage. Vitamins and minerals that make up part of enzymes are referred to as coenzymes and cofactors, respectively. Coenzymes and cofactors are required by enzymes to catalyze a specific reaction. They assist in converting a substrate to an end-product. Coenzymes and cofactors are essential in catabolic pathways and play a role in many anabolic pathways too. In addition to being essential for metabolism, many vitamins and minerals are required for blood renewal and function. At insufficient levels in the diet these vitamins and minerals impair the health of blood and consequently the delivery of nutrients in and wastes out, amongst its many other functions. 

    Table \(\PageIndex{4}\)  Water Soluble Vitamins and Their Function.

    Vitamin and alternative name Sources Recommended daily allowance Function Problems associated with deficiency




    Whole grains, enriched bread and cereals, milk, meat 1.1–1.2 mg Carbohydrate metabolism Beriberi, Wernicke-Korsikoff syndrome




    Brewer’s yeast, almonds, milk, organ meats, legumes, enriched breads and cereals, broccoli, asparagus 1.1–1.3 mg Synthesis of FAD for metabolism, production of red blood cells Fatigue, slowed growth, digestive problems, light sensitivity, epithelial problems like cracks in the corners of the mouth




    Meat, fish, poultry, enriched breads and cereals, peanuts 14–16 mg Synthesis of NAD, nerve function, cholesterol production Cracked, scaly skin; dementia; diarrhea; also known as pellagra



    pantothenic acid

    Meat, poultry, potatoes, oats, enriched breads and cereals, tomatoes 5 mg Synthesis of coenzyme A in fatty acid metabolism Rare: symptoms may include fatigue, insomnia, depression, irritability




    Potatoes, bananas, beans, seeds, nuts, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables, soy, organ meats 1.3–1.5 mg Sodium and potassium balance, red blood cell synthesis, protein metabolism Confusion, irritability, depression, mouth and tongue sores




    Liver, fruits, meats 30 µg Cell growth, metabolism of fatty acids, production of blood cells Rare in developed countries; symptoms include dermatitis, hair loss, loss of muscular coordination



    folic acid

    Liver, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, enriched breads and cereals, citrus fruits 400 µg DNA/protein synthesis Poor growth, gingivitis, appetite loss, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal problems, mental deficits




    Fish, meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs 2.4 µg Fatty acid oxidation, nerve cell function, red blood cell production Pernicious anemia, leading to nerve cell damage



    ascorbic acid

    Citrus fruits, red berries, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, dark green leafy vegetables 75–90 mg Necessary to produce collagen for formation of connective tissue and teeth, and for wound healing Dry hair, gingivitis, bleeding gums, dry and scaly skin, slow wound healing, easy bruising, compromised immunity; can lead to scurvy


    Web link

    More detailed information on the different water soluble vitamins can be found on the link  below.





    • Vitamins and minerals are essential parts of the diet. They are needed for the proper function of metabolic pathways in the body.
    • Vitamins are not stored in the body, so they must be obtained from the diet or synthesized from precursors available in the diet.
    • Minerals are also obtained from the diet, but they are also stored, primarily in skeletal tissues.



    7.2: Minerals and Vitamins- a closer look is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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