What Are Micronutrients?

Though your body needs small quantities of micronutrients, they play a vital role in your general wellness and health. Consuming enough micronutrients is especially important for the elderly, young children and expectant mothers. If you do not take the required amount of micronutrients you are likely to develop undesirable symptoms. You can check with your doctor if you need any micronutrient supplements. You might be wondering what micronutrients are ? You are lucky since this article will describe all types of micronutrients.

What Are Micronutrients?

As we all know, macronutrients are energy-giving and structural elements of the foods we eat, including proteins, fats and carbohydrates. What about micronutrients? Micronutrients are acquired from foods we eat since they are not made in our bodies. Micronutrients are vitamins, including water soluble and fat soluble vitamins, and minerals, including major and trace minerals. Now let's look at them one by one.

1. Water Soluble Vitamins

These vitamins are found in the watery part of the food we eat. They are absorbed directed into the blood as food is being digested or when the supplement dissolves. Since water makes up the better part of our bodies, water soluble vitamins are circulated throughout the body easily, and the kidney regulates their quantities and gets rid of the excess through urine.

Water soluble vitamins include:

  • B vitamins: thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), vitamin B6, biotin (vitamin B7), folic acid (vitamin B9, folate), and vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C

You can get enough water soluble vitamins from eggs, fish, dairy products, citrus fruits, melons, berries, tomatoes, dark green vegetables, peas, legumes or potatoes.

What They Do

Water-soluble vitamins have several tasks in the body, which includes the following:

  • Releasing energy: most B vitamins are a major component of key enzymes that assist to release energy from food. Besides, biotin, pantothenic acid, niacin, riboflavin and thiamin assist in energy production.
  • Building cells and proteins: folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12 metabolize amino acids assist in cell multiplication and keep your tissue healthy.
  • Collagen production: collagen supports your blood vessels, forms a base for bones and teeth, and knits wounds together. Vitamin C plays a major role in collagen production.

Though most people believe water-soluble minerals do not last in the body for long, some like vitamin B12 are stored in the liver. It is, however, wise to replenish micronutrients daily. Do not overdose because the side effects might be serious, like nerve damage leading to muscle weakness and numbness.

2. Fat-Soluble Vitamins

What are micronutrients? Fat-soluble vitamin is one of them. Unlike water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble minerals enter the blood through the lymph channels in the intestinal wall. Most fat-soluble vitamins are escorted through-out the body by proteins. The excess fat-soluble vitamins are stored in fat tissues and liver where they are released when needed.

Fat-soluble vitamins include: vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K. Carrots, spinach, kale, papaya, mango, cod liver, salmon, fish oil, almonds, sunflower seeds, collard, etc. are good sources of fat-soluble foods, but you do not need to consume fat-soluble vitamins daily, since your body will release the required quantities from its reserves.

What They Do

These vitamins work together to make sure your nervous system, gastrointestinal tract, lungs, skin and eyes are in good condition. Other important functions of fat-soluble vitamins include:

  • Building bones: bone formation is made possible by vitamins K, D and A.
  • Vision protection: vitamin A protects your eyesight and keeps your cells healthy.
  • Body protection: vitamin E serves as an antioxidant and helps maintain your overall health.

It's highly impossible to get excessive fat-soluble vitamins, but if you take supplements, these vitamins can be stored in your system too long and your toxic levels will rise,

3. Major Minerals

What are micronutrients? Except vitamins, the other big part is minerals, including major minerals and trace minerals. First, let's look at major vitamins. Your body needs and stores large amount of major minerals which are circulated throughout the body in different ways. Some are directly absorbed into the bloodstream like potassium, while others need carriers for transportation and absorption like calcium.

Major minerals include:

  • Sulfur
  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Chloride
  • Calcium

You can get major minerals from table salt, soy sauce, processed foods, milk, fortified tofu, fish, poultry, leafy greens, broccoli, nuts, meats, bread, etc.

What They Do

  • Potassium, chloride and sodium are responsible for water balancing in the body.
  • Calcium, magnesium and phosphorus are vital for healthy bones.
  • Sulfur assists in stabilization of protein structures including those that make up the nails, skin and hair.

Precaution: Having one major mineral in excess can lead to deficiency of another. For example, calcium binds to sodium and when the body detects you have too much sodium it excretes not only the sodium but also the calcium, meaning you lose needed calcium in the process. Too much phosphorus can hinder your body from absorbing magnesium.

3. Trace Minerals

The answer to "What are micronutrients?" will never be complete without trace minerals. They are found in small quantities in the body but they play important roles just like the major minerals. Trace minerals include:

  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • Molybdenum
  • Manganese
  • Iron
  • Iodine Fluoride
  • Copper
  • Chromium

You can get enough trace minerals from fortified cereals, red meats, dairy, beans, nuts, potatoes, broccoli, poultry, fish, seaweed, etc.

What They Do

Trace minerals help us in numerous ways:

  • Iron helps carry oxygen throughout the body.
  • Fluoride promotes bone and teeth health.
  • Zinc prevents blood clots, become more alert to taste and smell, and promote your immune system.
  • Copper aids in certain enzymes formation, like those helping iron metabolism, creating hemoglobin to help circulate oxygen in blood.

Precaution: Taking a lot of trace minerals through supplements can lead to deficiency of others which could result in health complications.

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