Vitamins: Essential Micronutrients
Vitamins are organic compounds crucial for body functions. Unlike macronutrients, they're needed in small amounts. They don't provide energy but facilitate metabolic processes. Most vitamins can't be synthesized by the body and must be obtained through diet.
Minerals: Inorganic Necessities
Minerals, unlike vitamins, are inorganic and maintain structural functions. They're essential for building bones (calcium, phosphorus), and managing muscle contractions and nerve signaling (magnesium, potassium). Trace minerals like iron and zinc are vital despite their tiny required amounts.
Vitamin D: The Sun Catalyst
Vitamin D is unique as it can be synthesized by the body with sunlight exposure. It's vital for bone health, immune function, and reducing inflammation. Surprisingly, it acts more like a hormone than a typical vitamin, regulating calcium and phosphate homeostasis.
Vitamin C: Beyond Immunity
Known for its immune-boosting properties, Vitamin C also plays a pivotal role in collagen synthesis, aiding wound healing and maintaining skin integrity. It's an antioxidant, countering free radicals. Intriguingly, most animals can produce it, except humans, primates, and some bats.
Iron: Oxygen's Vessel
Iron is notorious for its role in hemoglobin, which transports oxygen in the blood. What's less known is its involvement in brain function. Iron deficiency can impair cognitive abilities and development, highlighting its importance beyond just keeping anemia at bay.
Zinc: A Multifaceted Mineral
Zinc affects over 300 enzymes in the body, impacting various functions like DNA synthesis, cell division, and protein production. It's also crucial for a healthy immune system. Surprisingly, it has the ability to influence taste and smell sensory activity.
Vitamins and minerals often work synergistically. For example, Vitamin C enhances iron absorption from plant-based foods, optimizing its benefit. Conversely, excess calcium can hinder iron and zinc absorption, showcasing the delicate balance needed in micronutrient intake.