Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that your body needs in small amounts to work properly.
Each vitamin and mineral performs a number of functions in the body, acting as co-factors in processes required for normal bodily function.
For example, iron has several important roles in the body, such as making red blood cells, calcium helps to build strong bones and teeth, vitamin C contributes to the normal function of the immune system (amongst other functions) and vitamin D contributes to healthy bones, teeth and muscle function.
As our diets change and we move to eating more processed foods, we do not always achieve the required levels of vitamins and minerals from our food.
Supplementation can thus help us to achieve these levels and may be particularly appropriate if somebody is eating a restricted diet.
Vitamins are organic substances made by plant or animals.
There are 2 types of vitamins; fat soluble and water soluble.
Fat-soluble vitamins are mainly found in fatty foods such as butter, vegetable oils, dairy foods etc.They are:vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K. It is also suggested that these vitamins should be taken alongside food containing fat as this may help with absorption.
Water- soluble vitamins are not stored within the body therefore more frequent supplementation is necessary. They are:vitamin C and the B vitamins - B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B4 (pantothenic acid), biotin, folic acid and B12.
Minerals are inorganic elements that come from the soil and water and are absorbed by plants or eaten by animals.
The body needs larger amounts of some minerals to stay healthy and these are known as macro-minerals – calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride and sulphur.
The other group of minerals is known as trace minerals and these are also required by the body, but in smaller amounts – copper, chromium, fluoride, iodine, iron, molybdenum, manganese, selenium and zinc.
Some dietary supplements may help some people get enough essential nutrients to improve their diets and be in their best health however should never be taken in the place of a balanced meal.
Food supplements should be taken with food, unless directed otherwise by your healthcare professional.
The NRV is the Nutrient Reference Value, which has replaced the RDA (Recommended Daily Amount) as the level of intake of essential nutrients (including vitamins and minerals) that the government considers adequate to meet the known nutritional needs of the average healthy person.