Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients our bodies need in order to develop and function at its fullest potential. Without these important nutrients, it’s possible to experience a wide range of unpleasant symptoms, including fatigue and weakness and/or light-headedness, hair loss, pale skin, constipation, and even trouble breathing – and while there are supplements you can take to ensure you’re getting some of the essential nutrients that your body requires, the best sources of vitamins and minerals often come straight from the foods we eat.

When it comes to vitamins, these are separated into two different categories: Water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble means that the body will expel what it doesn’t absorb, while fat-soluble is where left-over amounts are stored as reserves in the liver and fat tissues.

Water-soluble vitamins consist of:

• Vitamin B1
• Vitamin B2
• Vitamin B3
• Vitamin B5
• Vitamin B6
• Vitamin B7
• Vitamin B9
• Vitamin B12
• Vitamin C

Fat-soluble vitamins consist of:

• Vitamin A
• Vitamin D
• Vitamin E
• Vitamin K

The best food sources of water-soluble vitamins include things like fruits and vegetables (i.e. citrus fruit, watermelon, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, mushrooms, potatoes, fortified and whole grains, as well as enriched grains and cereals, milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs, soy, meat, poultry, fish; while good food sources of fat-soluble vitamins also include certain fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, cabbage, pumpkins, mangoes, certain meats and fish such as beef and shrimp, nuts, and vegetable oils.

Like vitamins, minerals are also separated into two different categories: Major and trace. While “major” minerals aren’t necessarily considered to be more important trace, the difference between the two is that one provides greater amounts to your body. Just like vitamins, minerals also come from many of the same foods you would consume – though the types of foods you should eat all depend on the type of vitamins and minerals you’re looking for, but it’s always good to ensure that your plate consists of a variety of food so that you’re getting a variety of vitamins and minerals on a daily basis. You can learn more about the specific functions and sources of minerals by clicking here.

As for supplements, certain people may need them. For example, if you’re on diet that is restrictive of calories, you’re likely not getting enough vitamins and minerals and therefore would require a supplement; while individuals who are sick or recovering from surgery, are of a certain age (over 50, for example), have food allergies, are pregnant or breastfeeding may also need a vitamin and mineral supplement. If you’re feeling unwell and cannot pinpoint the exact reason why, it’s a good idea to see your physician for an examination. He or she will likely order bloodwork to determine the root cause of why you’re not feeling well, and this bloodwork may or may not detect a deficiency, such as low iron.