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What Is the Difference Between Vitamins and Minerals?
  /   Dr. John Snow

What Is the Difference Between Vitamins and Minerals?

Vitamins and minerals are necessary to support the optimal health of people of all ages. Deficiencies in vitamins or minerals can have serious consequences that affect the development of young people and the sustained health of adults. Although vitamins and minerals are equally essential, they’re completely different things that come from entirely different sources.

Here’s the difference between vitamins and minerals and what you need to know about how they work to sustain the body.

What Is a Vitamin?

Vitamins are naturally occurring substances that occur in plant-based and animal-based foods. Although there is overlap in how certain vitamins work, each vitamin is independently necessary. They all boast unique properties that support the body across a wide variety of functions.

The body uses vitamins to manufacture new cells throughout the body. The body constantly sheds old cells and restores itself with new cells, and if the body isn’t getting enough vitamins, the process stalls. This can lead to health decline or a pause in growth and development.

Water-Soluble Vitamins 

Water-soluble vitamins are the vitamins the body uses every day. When the body receives more of a water-soluble vitamin than what it immediately needs, it expels the excess through the body’s waste systems. 

  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin)
  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
  • Vitamin B7 (biotin)
  • Vitamin B9 (folate)
  • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

Vitamin C is commonly found in citrus fruits and vegetables like bell pepper. The B group of vitamins is found in various foods, including meat, shellfish, poultry, legumes, and leafy greens.

Many products like cereal, rice, bread, and pasta are fortified with B group vitamins. Always check the labels before you buy a loaf or a box. Swapping refined foods or fortified or enriched foods is a simple way to incorporate more vitamins into your family’s diet.
Children who eat well-balanced diets can generally achieve their daily needs through meals and snacks. Picky eaters, children with food sensitivities or allergies, and children on plant-based diets may not meet their recommended daily values. 

A pediatrician will be able to determine if supplementation is necessary.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins 

Fat-soluble vitamins need to be ingested with foods containing fat. The body digests these vitamins in conjunction with fat and utilizes them, storing the excess within body fat stores. 

  • Vitamin A (retinoic acid)
  • Vitamin D (calciferol)
  • Vitamin E (tocopherol)
  • Vitamin K (phytonadione) 

Vitamin D is difficult to come by naturally. It’s one of few vitamins the body can synthesize independently. The body uses exposure to sunlight to begin the process of creating vitamin D. Since excessive sun exposure can be dangerous and sunblock reduces the body’s capacity to produce vitamin D, it is often added to foods.

Most dairy companies voluntarily fortify their products with vitamin D to promote the absorption of the calcium they contain. Calcium depends on vitamin D to perform its functions.

Vitamin A is naturally found in foods that contain beta carotene, like orange vegetables, while carrots and sweet potatoes are excellent sources of vitamin A. You can find rich sources of vitamin E in oils, peanuts, tree nuts, avocados, and greens. Vitamin  K naturally occurs in almost every green vegetable and most proteins. 

What Is a Mineral? 

Minerals are naturally occurring elements within the earth. There are minerals in the dirt, rocks, and natural bodies of water. Your bones at teeth get their strength and structural integrity from calcium, which is also a naturally occurring mineral.

Minerals work to support brain health, heart function, and muscle tissue in addition to building and repairing bone.

Minerals are divided into two categories: macrominerals and trace minerals. The body needs a significant amount of macrominerals, while only minimal amounts of trace minerals are necessary for support.

Macrominerals 

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Sulfur

Dairy is an excellent source of calcium and is often the primary source in most children's diets. Calcium can also be found in beans, tofu, peanuts, tree nuts, and many leafy green vegetables. 

The body uses magnesium to promote muscular and cardiovascular health. Magnesium is commonly found in seeds, peanuts, and tree nuts. 

Phosphorus naturally occurs in poultry, dairy, pork, seafood, nuts, and whole grains. This mineral helps to produce bone and new cells, as well as aiding the body in energy production.

Apricots, raisins, beans, potatoes, squash, and bananas contain substantial amounts of potassium. Potassium functions as an electrolyte, and it’s crucial for the healthy operation of every form of soft tissue throughout the body.

