Do I need to take vitamins?

We are in May. Some of you may be dealing with allergies. Maybe some of us just need to go on vacation because we have been working since Christmas, taking care of our kids being sick in winter and spring, many of you are facing the exam season…


All of that makes us feel tired, finding it hard to concentrate… and more than one person might think, “Do I need to take vitamins? Or minerals? Maybe I need both.”


But do we really know what they are and what they are for?


Today I want to tell you about these micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, and help you understand if you actually need to take supplements.


As always, let’s go step by step:


What are vitamins and minerals?

In supplement advertisements or on the packaging of some foods, vitamins and minerals are represented as colourful little balls. However, they look like this:

Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)

Folic acid (vitamin B9)

Zinc atom


I’m not going to delve into the chemistry of vitamins and minerals because that would be too complicated and I think it might confuse you more.


The key information I want you to know is:

  • Vitamins are bigger than minerals.
  • Vitamins are organic, meaning they come from living beings, like animals (meat, milk, eggs…) or plants (vegetables, fruits, legumes…). Minerals are inorganic, meaning they come from the environment (water, soil, and rocks), but plants absorb these nutrients. By eating those plants or the animals that eat the plants, we obtain the minerals.

No, orange juice doesn't lose the vitamins.

Depending on each vitamin and mineral, they can enter the bloodstream on their own, by combining, or by binding to fats or proteins. For example, iron from legumes is better absorbed when it is close to vitamin C. They can even get in the way of others, like phosphorus and calcium in the intestine.


Something you need to know about vitamins is that they are divided into two groups:

  • Fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K.
  • Water-soluble vitamins: B vitamins and vitamin C.


What this means is that water-soluble vitamins travel in water and are not stored in the body. We eliminate excess amounts of these vitamins in our urine.


On the other hand, fat-soluble vitamins travel in fat and are stored in the body. We find them more easily in fatty foods such as oily fish (sardines, salmon…), nuts, oils, and full-fat dairy products.

We find it as retinol in animal-based foods and as beta-carotene in vegetables. It’s what gives the orange, yellow, or red colour to vegetables and fruits (carrots, pumpkins, peppers…).


It’s very important for vision, skin, the immune system, reproduction, the proper functioning of cells, and bone growth.


It is an antioxidant.

In that group we have the following vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B7, B9, and B12.


They are essential in metabolism, helping to extract energy from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins and to synthesize them.


Additionally, they are fundamental for the nervous system, and the skin, and they play a role in the formation of red blood cells, DNA, and hormones.

Also called ascorbic acid. It is an antioxidant and participates in metabolism.


It is important for maintaining and repairing tissues such as skin, mucous membranes (like gums), bones, and connective tissue (tendons, ligaments…), as it helps produce collagen.


It also supports the nervous system and the immune system.

It is considered a hormone. It helps absorb calcium and regulate calcium and phosphorus levels.


It is very important for the muscles (as it helps them contract), the nerves (so neurons can communicate), and the immune system.

It is a powerful antioxidant that participates in metabolism, and the formation of red blood cells, and has important functions in the immune system.


It helps the body use vitamin K and prevents the formation of blood clots.

It participates in blood clotting.


It is part of proteins that are involved in metabolism, reproduction, bone health, and the cardiovascular system.

When it comes to minerals, we can classify them into two groups: macro minerals and trace elements, depending on whether we have more or less of them in the body. But we need all of them.


Macrominerals, such as calcium, chlorine, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, sodium, and potassium, are the ones we have the most of in the body and need to consume the most in our diet. Then, there are trace elements. We only have very small amounts of these, so consuming very small amounts of them is enough. Some examples include zinc, iodine, fluorine, and iron.


Also, within minerals, it doesn’t matter if we are talking about macrominerals or trace elements, there are some special ones you might be familiar with, electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium…


What makes them special?


They have an electrical charge, hence their name. And why are they important? Because they control the volume of water in our body and the pH of our blood (to keep it from becoming too acidic or too basic), and they participate in ensuring that muscles and nerves function properly.


Since there are many minerals, and I don’t want to make this article too long, I’ll just give you a few examples. These are the most commonly advertised in supplements. For more information about these minerals and others, you can find more details in the references below.


It’s very important for growth and development (that’s why it’s also essential during pregnancy) and the immune system. It’s necessary for wound healing and keeping our hair, skin, and nails healthy.


It’s a mineral necessary for the sense of smell and therefore taste.


It binds to certain proteins so that they can fulfil their function, some of them related to our DNA and antioxidant function.


It also helps regulate the release of insulin and therefore blood glucose control.

