Vitamins & Minerals



Vitamins and minerals are substances your body needs in small but steady amounts for normal growth, function and health. Together, vitamins and minerals are called micronutrients. Your body can't make most micronutrients, so you must get them from the foods you eat or, in some cases, from supplements. Many people don't receive all of the nutrients they need from their diet because they either can't or don't eat enough, or they can't or don't eat a variety of healthy foods. For some people, including those on restrictive diets, multivitamin-mineral supplements can provide vitamins and minerals that their diets often don't. Pregnant women and older adults have altered nutrient needs and may also benefit from a supplement.


Vitamins are needed for a variety of biologic processes, among them growth, digestion, mental alertness and resistance to infection. They also enable your body to use carbohydrates, fats and proteins, and they act as catalysts — initiating or speeding up chemical reactions. Though vitamins are involved in converting food into energy, they supply no calories.

Vitamins can be either water-soluble or fat-soluble.

Best Sources
Deficiency Symptoms


(Carotene 5000 IU)

Liver, eggs, yellow & green fruits and vegetables, milk & dairy products, fish liver oil
Growth & repair of body tissues [resist infections], bone & tooth formation, night vision
Night blindness, dry, scaly skin, loss of smell & appetite, tooth decay, fatigue, susceptibility to infection


(Thiamin - 1.5 mg)

Wheat germ, yeast, liver, whole grains, nuts, fish, poultry, dried beans, meats
Carbohydrate metabolism, appetite maintenance, nerve function, growth & muscle tone
Beriberi, heart irregularity, nerve disorders, fatigue, loss of appetite, forgetfulness


(Riboflavin - 1.7 mg)

Whole grains, green leafy vegetables, organ meats
Fat, carbohydrate, & protein metabolism, cell respiration, antibody & red blood cell formation
Eye problems, cracks in corners of mouth, digestive disturbances


(Pyridoxine 2.0 mg)

Fish, poultry, lean meats
Fat, carbohydrate, & protein metabolism, antibody formation, nerve function
Nervousness, dermatitis, blood disorders, muscular weakness, insulin sensitivity, anemia


(Cobalamin - 6 mcg)

Organ meats, eggs, milk, fish, cheese
Fat, carbohydrate, & protein metabolism, maintains nerve function, blood cell formation
Pernicious anemia, nervousness, neuritis, fatigue, brain degeneration


(300 mcg)

Yeast, organ meats, legumes, eggs
Fat, carbohydrate, & protein metabolism, fatty acid formation, helps utilize B vitamins
Dry, grayish skin, depression, muscle pain, fatigue, poor appetite


(No RDA)

Organ meats, fish, soybeans, wheat germ, egg yolk
Nerve transmission, fat & cholesterol metabolism, regulates liver & gall bladder
High blood pressure, bleeding stomach ulcers, liver & kidney problems

Folic Acid

(Folacin - 400 mcg)

Green leafy vegetables, organ meats, dairy products
Red blood cell formation, protein metabolism, growth & cell division
Anemia, gastrointestinal problems, poor growth


(20 mg)

Meat, poultry, fish, milk products, peanuts, brewer's yeast
Fat, carbohydrate, & protein metabolism, health of skin, tongue, & digestive system, blood circulation
Fatigue, indigestion, irritability, loss of appetite, skin disorders

Pantothenic Acid

(10 mg)

Lean meats, whole grains, legumes
Converts nutrients into energy, formation of some fats, vitamin utilization
Vomiting, stomach stress, restlessness, infections, muscle cramps


(Ascorbic Acid - 60 mg)

Citrus fruits, vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes
Wound healing, blood vessel strength, collagen maintenance, resistance to infection
Scurvy, bleeding gums, slow healing wounds, bruising, aching joints, nosebleeds, poor digestion


(400 IU)

Fish-liver oils, egg yolk, organ meats, fish, fortified milk, sunlight
Bone formation, heart action, nervous system maintenance
Rickets, poor bone growth, nervous system irritability


(30 IU)

Vegetable oils, green vegetables, wheat germ, organ meats, eggs
Cellular respiration, protects fat soluble vitamins & red blood cells, inhibits blood coagulation
Muscular wasting, abnormal fat deposits in muscles, gastrointestinal disease, heart disease


(No RDA)

Green leafy vegetables, dairy products, fruits, green tea
Formation of blood clotting agents
Tendency to hemorrhage

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Minerals are the main components in your teeth and bones, and they serve as building blocks for other cells and enzymes. Minerals also help regulate the balance of fluids in your body and control the movement of nerve impulses. Some minerals also help deliver oxygen to cells and help carry away carbon dioxide.

Minerals have two categories:

Best Sources
Deficiency Symptoms


(1200 mg)

Milk & milk products, dark green leafy vegetables, fortified foods Strong bones, teeth, muscle tissue, regulates heart beat, muscle action & nerve functions, blood clotting Soft, brittle bones, back & leg pain, heart palpitations, tetany


(No RDA)

Corn oil, clams, whole grain cereals, brewer's yeast Glucose metabolism [energy], increases effectiveness of insulin Atherosclerosis, glucose intolerance in diabetes


(2 mg)

Oysters, nuts, organ meats, legumes Formation of red blood cells, bone growth & health, works with vitamin C to form elastin General weakness, impaired respiration, skin sores


(150 mcg)

Seafood, iodized salt Component of hormone thyroxine which controls metabolism Goiter, dry skin & hair, nervousness, obesity


(18 mg)

Meats & organ meats, fish, leafy green vegetables, poultry Hemoglobin formation, improves blood quality, increases resistance to stress & disease Anemia [pale skin, fatigue], constipation, breathing difficulties


(40 mg)

Nuts, seeds, green vegetables, whole grains Acid/alkaline balance, metabolism of carbohydrates & minerals Nervousness, tremors, easily aroused anger, disorientation, blood clots


(No RDA)

Nuts, whole grains, fruits, vegetables Enzyme activation, fat & carbohydrate production, sex hormone production, skeletal development Dizziness, poor muscle coordination, ear noises


(1000 mg)

Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, whole grains Bone development, important in fat, protein, & carbohydrate utilization Poor bones & teeth, arthritis, rickets, appetite loss, irregular breathing


(No RDA)

Lean meats, vegetables, fruits Fluid balance, control activity of heart muscle, nervous system, kidneys Poor reflexes, irregular heartbeat, dry skin, general weakness


(50 - 200 mcg)

Seafood, organ meats, lean meats, whole grains, Brazil nuts, eggs Protects body tissues against oxidation damage from radiation, pollution & normal metabolic processing Heart muscle abnormalities


(15 mg)

Lean meats, liver, eggs, seafood, whole grains Involved in digestion & metabolism, important in development of reproductive systems, aids in healing Retarded growth, prolonged wound healing, loss of appetite

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Supplements, as the term suggests, can complement your regular diet, but they aren't food substitutes. They can't replace the hundreds of nutrients found in whole foods. But if you do decide to take a vitamin or mineral supplement, consider these factors:

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This information was brought to you by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.

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