How Minerals and Vitamins Relate to Living Things
Vitamins are organic molecules that occur in all living things naturally. Minerals are inorganic molecules that are part of the earth. Because plants grow in the earth, some minerals are in plants, too. Because animals eat plants, animals have minerals in their systems, too, but very small amounts.
The body doesn’t need a whole lot of minerals, but some are essential for proper functioning of your body. These essential minerals are called major minerals; minerals that are needed only in very small amounts are called trace elements.
If you look at the Periodic Table of the Elements, you find the major minerals and trace elements on that chart. The elements are nonliving substances found in the earth or the earth’s atmosphere, and therefore in living things. Elements such as carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen make up most of the organic compounds such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Some of the other “inorganic” elements play important roles in the body, too. For example:
Phosphorus can be found in the bonds holding strands of DNA together in all living things.
Potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium help to regulate pretty important functions such as heart beats, fluid balance, and muscle contraction.
Vitamins are the little alarm clocks of the body. They regulate the building of tissues and cells, they help in metabolism, and they promote healing and prevent diseases. They allow the details of the body to get done. Vitamins are made up of the same chemicals as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, but they do not need to be broken down to be used. They do not provide energy.
Vitamins are extremely small, so some protein molecules (which are large) usually carry them around the body to make sure that their important jobs don’t go unperformed.
Fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) need to be “dissolved” in fat molecules (phospholipids to be exact) for the cells to be able to use them. The phospholipids carry the vitamins through the bloodstream and into cells.
Water-soluble vitamins (the B vitamins and vitamin C) often act as or with enzymes, which speed up reactions. Vitamins A, C, and E are also considered to be antioxidants. The following table lists the required vitamins and minerals that you need.