Micronutrients

Micronutrients are one of the major groups of nutrients your body needs. They include vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins are necessary for energy production, immune function, blood clotting and other functions. Meanwhile, minerals play an important role in growth, bone health, fluid balance and several other processes.

What Are Micronutrients?

The term micronutrients is used to describe vitamins and minerals in general.

Macronutrients, on the other hand, include proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

Your body needs smaller amounts of micronutrients relative to macronutrients. That’s why they’re labeled “micro.”

Humans must obtain micronutrients from food since your body cannot produce vitamins and minerals — for the most part. That’s why they’re also referred to as essential nutrients.

Vitamins are organic compounds made by plants and animals which can be broken down by heat, acid or air. On the other hand, minerals are inorganic, exist in soil or water and cannot be broken down.

When you eat, you consume the vitamins that plants and animals created or the minerals they absorbed.

The micronutrient content of each food is different, so it’s best to eat a variety of foods to get enough vitamins and minerals.

An adequate intake of all micronutrients is necessary for optimal health, as each vitamin and mineral has a specific role in your body.

Vitamins and minerals are vital for growth, immune function, brain development and many other important functions.

Depending on their function, certain micronutrients also play a role in preventing and fighting disease.

Types and Functions of Micronutrients

Vitamins and minerals can be divided into four categories: water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, macrominerals and trace minerals.

Water-Soluble Vitamins
Most vitamins dissolve in water and are therefore known as water-soluble. Some of the water-soluble vitamins and their functions are:
– Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): Necessary for energy production, cell function and fat metabolism.
– Vitamin B7 (biotin): Plays a role in the metabolism of fatty acids, amino acids and glucose.
– Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): Necessary for red blood cell formation and proper nervous system and brain function.
– Vitamin C (ascorbic acid): Required for the creation of neurotransmitters and collagen, the main protein in your skin.

Nutrient Sources RDA or AI (adults > 19 years)
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) Whole grains, meat, fish 1.1–1.2 mg
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) Organ meats, eggs, milk 1.1–1.3 mg
Vitamin B3 (niacin) Meat, salmon, leafy greens, beans 14–16 mg
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) Organ meats, mushrooms, tuna, avocado 5 mg
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) Fish, milk, carrots, potatoes 1.3 mg
Vitamin B7 (biotin) Eggs, almonds, spinach, sweet potatoes 30 mcg
Vitamin B9 (folate) Beef, liver, black-eyed peas, spinach, asparagus 400 mg
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) Clams, fish, meat 2.4 mcg
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) Citrus fruits, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts 75–90 mg
Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins do not dissolve in water. They are:
– Vitamin A: Necessary for proper vision and organ function.
– Vitamin D: Promotes proper immune function and assists in calcium absorption and bone growth.
– Vitamin E: Assists immune function and acts as an antioxidant that protects cells from damage.
– Vitamin K: Required for blood clotting and proper bone development.

Nutrient Sources RDA or AI (adults > 19 years)
Vitamin A Retinol (liver, dairy, fish), carotenoids (sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach) 700–900 mcg
Vitamin D Sunlight, fish oil, milk 600–800 IU
Vitamin E Sunflower seeds, wheat germ, almonds 15 mg
Vitamin K Leafy greens, soybeans, pumpkin 90–120 mcg

Macrominerals
The macrominerals and some of their functions are:
– Calcium: Necessary for proper structure and function of bones and teeth.
– Magnesium: Assists with over 300 enzyme reactions, including regulation of blood pressure.
– Chloride: Often found in combination with sodium. Helps maintain fluid balance and is used to make digestive juices, etc.

Nutrient Sources RDA or AI (adults > 19 years)
Calcium Milk products, leafy greens, broccoli 2,000–2,500 mg
Phosphorus Salmon, yogurt, turkey 700 mg
Magnesium Almonds, cashews, black beans 310–420 mg
Sodium Salt, processed foods, canned soup 2,300 mg
Chloride Seaweed, salt, celery 1,800–2,300 mg
Potassium Lentils, acorn squash, bananas 4,700 mg
Sulfur Garlic, onions, Brussels sprouts, eggs, mineral water None established

Trace Minerals
The trace minerals and some of their functions are:
Iron: Helps provide oxygen to muscles and assists in the creation of certain hormones.
Zinc: Necessary for normal growth, immune function and wound healing.
Selenium: Important for thyroid health, reproduction and defense against oxidative damage, among others.

Nutrient Sources RDA or AI (adults > 19 years)
Iron Oysters, white beans, spinach 8–18 mg
Manganese Pineapple, pecans, peanuts 1.8–2.3 mg
Copper Liver, crabs, cashews 900 mcg
Zinc Oysters, crab, chickpeas 8–11 mg
Iodine Seaweed, cod, yogurt 150 mcg
Fluoride Fruit juice, water, crab 3–4 mg
Selenium Brazil nuts, sardines, ham 55 mcg

 

Source: Healthline.
Written by Sarah Amah.

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