Vitamins and minerals are nutrients that are essential to life. They are often called micronutrients because, in comparison with the four major nutrients...carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and water...they are needed in relatively small amounts.
Vitamins are organic compounds, meaning that they occur naturally in plants and animals. By and large, vitamins function as coenzymes. Enzymes are catalysts or activators in the chemical reactions that are continually taking place in our bodies. Vitamins are a fundamental part of the enzymes, much the way your muscles are a fundamental part of your arms and legs.
Most people are aware that our enzymes help us digest our food. But enzymes do more than digest food. They are at the very foundation of all our bodily functions. Enzymes are what make things happen, and happen faster. Without enzymes, you can't breathe, blink or walk.
Your body can't break down proteins into essential amino acids, electrons can't flow, and nerve transmissions can't occur. You can't smell a rose, see a sunset, or taste an apple.
AND WITHOUR VITAMINS, THE ENZYMES CAN'T DO THEIR JOB.
For example, consider a particular enzyme that is needed to transmit nerve impulses to your fingers. No matter how plentiful this enzyme is in your body, if you are deficient in B6, this enzyme cannot be activated. As a result, you might feel some numbness in your fingers.
Minerals are inorganic elements, meaning that they are not produced by plants and animals. Like vitamins, many minerals function as coenzymes, enabling chemical reactions to occur throughout the body.
In addition to their role as coenzymes, some micronutrients have other functions. For example, Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant; calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus form our bones; iron enables the transport of oxygen from the lungs to the body cells, and active vitamin D functions as a hormone.
After they have been absorbed, vitamins and minerals actually become part of the structure of the body-of the cells, enzymes, hormones, muscles, blood, and bones. As part of the body pool, these substances remain in the body for varying amounts of time. Some are utilized immediately and some are stored and utilized over a period of time.
The vitamins that are stay in the body for a short period of time...two to four days...are called water-soluble vitamins. The B vitamins and vitamin C belong to this group. Utilization of water-soluble vitamins begin the minute they are absorbed through your digestive system. Thus, these nutrients must be replenished regularly. Since they are stored but are quickly excreted from the body, toxicities are virtually unknown.
Fat-soluble vitamins, on the other hand, stay in the body for a longer period of time. Vitamins A, D, E, and K belong to this group. Although these vitamins are usually stored in fat _lipid) tissue, some may also stored in some organs, especially the liver. Therefore, you can have toxicity problems with some of the fat-soluble vitamins, but only when you take very large doses.
Minerals also belong to two groups: the macro, or bulk, minerals; and the micro, or trace, minerals. The macrominerals include calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
The microminerals include zinc, iron, copper, manganese, chromium, selenium, iodine, potassium, and boron.
Minerals are stored in various parts of the body...primarily in bone and muscle tissue. Therefore, it is also possible to overdose on minerals if you take extremely large amounts.