Micronutrients are all Vitamins and Minerals, required by the body in small quantities. As opposed to macronutrients, micronutrients generally don’t provide any energy in terms of calories, however, they often aid the macronutrient utilization and conversion into energy and they ensure the overall health of the brain, heart, bones and all the body systems.
Although they are generally only needed in a few hundred milligrams per day, they are also present in foods in very small amounts and therefore it is quite easy to become deficient in them.
A little insight into how important micronutrients are:
Calcium: healthy bones and teeth
Chloride: maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance and pH within cells
Folate: Fetal growth, brain, and spinal cord development
Iodine: Thyroid gland function, fat metabolism, growth, and development
Iron: Production and function of red blood cells and lymphocytes
Manganese: bone formation, macronutrient metabolism and utilization for energy
Magnesium: Heart rhythm, glucose conversion into energy, micronutrient metabolism
Selenium: protection from chronic disease, healthy skin, hair and nails
Sodium: maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance within cells, regulating pH levels in the blood
Vitamin A: Good vision and healthy gums
Vitamin B group: macronutrient conversion into energy, healthy nervous system, and good digestion
Vitamin C: healthy immune system
Vitamin D: healthy immune system and strong bones
Vitamin E: strong antioxidant which reduced oxidative damage in the body
Zinc: Maintaining healthy reproductive system, immune system, hair, skin, and nails
Most micronutrients cannot be produced by the body and therefore have to be taken in through the diet.
It is easy!
Make sure to include as many colors in your meals as possible.
Chose fruit salads for your desert three times a week. Make your soups and salads at home and feel free to pack them with as many different varieties of vegetables as possible. Aim for two or more vegetable based sides with each dinner.
Vitamin D, Vitamin K, and some B Vitamins are exceptions. Vitamin D can be synthesized by the exposure to the sunlight. Vitamin K and some B vitamins are the byproducts of the activity of healthy bacteria in the gut.
When the diet is well balanced and colorful, there should be no need to supplement any micronutrients. However, with hectic lifestyles and not optimal diets, it is easy to become micronutrient deficient. It is then possible to supplement with vitamin and mineral pills or powders. Pregnant women are often recommended to supplement with a variety of micronutrients such as Folic acid and Folate to assure proper fetal development. Growing children, athletes or ill people are also recommended to supplement different micronutrients as it is believed their needs might be higher than normal.
Micronutrient deficiencies should not be taken lightly as they can cause serious health problems.
Iodine, Iron, and Vitamin A deficiencies are the most common deficiencies. Flour fortification is a globally recognized as the most effective way of decreasing the number of deficiencies while being low cost. Salt iodization led to an overall increase of IQ points. It is also recommended to supplement Vitamin A for all children in order to prevent eyesight problems.
There are two types of vitamins, water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C, B Vitamins, and Folic acid dissolve in water and do not get stored in the body as any excess is excreted. Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K are processed in fatty tissue and the liver, where the excess tends to accumulate and eventually may cause damage to these tissues.
Before supplementing any micronutrients, have a word with your doctor about the proper dose!