Why are Vitamins and Minerals so Important?

Posted on March 28, 2011


People are always telling you to get enough vitamins and minerals into your diet; but do you know why you really need them? Each mineral and vitamin plays its own role within your body to nourish you and keep you healthy. Usually it is possible to get enough of these mineral and vitamins through your everyday food. However, some foods have more of them than others. When someone does not get enough of a certain vitamin or mineral, it can lead to a deficiency. For example, lack of vitamin D can cause a disease called rickets. The information below will give you a detailed look at some of the most popular vitamins and minerals (KidsHealth):



Vitamin A: prevents eye problems, promotes a healthy immune system, is essential for the growth and development of cells, and keeps skin healthy.
Can be found in: milk, eggs, liver, fortified cereals, darkly colored orange or green vegetables (such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and kale) and orange fruits such as cantaloupe, apricots, peaches, papayas, and mangos.


Vitamin B12: helps to make red blood cells, and is important for nerve cell function.
Can be found in: fish, red meat, poultry, milk, cheese, and eggs. It’s also added to some breakfast cereals. Vegetarians may want to consider taking a B12 supplement after consulting a doctor.


Vitamin C: needed to form collagen, a tissue that helps to hold cells together. It’s essential for healthy bones, teeth, gums, and blood vessels. It helps the body absorb iron and calcium, aids in wound healing, and contributes to brain function.
Can be found in: red berries, kiwi, red and green bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, and juices made from guava, grapefruit, and orange.


Vitamin D: strengthens bones because it helps the body absorb bone-building calcium.
Can be found in: your body manufactures it when you get sunlight on your skin. You can also get vitamin D from egg yolks, fish oils, and fortified foods like milk.


Vitamin E: an antioxidant and helps protect cells from damage. It is also important for the health of red blood cells.
Can be found in: vegetable oils, nuts, and green leafy vegetables. Avocados, wheat germ, and whole grains



Calcium: Calcium builds strong bones and teeth.
Can be found in: Milk and other dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese. You’ll also find this mineral in broccoli and dark green, leafy vegetables.


Iron: Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body. Symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia include weakness and fatigue, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath.
Can be found in: red meat, pork, fish and shellfish, poultry, lentils, beans and soy foods, green leafy vegetables, and raisins.


Magnesium: Magnesium helps muscles and nerves function, steadies the heart rhythm, and keeps bones strong. It also helps the body create energy and make proteins.
Can be found in: whole grains and whole-grain breads, nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, potatoes, beans, avocados, bananas, milk, and chocolate.


Phosphorus: Phosphorus helps form healthy bones and teeth. It also helps the body make energy.
Can be found in: most foods, but the best sources are dairy foods, meat, and fish.


Potassium: Potassium helps with muscle and nervous system function. It also helps the body maintain the balance of water in the blood and body tissues.
Can be found in: broccoli, potatoes (with skins), green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, bananas, dried fruits, and legumes such as peas and lima beans.


For more information on vitamins and minerals check out the National Library of Medicine or call the mayor’s Health Line at 617-534-5050 for more resources.