Whether it’s building new blood cells, repairing a wound or sending nerve signals, the body operates at the cellular level with complex chemical reactions. Additionally, all of its parts are continuously being replaced–-the old cells regularly die off and new cells take their place to ensure healthy functioning. Everything that happens in the body relies on nutrients. Vitamins and minerals are two of the six classes of essential nutrients.
Differences Between Minerals and Vitamins
Vitamins are organic compounds that are destructible. Minerals are inorganic elements that are indestructible. Organic nutrients can be altered or destroyed, which means they can be metabolized in the body to release energy. Since they are simple elements, minerals are always the same–-they can not be destroyed or create energy.
Similarities Between Minerals and Vitamins
Vitamins and minerals are both divided into two categories. Macrominerals and trace minerals get their names based upon the relative amounts of each needed by the body. Vitamins are either fat soluble or water soluble. The water soluble vitamins are easily absorbed into the body, and any excess is excreted. Fat soluble vitamins can only be absorbed in the presence of fat, and they are stored in the body. Minerals are similar in that some are stored and can become toxic, while others do not accumulate and are easily excreted. Vitamins function as co-enzymes and minerals as co-factors, which means they both work with enzymes to facilitate chemical reactions.
Different Roles of Minerals and Vitamins
As energy nutrients, vitamins do many different jobs, including breaking down other nutrients and acting as antioxidants. Minerals work primarily in the skeleton but they can also interact with water to regulate the acid/base balance in the body and affect the contraction of muscles as well as the transmission of nerve impulses. Vitamins are necessary for red blood cells to be created. Minerals are necessary for oxygen to be carried through the blood.
Minerals and Vitamins Working Together
Minerals and vitamins are often required to work together. Vitamin C interacts with calcium, and this process is necessary for calcium to be deposited in teeth. Vitamin D raises the amount of calcium and phosphorous in the blood, so that the minerals are available to harden bones. Vitamin K and calcium are both necessary for the protein thrombin to be synthesized. Without thrombin blood would not clot.
Role in Preventive Health
Vitamins are necessary to maintain the nervous system and prevent deficiency diseases such as dermatitis, impaired night vision and anemia. Proper amounts of minerals are required not only for the obvious reasons, such as strong bones, but also for the lesser known roles they play in other systems such as healing of wounds and normal ability to taste. The bottom line is that both of these nutrients must be kept in proper balance to remain healthy and to help prevent the onset of disease.