Sodium is salt. The body requires a small amount of salt to help maintain adequate levels of hydration. Salt does not need to be supplemented, as sufficient amounts of salt exist in most foods, and excessive salt intake can be harmful.

Small amounts of sulfur are found in a very significant amount of both plant-based and animal-based foods. The body uses sulfur to create the amino acids responsible for creating key proteins. 

Trace Minerals 

  • Cobalt
  • Copper
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Selenium
  • Zinc

Cobalt can be found in nuts, fish, and some leafy greens. It’s a component of vitamin B12, and it doesn’t need to be ingested separately. If your child is getting enough vitamin B12, they’re getting enough cobalt by extension.

Shellfish, beans, leafy greens, black pepper, and yeast contain copper. Miniscule amounts of copper are necessary to promote normal tissue health.

Iodine is an extremely important trace mineral. Iodine helps the thyroid to produce hormones necessary for normal physical and intellectual growth and development. Iodine is hard to find in nature, so many salt producers add small iodine to normal table salt. 

Iron helps the body to manufacture healthy blood cells. Iron is found in fortified foods, dark chocolate, red meat, seafood, beans, and peas.

Whole grains, shellfish, legumes, many vegetables, black pepper, and tea naturally contain manganese. Manganese is necessary for the metabolism of amino acids, cholesterol, and carbohydrates.

Foods like brazil nuts, beef, pork, ham, poultry, fish, eggs, and cottage cheese contain selenium. Selenium helps the body to fight off infections and to support reproductive health.

Zinc is found in meat, shellfish, nuts, beans, seeds, eggs, and whole-grain foods. The body uses zinc to manufacture hundreds of crucial enzymes. In addition, zinc plays a hand in most of the body’s important functions.

How Much of Each Vitamin and Mineral Does My Child Need?

Every child needs all vitamins and minerals but in varying amounts as they age. Throughout the course of your child’s life, certain vitamins and minerals play more significant roles than others. From birth through puberty, needs will change.

Some children will have special needs. Children with absorption disorders, deficiencies, or certain medical conditions may require more than the standard amount of some vitamins and minerals. 

The best way to determine the amount of each vitamin and mineral your child needs is to talk with your child’s pediatrician. They’ll be able to give you detailed information about your child’s specific needs and advise you on the matter of supplementation.

Many children in the developed world don’t need supplements. Children with special health or dietary considerations, including picky eating, may benefit from a supplement that provides the things they aren’t sufficiently obtaining through the foods they need.

What’s in Hiya? 

Hiya contains 15 essential vitamins and minerals necessary for early childhood development. We worked with pediatricians to learn what most children could use a little more of and created a multivitamin that families can feel good about providing for their kids. 

  • Vitamin A (DV 120% <4 Years, 40% >4 Years)
  • Vitamin C (DV 267% <4 Years, 44%>4 Years)
  • Vitamin D (DV 176% <4 Years, 125% >4 Years)
  • Vitamin E (DV 85% <4 Years, 23% >4 Years)
  • Thiamin (DV 100% <4 Years, 42%>4 Years)
  • Riboflavin (DV 120% <4 Years, 46% >4 Years)
  • Folate (DV 133%<4 Years, 50% >4 Years)
  • Vitamin B12 (DV 222% <4 Years, 83% >4 Years)
  • Biotin (DV 313% <4 Years, 83% >4 Years)
  • Pantothenic Acid (DV 125% <4 Years, 50% >4 Years)
  • Calcium (DV 3% <4 Years, 2% >4 Years)
  • Iodine (DV 56% <4 Years, 33% >4 Years)
  • Zinc (DV 100% <4 Years, 27% >4 Years)
  • Selenium (DV 75% <4 Years, 27% >4 Years)
  • Manganese (DV 125% <4 Years, 65% >4 Years)

What Hiya doesn’t contain is just as impressive. You won’t find any added sugar, gummy junk, artificial colors, artificial flavors, animal products (including dairy), or gluten in Hiya’s once-daily children’s chewable multivitamins. 

Ask your pediatrician about Hiya if you think your child needs a little additional support.


Sources

Vitamins (for Kids) | Nemours KidsHealth

Vitamin D | Mayo Clinic

Minerals: Their Functions and Sources | Michigan Medicine

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