Vitamins are complex organic molecules that are required to carry out and maintain the normal functions of our body. Minerals are the basic components of all matter, and are essential in building the body cells. Therefore, minerals are called building blocks of the body. The body needs vitamins and minerals in order to grow and develop. Each vitamin and mineral has a specific role to play in the human body.

It is very important to first understand how our body works. Every day, our body manufactures 200 billion red blood cells, and every 120 days, our blood supply is totally replaced. Every 1-3 months, our skin regenerates, and our bone structure is destroyed and rebuilt within 90 days. Thus, to carry out this constant major rebuilding of the body, minerals and vitamins are very essential. The exact nature of their importance is explained below.

Benefits of Vitamins
Vitamins are divided into two types: fat-soluble and water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the fat tissues and liver. They can remain in the body for up to 6 months. When the body requires these minerals, they are transported to the area of requirement, within the body, with help of special carriers. The fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin A, D, E, and K. On the other hand, water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body like the fat-soluble ones. They travel in the bloodstream and need to be replenished every day. Water soluble vitamins include the vitamin B group and vitamin C. Overall, vitamins have a specific role to play in the natural wear and tear of the body. There are many benefits that have a major impact on our overall health. The various benefits of each vitamin are as follows:

Vitamin A: It helps in keeping the skin and hair healthy. It also prevents blindness. It is a powerful antioxidant and keeps the immune system healthy. It is also essential for bone growth.

Vitamin B: It is a large family of vitamins. The different members of this large family are vitamin B12, B1, B2, B3, B6, niacin, biotin, folic acid, and pantothenic acid. Vitamin B is important for cell repair, digestion, and production of energy. It is also essential for normal production of red blood cells.

Vitamin C: It helps in the reduction of cholesterol levels and regulation of blood pressure. Iron is absorbed in the body with the help of vitamin C. It plays a major role in blood coagulation, clotting, and wound healing, and hence, it is very important for maintaining a healthy immune system. Vitamin C helps the body fight against any pathogenic infection or illness. It also aids in collagen formation. It is the most powerful antioxidant.

Vitamin D: It is crucial for the development and maintenance of healthy bones and for the prevention of osteoporosis. It is also important for strong and healthy teeth. It also regulates the production of melanin (skin pigment) and melatonin (sleep hormone).

Vitamin E: Vitamin E is essential for growth of the body. It helps in maintaining healthy cells and tissues. It also promotes healthy functioning of eyes, liver, and skin. It plays a major role in the prevention of external damage to the lungs by air pollutants. It is also important in the production of red blood corpuscles. It prevents prostate cancer and heart disease. It plays a major role in the development of the immune system. It protects the DNA, fats, cell membranes, and enzymes from damage. Vitamin E also acts as an anti-blood clotting agent.

Vitamin K: Last but not the least, vitamin K helps in prevention of Alzheimer's disease in old people. It is very important in blood clotting in case of bleeding. It also helps in proper functioning of the kidney and in bone calcification.

Benefits of Minerals
Minerals are as important as vitamins in the development of our body. They are known as the 'spark of life' as they have a multi-functional role in our body. They are found in cells, tissues, and organs, in fact, the entire body. There are two types of minerals - essential minerals and trace elements. Essential minerals include calcium (Ca), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), phosphorous (P), potassium (K), sodium (Na), and sulfur (S). The trace elements are required in very minute quantities. They include boron (B), cobalt (Co), copper (C), chromium (Cr), fluoride (F), iodine (I), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), selenium (Se), silicon (Si), and zinc (Zn).

Calcium: It helps in building strong bones and teeth. It is also essential for the functioning of the nervous system and muscles. It also acts as a conductor of electric impulses between nerve cells, in its ionic form. It also regulates various cellular processes and helps in the maintenance of the cellular structure, pressure, and function.

Chromium: It is essential in increasing the effectiveness of insulin during metabolism. It regulates carbohydrate metabolism and plays a vital role in cholesterol and amino acid metabolism.

Copper: Copper along with vitamin C is needed for healing wounds. It also plays a role in the formation of blood cells, due to its role in iron metabolism. It also regulates the formation of the melanin, bone, and connective tissues, and helps maintain the integrity of the myelin sheath of nerve fibers.

Iodine: It plays an important role in the prevention of goiter. Iodine is required by the thyroid gland in order to carry out its metabolic functions effectively. It is an integral component of all the hormones produced by the thyroid, and hence, helps regulate the metabolic processes of the entire body.

Iron: It is the most important component of blood (hemoglobin). Iron acts as an oxygen carrier, supplying it to the various parts of the body. It is also essential in the production of blood. Its also plays a vital role in tissue oxidation, respiration, and electron transport.

Magnesium: Magnesium acts as an intermediate for utilization of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in the body. It acts as an enzyme activator, and is an essential component of bones and cartilage.

Manganese: Along with calcium, manganese is required for the production of sex hormones and development of the skeletal system. It is also vital in the regeneration of red blood cells and carbohydrate metabolism.

Molybdenum: Molybdenum is very important as it helps in transporting iron from the liver into the body.

Potassium: Potassium is necessary for building a healthy nervous system, heart, muscle and kidneys. It regulates intracellular osmotic pressure and acid-base balance. It is also required for glycogen and protein synthesis including glucose metabolism.

Selenium: Selenium plays a role in maintaining the elasticity of the arteries and tissues. It also protects cellular tissues and membranes against oxidative damage. It has also been suggested to play a role in the absorption and retention of vitamin E.

Zinc: Zinc is required for proper healing of the wounds. It plays an important role in lipid, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism. It is also involved in the synthesis and metabolism of nucleic acids (RNA) and proteins.

Why Do We Need Vitamins and Minerals?
Minerals play an important role in catalyzing or activating an enzyme in the body. If there is a deficiency of any mineral, it may lead to acute or chronic ailments. Decrease in potassium and magnesium may lead to heart attacks. Minerals help in prevention of osteoporosis, cancer, arthritis, goiter, gastrointestinal problems, periodontal disease and anemia. Potassium, sodium, iron and calcium phosphates are essential in nerve formations. Minerals are needed for controlling body fluids inside and outside the cells. The help in converting the food into energy. They also help the body in taking up vitamins and utilizing them to carry out various biological functions.

If even a single mineral is deficient in the body, the normal functioning of the body gets hampered. Proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins are rendered useless if there are no minerals to catalyze the chemical molecules in the body. Thus, without minerals, the body cannot function normally.

The above information proves that these essential compounds are an absolute necessity for building and maintaining a healthy and ailment-free body. Due to irregular eating habits and a junk food diet, people, especially children, are missing out on the essential vitamins and minerals necessary for growth and development. Thus, it is very important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet in order to obtain the necessary amounts of vitamins and minerals required by the body. There are many vitamin supplements available in the market to overcome vitamin deficiency. But one should keep in mind that an overdose of minerals or vitamins can also prove to be toxic to our body. Therefore, before starting on any vitamin and mineral tablets consult a medical practitioner for advice. So, next time you are asked to eat your salad, don't squirm; it's packed with minerals and vitamins!