Micronutrients are nutrients that are required in smaller quantities by the body as compared to macronutrients. Micronutrients are protective foods and are important for proper functioning of the immune system. They are required for supporting the functionalities of macronutrients and are important for proper growth and development.
There are two micronutrients:
I. Vitamins; and
Vitamins are micronutrients that are required for normal metabolism, to ward off diseases and for optimal health. Your body cannot produce vitamins on its own in sufficient quantities, hence you must get your them from your diet.
Vitamins are of two types, water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins.
Water-soluble vitamins dissolve directly in the bloodstream upon entering the body. Your body cannot store excess water-soluble vitamins for later use and these are removed from the body in urine. For this reason you must regularly consume adequate amounts of water-soluble vitamins to replenish the ones already used or excreted.
Following are the different water-soluble vitamins and their sources:
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): pork, fish, whole grain breads and cereals, nuts, seed, oatmeal.
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): lamb, eggs, milk and milk products, spinach, cereals and almonds.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): meat, fish, leafy green vegetables, mushrooms, whole grains and cereals.
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid): small quantities are found in almost every food. Large quantities found in meat, eggs, mushrooms, avocados, broccoli.
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): meats, fish, eggs, whole grains, bananas, nuts and sunflower seeds.
- Vitamin B7 (Biotin): meat, egg yolk, milk, whole grains and most fresh vegetables. Biotin is also made by intestinal bacteria.
- Vitamin B9 (Folic acid): dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli beans, peas, peanuts, sunflower seeds, oranges, strawberries.
- Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): found in animal products like meat, fish, eggs, dairy products.
- Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid): strawberries, oranges, kiwi, peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, leafy green vegetables.
Fat-soluble vitamins dissolve in fat before they enter the blood stream. For this reason, a diet low in dietary fats can lead to deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins. Your body can store excess fat-soluble vitamins in fat cells and liver, for later use.
Fat soluble vitamins are not removed from the body as quickly as water soluble vitamins. Hence, consuming excess fat-soluble vitamins through supplements can lead to toxicity.
Following are the different fat-soluble vitamins and their sources:
- Vitamin A: fish, liver, dairy products, carrots, dark green leafy vegetables, pumpkin and apricots.
- Vitamin D: salmon, egg yolk, milk and other dairy products and mushrooms. Your skin also makes Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.
- Vitamin E: Safflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, wheat germ, green leafy vegetables, almonds and hazelnuts.
- Vitamin K: Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and cabbage and the most concentrated sources of vitamin K. It s also produced naturally by the bacteria in the intestine.
Minerals are micronutrients that are required by the body for proper growth and development. Your body cannot produce minerals on its own hence you must get these micronutrients solely from your diet.
Minerals are of two types namely, major minerals and trace minerals.
Major minerals are the ones that are required by the body in quantities greater than 100 milligrams (mg) per day. The following are the major minerals and their sources:
- Calcium: fish (with bones such as salmon), milk and other dairy products, broccoli, tofu, oranges, almonds and walnuts.
- Magnesium: lean meat, seafood, milk, dark green leafy vegetables, whole-grains, pumpkin and dark chocolate.
- Phosphorus: Meat, fish, poultry, milk and other dairy products, beans, quinoa and pumpkin seeds.
- Sodium: Meat, fish, table salt, soy sauce and pickle.
- Potassium: Fish, milk, sweet potatoes, leafy green vegetables, bananas and fresh orange juice.
- Chloride: table salt, soy sauce, tomatoes, lettuce, olives and celery.
Trace minerals are the ones that are required by body in quantities less than 100 mg per day. Following are some trace minerals and their sources.
- Iron: liver (pork, chicken, lamb), fish, poultry, dark green leafy vegetables, whole-grains and pumpkin seeds.
- Zinc: meat, seafood, lamb, spinach, wheat-germ, quinoa and pumpkin seeds.
- Iodine: seafood, eggs, milk and iodized salts.
- Copper: seafood, mushrooms, whole grains, nuts and sunflower seeds.
- Magnesium: soybean, whole-grains, leafy green vegetables, peanuts, hazelnuts and bananas.
- Chromium: meat, whole-grains, broccoli, cheese and bananas.
- Fluoride: fish, tea and drinking water (fluoridated).
- Selenium: meat, seafood, eggs, whole-grains and seeds.