Vitamins and Minerals (2024)

Vitamins and Minerals (1)

Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients required by the body to carry out a range of normal functions. However, these micronutrients are not produced in our bodies and must be derived from the food we eat.

Vitamins are organic substances that are generally classified as either fat soluble or water soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K) dissolve in fat and tend to accumulate in the body. Water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins, such as vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate) must dissolve in water before they can be absorbed by the body, and therefore cannot be stored. Any water-soluble vitamins unused by the body is primarily lost through urine.

Minerals are inorganic elements present in soil and water, which are absorbed by plants or consumed by animals. While you’re likely familiar with calcium, sodium, and potassium, there is a range of other minerals, including trace minerals (e.g. copper, iodine, and zinc) needed in very small amounts.

In the U.S., the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) develops nutrient reference values called the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for vitamins and minerals. [1] These are intended as a guide for good nutrition and as a scientific basis for the development of food guidelines in both the U.S. and Canada. The DRIs are specific to age, gender, and life stages, and cover more than 40 nutrient substances. The guidelines are based on available reports of deficiency and toxicity of each nutrient. Learn more about vitamins and minerals and their recommended intakes in the table below.

Recommended Daily Intake of Vitamins and Minerals for Adults
Vitamin (Common Names)Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) or Daily Adequate Intake (AI)*Upper Limit
Vitamin A (preformed = retinol; beta-carotene can be converted to Vitamin A)700 micrograms (2,333 IU)900 micrograms (3,000 IU)3,000 micrograms (about 10,000 IU)
Thiamin (vitamin B1)1.1 milligrams1.2 milligramsNot known
Riboflavin (vitamin B2)1.1 milligrams1.3 milligramsNot known
Niacin (vitamin B3; nicotinic acid)14 milligrams16 milligrams35 milligrams
Pantothenic Acid (vitamin B5)5 milligrams*5 milligrams*Not known
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxal, pyridoxine, pyridoxamine)Ages 19-50: 1.3 milligrams

Ages 51+: 1.5 milligrams

Ages 19-50: 1.3 milligrams

Ages 51+: 1.7 milligrams

100 milligrams
Biotin (vitamin B7)30 micrograms*30 micrograms*Not known
Folate (Folic acid; vitamin B9)400 micrograms400 micrograms1,000 micrograms
Vitamin B122.4 micrograms2.4 microgramsNot known
Vitamin C75 milligrams*

(Smokers add 35 milligrams)

90 milligrams*

(Smokers add 35 milligrams)

2,000 milligrams
Choline425 milligrams*550 milligrams*3,500 milligrams
Vitamin D (calciferol)Ages 19-50: 15 micrograms (600 IU)

Ages 51-70: 15 micrograms (600 IU)

Ages 71+: 20 micrograms (800 IU)

Ages 19-50: 15 micrograms (600 IU)

Ages 51-70: 15 micrograms (600 IU)

Ages 71+: 20 micrograms (800 IU)

100 micrograms (4,000 IU)
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)15 milligrams15 milligrams1,000 milligrams
Vitamin K (phylloquinone, menadione)90 micrograms*120 micrograms*Not known
MineralRecommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) or Daily Adequate Intake (AI)*Upper Limit
CalciumAges 31-50: 1,000 milligrams

Ages 51+: 1,200 milligrams

Ages 31-50: 1,000 milligrams

Ages 51+: 1,200 milligrams

2,500 milligrams
ChlorideAges 19-50: 2.3 grams*

Ages 51-70: 2.0 grams*

Ages 71+: 1.8 grams*

Ages 19-50: 2.3 grams*

Ages 51-70: 2.0 grams*

Ages 71+: 1.8 grams*

Not known
ChromiumAges 31-50: 25 micrograms*

Ages 51+: 20 micrograms*

Ages 31-50: 35 micrograms*

Ages 51+: 30 micrograms*

Not known
Copper900 micrograms900 micrograms10,000 micrograms
Fluoride3 milligrams4 milligrams10 milligrams
Iodine150 micrograms150 micrograms1,100 micrograms
IronAges 31-50: 18 milligrams

