Q:

What are the functions of vitamins and minerals in the body?

A:

Vitamins are vital for immune system function, energy production and strengthening of bones, notes nutrition expert Shereen Lehman for About.com. Minerals are essential for muscle contraction, maintenance of teeth and bones, nervous system function and fluid balance.

Vitamin A is necessary for adequate growth, normal vision and cell differentiation, and its deficiency causes slow growth and visual problems. It is found in dark green vegetables, whole milk, meats, liver, fish, egg yolk and butter. Vitamin D is important for the absorption and utilization of calcium, and its deficiency leads to weak teeth and bones. It is formed by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which protects body cells from damage. It is found in cereals, seeds, vegetable oils and nuts. Vitamin K is vital for normal blood clotting and is found in soybeans, broccoli, cabbage and leafy vegetables, notes Lehman.

Calcium is a major mineral that prevents osteoporosis and is found in dark green vegetables and dairy products. Chloride is a vital nutrient in the production of digestive juices and is found in tomatoes and salt. Magnesium is essential for biochemical reactions and is found in legumes, seeds, nuts and whole grains. According to Lehman, phosphorus is vital for the formation of the cell membrane and energy production and is found in high protein foods. Potassium is essential for fluid balance and muscle contraction and is found in fruits and vegetables. Sodium is required to maintain blood pressure and is found in salt.


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