Why Do We Need Vitamins and Minerals?

Maximilian Stock Ltd./Photolibrary/Getty Images

Vitamins and minerals are necessary to support good health and the functioning of the various systems throughout the body. Vitamins can be fat or water soluble. Minerals are often taken in trace amounts.

The body needs 13 vitamins to function, called the essential vitamins. They are vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, biotin, pantothenate, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K.

Essential minerals include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, iodine and selenium. Some nutritionists suggest that people also take potassium, copper, manganese, fluoride, chromium and molybdenum. Sodium is also essential, but people often get too much of it.

Many minerals and vitamins work together. Copper supports the formation of red blood cells and also helps the body store and release iron. Other vitamins are antioxidants, which means that they protect the cells from free radical molecules. These molecules grab electrons from other molecules and damage them. The vitamin antioxidants are vitamin A, E and C.

Many nutritionists also urge that people take the B vitamins together. They believe B vitamins have a complex interaction that make them more effective when taken together. People who are healthy can usually get the vitamins they need from their foods.