What are micronutrients?
Micronutrients are essential nutrients that our bodies require in relatively small amounts but are crucial for overall health and proper functioning.
Unlike macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, which are needed in larger quantities, micronutrients are needed in smaller quantities, typically measured in milligrams (mg) or micrograms (mcg).
Micronutrients primarily include vitamins and minerals, and they play vital roles in various physiological processes. Here are some examples of micronutrients and their functions:
Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential for the body’s growth, development, and maintenance. They are involved in processes such as energy production, immune function, and cellular repair. There are two main types of vitamins:
- Water-soluble vitamins: These include vitamin C and the eight B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, biotin, folate, and vitamin B12). Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body, so they need to be consumed regularly through foods or supplements.
- Fat-soluble vitamins: These include vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body’s fatty tissues and liver and can be utilized when needed.
Minerals are inorganic substances that are essential for various bodily functions, including bone health, nerve function, fluid balance, and energy production. There are two categories of minerals:
- Macro-minerals: These are needed in larger quantities and include minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and chloride.
- Trace minerals: These are required in smaller amounts and include minerals like iron, zinc, copper, manganese, iodine, selenium, and molybdenum.
Micronutrient deficiencies can lead to specific health problems
For instance, vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy, vitamin D deficiency can result in weak bones (osteomalacia), and iron deficiency can lead to anemia. On the other hand, consuming an excess of certain micronutrients can also have adverse effects.
It’s important to maintain a balanced and varied diet that includes a wide range of foods to ensure an adequate intake of micronutrients.
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, dairy products, and nuts and seeds are all sources of different micronutrients.
In some cases, dietary supplements may be recommended under the guidance of a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to address specific deficiencies or meet increased nutrient needs.