Ages 51+: 8 milligrams

Ages 31-50: 8 milligrams

Ages 51+: 8 milligrams

45 milligrams
MagnesiumAges 19-30: 310 milligrams

Ages 31-70+: 320 milligrams

Ages 19-30: 400 milligrams

Ages 31-70+: 420 milligrams

350 milligrams (from supplements)
Manganese1.8 milligrams*2.3 milligrams*11 milligrams
Molybdenum45 micrograms45 micrograms2,000 micrograms
Phosphorus700 milligrams700 milligramsAges 31-70: 4,000 milligrams

Ages 71+: 3,000 milligrams

PotassiumAges 14-18: 2,300 milligrams*

Ages 19+: 2,600 milligrams*

Ages 14-18: 3,000 milligrams*

Ages 19+: 3,400 milligrams*

Not known
Selenium55 micrograms55 micrograms400 micrograms
Sodium1,500 milligrams*1,500 milligrams*Not determined; however a chronic disease risk reduction intake has been established
Zinc8 milligrams11 milligrams40 milligrams
* Denotes Adequate Intake (AI). An AI is a recommended intake when an RDA can’t be determined. RDA is the average daily dietary intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirement of 97-98% of healthy individuals in a particular group according to stage of life and gender.
** May play a role in the human body, but adequate research regarding its nutritional importance is not available so RDA or AI has not been set.

Vitamins and Minerals (2)What about multivitamins?

A diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, good protein packages, and healthful fats should provide most of the nutrients needed for good health. But not everyone manages to eat a healthful diet. Multivitamins can play an important role when nutritional requirements are not met through diet alone. Learn more about vitamin supplementation.

Did you know?

Vitamins and their precise requirements have been controversial since their discovery in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It was the combined efforts of epidemiologists, physicians, chemists, and physiologists that led to our modern day understanding of vitamins and minerals. After years of observation, experiments, and trial and error, they were able to distinguish that some diseases were not caused by infections or toxins—a common belief at the time—but by vitamin deficiencies. [2] Chemists worked to identify a vitamin’s chemical structure so it could be replicated. Soon after, researchers determined specific amounts of vitamins needed to avoid diseases of deficiency.

In 1912, biochemist Casimir Funk was the first to coin the term “vitamin” in a research publication that was accepted by the medical community, derived from “vita” meaning life, and “amine” referring to a nitrogenous substance essential for life. [3] Funk is considered the father of vitamin therapy, as he identified nutritional components that were missing in diseases of deficiency like scurvy (too little vitamin C), beri-beri (too little vitamin B1), pellagra (too little vitamin B3), and rickets (too little vitamin D). The discovery of all vitamins occurred by 1948.

Vitamins were obtained only from food until the 1930s when commercially made supplements of certain vitamins became available. The U.S government also began fortifying foods with specific nutrients to prevent deficiencies common at the time, such as adding iodine to salt to prevent goiter, and adding folic acid to grain products to reduce birth defects during pregnancy. In the 1950s, most vitamins and multivitamins were available for sale to the general public to prevent deficiencies, some receiving a good amount of marketing in popular magazines such as promoting cod liver oil containing vitamin D as bottled sunshine.

  1. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorous, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride (1997); Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline (1998); Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids (2000); Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc (2001); and Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D (2011). These reports may be accessed via
  2. Semba RD. The discovery of the vitamins. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2012 Oct 1;82(5):310-5.
  3. Piro A, Tagarelli G, Lagonia P, Tagarelli A, Quattrone A. Casimir Funk: his discovery of the vitamins and their deficiency disorders. Ann Nutr Metab. 2010;57(2):85-8.

Last reviewed March 2023

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Vitamins and Minerals (2024)
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