What are vitamins and minerals?

  • Vitamins and minerals help the body to use other nutrients efficiently.

  • Examples of vitamins include vitamin A (vital for good eyesight) and vitamin K (helps the blood to clot.)

  • Nutritionists are experts in food and diet; they can use their specialist knowledge to help people consume the correct quantities of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy.

UNICEF nutritionist Óscar Serrano talks about vitamins and minerals.

What are vitamins and minerals?

Your body needs vitamins and minerals in small amounts, they help use other nutrients efficiently. You can usually get enough vitamins and minerals from a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables.

How does the body use vitamins and minerals?

There are many different vitamins, each with its own purpose. Here are some examples:

  • Vitamin A is vital for good eyesight. It is present in oranges, green vegetables, and carrots.
  • Vitamin B1 helps to release energy from carbohydrates. It is in meat, eggs and brown rice.
  • Vitamin C helps to prevent illness and make bones. It is present in citrus fruit, green vegetables and potatoes.
  • Vitamin K helps the blood to clot after an injury or operation. Green vegetables, tea and liver provide this nutrient.

Minerals are also vital to good health. Important minerals include:

  • Iron, needed to transport oxygen in the blood.
  • Calcium, for bones and teeth.
  • Zinc, to help heal wounds.

How much do you need?

Everyone needs the same vitamins and minerals, but the amounts you need vary with age and sex. For example:

  • A teenage boy needs 1.0 g of calcium every day, but an adult man needs just 0.70 g. This is because the boy is growing but the man is not.
  • A teenage girl needs 0.015 g of iron daily, but a teenage boy needs just 0.011 g. This is because girls lose blood, which contains iron, during menstruation (periods).

Who needs to know about vitamins?

Nutritionists help people to eat diets that include the right quantities of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. They may be employed by the health service, international development charities and elite sports organisations.

Vitamins and minerals quiz

Find out how much you know in this quick science quiz.

Where next?

Discover more about this topic from around Bitesize.

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