Vitamins and minerals are essential to our health. We need them for normal cell growth, function and development. Vitamins can be grouped into two categories: fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body’s fatty tissue – these are vitamins A, D, E, and K. Water-soluble vitamins must be absorbed by the body right away, or else they will leave your body through urine. The vitamin B complex, C and folate are examples of water-soluble vitamins .
Minerals are also essential to our health – they are the chemical elements required by living organisms (like us) . Like vitamins, minerals are broken into two categories. Macro minerals are needed in large quantities (like iron and zinc), while trace minerals are needed in, well, trace amounts (like iodine and chromium).
What does each vitamin and mineral do? Why do we need it? And how do we know if don’t have enough? And how do we fix that without taking supplements? So many questions! It’s okay, we, along with the people at HealthCentral.com who have made this really great infographic, have these answers for you. Plain text follows infographic.
Function: Vitamin A is essnetial for growth and development. Especially in maintaining healthy teeth, bones, mucus membranes and skin.
Signs of Deficiency: If you have skin problems, poor night vision, or dry eyes, you may have a vitamin A deficiency.
Natural Source: Carrots, dark coloured fruits, and dark coloured veggies are great sources of vitamin A. Egg yolks also have a good amount of vitamin A.
Function: Vitamin D is made by the body after being in the sun. It’s very hard to get vitamin D from food alone, but you only need about 10-15 minutes of sunshine about three times a week for the body to produce enough vitamin D (for most people in most places). However, if you live in a not-so-sunny area, you may be deficient. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and helps with the development and growth of bone and teeth.
Signs of Deficiency: Soft bones are an indicator of vitamin D deficiency.
Natural Source: While it’s difficult to get all of your vitamin D from food (you need that sunshine), fatty fish and eggs may help you get some of the vitamin D you need.
Function: Vitamin E helps with circulation and form red blood cells. It’s an antioxidant that helps protect the body from free radicals, as well as helps the body use vitamin K
Signs of Deficiency: If you’re having difficulty absorbing fat, you may have a vitamin E deficiency.
Natural Source: Seeds and nuts, as well as avocado and dark green veggies are great sources of vitamin E.
Function: We need vitamin K so that our blood coagulates (sticks together).
Signs of Deficiency: Excessive bleeding means your blood is having difficulty coagulating, and could be a sign of vitamin K deficiency.
Natural Source: Dark green vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus are all good sources of vitamin K.
Function: Vitamin C helps us develop healthy teeth and gums. It’s also an antioxidant that helps with collagen formation and iron absorption
Signs of Deficiency: If you have scurvy (bleeding gums, swollen joints, and slow healing wounds) you may have a vitamin C deficiency.
Natural Source: Oranges and citrus fruits are great sources of vitamin C.
Vitamin B Complex
Function: The vitamin B complex is essential for our immune system, nervous system, immune system and aids in iron absorption.
Signs of Deficiency: Depending on your vitamin B deficiency, you may have different signs of deficiency. See the infographic for specific deficiencies.
Natural Source: Whole grains and whole grain cereals are good sources of some vitamin B.
Function: Folic acid is necessary for cell renewal, and is essential for preventing birth defects in pregnancy.
Signs of Deficiency: Anemia and possible infertility could both be signs of folic acid deficiencies
Natural Source: Green, leafy vegetables are good sources of folic acid.
Function: Calcium is essential for bone and teeth growth
Signs of Deficiency: Bone fragments and stunted growth can be signs of calcium deficiency.
Natural Source: You guessed it, milk! Drink your milk for a natural source of calcium.
Function: We need iron for red blood cell formation.
Signs of Deficiency: Iron deficiency anemia is one of the biggest signs of iron deficiency.
Natural source: Spinach is a great natural source of iron.
Function: Zinc is good for our immune system, helps with fertility, as well as our overall growth and development.
Signs of Deficiency: Skin inflammation, hair loss, sore throat and diarrhea can be signs of zinc deficiency.
Natural Source: Oysters are a great natural source of zinc.
Function: Iodine is a trace mineral that we need to help our thyroid function properly.
Signs of Deficiency: Iodine deficiency can be seen if we have an enlarged thyroid gland and decreased heart beat.
Natural Source: Cod and seaweed are both natural sources of iodine.
Function: Like iodine, chromium is a trace element. Chromium enhances the action of insulin, and is essential for normal glucose function.
Signs of Deficiency: If you have a chromium deficiency, you may experience weight loss or glucose intolerance.
Natural Source: Nuts, as well as broccoli and whole wheat bread are natural sources of chromium.
 National Institute of Health, Medline Plus, Vitamins
 National Institute of Health, Medline Plus, Minerals