When we talk about a balanced diet, it is obvious that the diet should contain appropriate amounts of vitamins and minerals. In simpler terms, they are essential nutrients, which play a major role in the normal functioning of the human body. Prolonged deficiency or overtaking of any of these nutrients may lead to severe health conditions. In order to avoid such circumstances, one must understand the recommended dietary requirements (RDA) suggested with reference to the age, sex, and weight of an individual.

List of Vitamins and Their Roles

There are 13 vitamins, which are categorized under two major types, namely water (four) and fat soluble (nine). The former type includes vitamin A, D, E and K, whereas the latter encompasses vitamin B, the subtypes, and vitamin C. As the name indicates, the water soluble ones can be dissolved in water, while fat soluble ones are absorbed by the body using lipids and/or fats.

» Vitamin A: The role of this one, is to regulate the tissues and membranes, and also to keep the skin, eye, bone, and teeth healthy. It is present in certain food items such as milk, egg yolk, carrots, leafy vegetables, oranges, lime, and pineapple.

» Vitamin B: As already mentioned, there are nine types of vitamin B, each of which plays an important function. To mention a few, this one plays a significant role in growth, development, cell division, carbohydrate metabolism, and neurological function. Foods rich in this one, include some vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, nuts, eggs, meat, and poultry.

» Vitamin C: This one is responsible for tissue formation, and maintenance of the cell membranes. It is present in certain fruits (particularly citrus fruits) and vegetables like oranges, lime, tomatoes, onions, broccoli, peppers, and cabbage.

» Vitamin D: Human body can synthesize vitamin D on its own by exposure to sunlight. Its role is to boost the health of the bones and teeth. Foods that contain vitamin D include milk, egg yolk, salmon, and other seafood.

» Vitamin E: Vitamin E is essential for hair growth, tissue healing, and other metabolic processes. It plays a major role in protecting the tissues of the eyes, skin, and liver. It is present in nearly all types of fruits and vegetables.

» Vitamin K: This one can also be produced by our body. It is essential for coagulation and/or clotting of blood. Foods rich in this one include dairy products, soybean, and green leafy vegetables.

List of Minerals and Their Roles

In general, minerals are required in small amounts in the body. Hence, they are also referred to as micronutrients. However, their role in enzymatic reactions is crucial for normal metabolic processes. Based on the quantity required for an adult, they are broadly classified into two types, namely, macro (required about 100 mg per day) and micro (required about 1-100mg per day). The former type includes calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium; whereas the latter comprises chromium, copper, manganese, selenium, sulfur, and zinc. Some of the important dietary minerals along with their major roles are discussed below:

» Sodium: The role of sodium is to maintain the intracellular fluid level, pH balance, and electrical potentials of the neurological system. It also aids in normal functioning of the body muscles and nerves. The most common source of sodium is common salt. In addition, sodium is found in the processed foods like bakery and canned products.

» Potassium: Potassium helps to regulate the functions of nervous system and muscles by maintaining the correct amount of water concentration. It is found in tomatoes, potatoes, legumes, leafy vegetables, banana, dried fruits, and citrus fruits.

» Calcium: Calcium is one of the most important minerals, which is essential for healthy bones and teeth. Calcium-rich foods include milk and dairy products, green vegetables, and seafood.

» Iron: Iron is the main component of blood, which carries out a vital function of circulating oxygen to various parts of the body. Iron-rich foods are green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans, dried fruits, eggs, sea fish, and red meat.

» Chromium: Studies have found that chromium is required for the controlling the blood sugar level. It is found in high amounts in food items like vegetable oils, unrefined foods, and meats.

» Zinc: Zinc is necessary for cell growth, wound healing and also, in regulating the function of the immune system. Legumes and meat like beef, lamb, and pork are the rich sources of zinc.

It is to be noted that each of the vitamins and minerals are involved in a number of body functions. It is better to obtain them from the food sources that we consume, rather than relying on nutritional supplements. Also, the frequency of overdoses is more in case of taking supplements. On the safer side, intake of the supplements should be done under medical supervision.