Vitamins and minerals are different categories of nutrients that help support overall health.* But while vitamins and minerals are often grouped together, the truth is, these compounds are actually pretty different.
Both vitamins and minerals are considered micronutrients, meaning the body only needs them in small (or “micro”) amounts. Larger amounts or too much of any vitamin or mineral may actually do more harm than good. Think of it like Goldilocks and the Three Bears: not too little, not too much, but just the right amount of vitamins and minerals are important.* (1)
Eating a balanced diet full of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and other nutritious foods is a great way to get these micronutrients into our system—and for any shortfalls, dietary supplements can help fill in gaps.
Vitamins vs. Minerals: So, What's the Difference?
Let’s start with the function of vitamins. Vitamins are organic compounds, which means they can be broken down by a variety of sources, including heat, air, and light. Within the vitamin category, there are two different types of vitamins: water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins.
Water-soluble vitamins are vitamins that dissolve in water—and, because our bodies are made up of mostly water, they’re easily absorbed in the body. (It also means that we tend to eliminate any excess of these vitamins when we urinate.) All of the B vitamins and vitamin C are water-soluble, including: (2)
• Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine
• Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin
• Vitamin B3, also known as niacin
• Vitamin B5, also known as pantothenic acid
• Vitamin B6
• Vitamin B7, also known as biotin
• Vitamin B9, also known as folate
• Vitamin B12
• Vitamin C
Fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins that don’t dissolve in water. There are four fat-soluble vitamins in the human diet, which include: (3)
• Vitamin A
• Vitamin D
• Vitamin E
• Vitamin K
Because these vitamins can’t dissolve in water, they’re absorbed into the body through high-fat foods. Some of these vitamins are found in high-fat food sources (like fatty fish), and others can be absorbed by pairing them with a high-fat food—like topping a salad with vitamin A-rich carrots and leafy green vegetables with olive oil.
Minerals, on the other hand, are inorganic compounds. That means they maintain their chemical structure regardless of whether they’re exposed to air, heat, or other elements.
There are two types of minerals: major minerals and trace minerals. (4)
Major minerals are categorized as minerals needed in 100 milligrams per day or more, and include:
Trace minerals (which less is needed per day) include:
Vitamins and Minerals in a Supplement
Both vitamins and minerals are micronutrients important to help support wellness. Another thing they have in common is that it’s not always easy to get the spectrum of vitamins and minerals we need through diet alone—which is why opting for a quality multivitamin to help fill nutrient gaps is a good idea.*