Although they are only needed in small amounts, they are essential for the healthy and proper functioning of our bodies. A varied and varied diet is the best way to ensure adequate intake of all vitamins and minerals.
Vitamins are substances that are involved in many processes in the body, most often as cofactors in various enzymatic reactions. For example, they help to regenerate the skin, ensure the proper functioning of the nerves, brain and immune system, and some protect cells from free radicals. With few exceptions, our bodies cannot synthesise them on their own, so they must be consumed through our diet. Vitamin requirements vary at different stages of life, and specific groups of people have different requirements for certain vitamins, e.g. smokers, pregnant women, patients, etc.
Vitamins are divided into fat-soluble (A, D, E and K) and water-soluble (B and C). Fat-soluble vitamins can accumulate in the body, which can lead to poisoning if intake is greatly increased. With water-soluble vitamins, this is much less likely, as excess amounts are excreted in the urine. As vitamins B and C cannot accumulate in the tissues, the chance of a deficiency of these vitamins is slightly higher than for vitamins A, D, E and K, which our bodies can store.
Minerals are also vital substances that the body urgently needs, albeit in very small amounts. Minerals are inorganic substances that are divided into macronutrients – sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chlorine, phosphorus and sulphur – and micronutrients – iron, iodine, copper, zinc, cobalt, chromium, selenium, fluorine, manganese and molybdenum. Deficiencies of individual elements are usually rare in humans, as plant and animal foods contain sufficient amounts of these substances. However, deficiencies can occur with a monotonous diet over a long period of time or with too much fibre, which can bind certain minerals. Mineral requirements also increase with prolonged diarrhoea, pregnancy, breastfeeding and certain diseases.