It’s essential in metabolism for the production and use of energy.


It participates in DNA formation, muscle contraction, blood clotting, and nerve impulse transmission (communication between nerves).


It regulates blood pressure and blood sugar levels.


It also aids our immune system and binds to certain proteins.


It helps prevent tooth decay.


Essential for DNA formation. It helps controlling the thyroid gland, and therefore, metabolism.


It has antioxidant activity.


It’s important for male fertility.

It is essential for metabolism, involved in energy production.


It transports oxygen in the blood as it is part of hemoglobin, and in muscles through myoglobin.


It is essential for the immune system.


It is part of proteins with crucial functions such as DNA creation or drug metabolism, among others.

It is the most abundant mineral in the body, but it’s not only found in bones and teeth; it’s also present in the blood and muscles.


It’s necessary for the contraction and relaxation of muscles and blood vessels.


It also plays a role in hormone secretion into the blood and the transmission of nerve impulses.

It’s super important for the structure and function of cells, and for muscles and nerves to send information between their cells.


It regulates the body’s water volume and, thereby, blood pressure.


It helps cells “feed” and get rid of waste.


Super important for the kidneys and the heart.

If you eat a varied diet and are healthy, chances are you don’t need any supplements.


But, are there situations where your vitamin and mineral needs are higher?


There are times when we need to take more micronutrients in certain stages of life, when we have certain eating restrictions, for example, vegans (vitamin B12), those with illnesses, medical conditions such as burns, surgeries, infections, etc. We also need to take more vitamins and minerals during pregnancy and breastfeeding. But again, this should be checked by a doctor.


Additionally, certain medications or substances can make us absorb less amounts of certain nutrients or pass them in greater amounts. In other words, we don’t get them from food as we should, and they go down the drain. For example, excessive alcohol consumption makes the intestine less able to catch almost all vitamins and zinc.


And, how do I know if my vitamin or mineral levels are low?


Well, as you might imagine, it depends on the mineral or vitamin you’re deficient in. Some symptoms can indicate a deficiency such as weakness, hair loss, and cramps. But these can be symptoms of many other things. So, the best thing you can do to find out is to talk to your doctor.

If your kid eats 2 bananas a day, don't worry. Your kid is not going to have problems because of excess of potassium.

Returning to the title of this post:


Do I need to take vitamins?

The answer is yes. The same goes for minerals, but… There is no need to take supplements under normal conditions.


If we feel tired, or lacking in energy… first, we need to see if we are eating well, if we are getting enough rest, if we are nervous or worried about something… And if we still can’t find the solution, then we should contact our primary care physician who, if necessary, will order a blood test to check if we have other issues and, recommend a supplement of one nutrient or another.



And the thing is, one of the problems with supplements is that they often contain many ingredients at once. If, for example, you only need iron… why would you take a pill with 20 other ingredients into your body?


Several problems may happen here: first, you’ll likely pass the other 20 ingredients (or most of them) in your urine. In other words, you’re flushing money down the toilet.


Secondly, many ingredients interact with each other. This means that sometimes one nutrient can make another nutrient to be more or less available in the intestine.


Thirdly, many multivitamin or multimineral supplements, or those containing a lot of everything, also have other ingredients, such as guarana, ginseng, caffeine, or amino acids like creatine and taurine, just to name a couple of examples. And, again, you might not want to take these other things, as they can also have harmful effects or interfere with any medication you’re taking.


And fourthly, both vitamins and minerals are chemical compounds that have actions in our bodies, and an excess of any of them can be dangerous.

Did you know that we need sulfur and copper to live?

In addition, at what dose should you take it? For how long? On an empty stomach or with food?


And if you’re taking any medication or have any health problems, will the multivitamin or multimineral do more harm than good? Does it interact with your medication?


For all these reasons, it’s not a good idea to take vitamins and minerals like candies (nor should you take candy without control).


I hope all this information has been useful to you. If so, you can share the article and let me know what you think.



  • National Institute of Health (NIH). 

  • European Food Information Council- Multivitamins: benefits and risks for health.

  • Manual MSD – Multivitamins y megavitamins 

  • Journal Nutrients: Vitamins and Minerals for Energy, Fatigue and Cognition.

  • Journal Clinical Nutrition: ESPEN micronutrient guideline 

  • British  Nutrition Foundation: Vitamins and Minerals.

  • Harvard University website: Preciosous metals and other important minerals for health.

  • The Association of UK Dietitians: Suplements 

  • Frontiers: Bioavailability of micronutrients from Nutrient-Dense Whole Foods (dairy, vegetables and fruits).


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