Micronutrients are one of the basic food groups that the body needs. They are those foods that contain vitamins and minerals.
Vitamins are essential for energy production, immune function, blood clotting, and other functions.
On the other hand, minerals play an important role in growth, bone health, fluid balance, and a few other processes.
In Evolution Advance we will give you a detailed review of micronutrients, their function, classification and the consequences of excessive consumption or deficiency.
What are micronutrients?
The term micronutrients is commonly used to describe vitamins and minerals . Macronutrients instead are proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
The body needs smaller amounts of micronutrients than macronutrients. That is why they are known as "micro".
Since the body cannot produce vitamins and minerals , people must obtain micronutrients from food. That is why they are also called staple food.
Vitamins are organic compounds produced by plants and animals that can be broken down by heat, acids, or air. On the other hand, minerals are inorganic, found in soil or water, and cannot be broken down.
When you eat, you consume vitamins created by plants and animals or absorb minerals.
The micronutrient content of each dish is different. For this reason, you must eat a variety of foods to get enough vitamins and minerals.
Because each plays a special role in the body, an adequate intake of all micronutrients is essential for optimal health .
Vitamins and minerals are vital for growth, the immune system, brain development, and many other functions. Depending on their functions, some micronutrients also play a role in preventing and fighting some diseases.
The main functions of essential micronutrients include:
Types of micronutrients and their functions
Vitamins and minerals can be divided into four categories: water soluble vitamins, fat soluble vitamins, macrominerals, and trace elements.
Regardless of the type, vitamins and minerals are absorbed into the body in a similar way. It interacts with many processes.
water soluble vitamins
Most vitamins are soluble in water . They are not easily stored in the body. When consumed in excess, they are excreted in the urine.
While each water-soluble vitamin has a unique role, their functions are interrelated.
For example, most B vitamins act as coenzymes that help trigger important chemical reactions . Most of these reactions are necessary for the production of energy.
Water soluble vitamins and their functions:
- B1 (thiamine): helps convert nutrients into energy.
- B2 (riboflavin): It is necessary for energy production, cell function and fat metabolism.
- B3 (niacin): promotes the production of energy from food.
- B5 (pantothenic acid): it is needed for the synthesis of fatty acids.
- B6 (pyridoxine): Helps the body release sugar from stored carbohydrates for energy and to form red blood cells.
- B7 (biotin): plays a role in the metabolism of fatty acids, amino acids and glucose.
- B9 (folate): It is important for proper cell division.
- B12 (cobalamin): It is necessary for the formation of red blood cells and the proper function of the nervous system and brain.
- C (ascorbic acid): essential for the creation of neurotransmitters and collagen, the main protein of the skin.
As you can see, water soluble vitamins are essential in energy production, but they also have many other functions.
In what foods can these micronutrients be found?
- B1 (thiamine): whole grains, meat, fish.
- B2 (riboflavin): organ meats, eggs, milk.
- B3 (niacin): meat, salmon, green leafy vegetables, beans.
- B5 (pantothenic acid): organ meats, mushrooms, tuna, avocado.
- B6 (pyridoxine): fish, milk, carrot, potato.
- B7 (biotin): egg, almond, spinach, sweet potato.
- B9 (folate): beef, liver, cowpeas, spinach, asparagus.
- B12 (cobalamin): oysters, fish, meat.
- C (ascorbic acid): citrus fruits, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts.
fat soluble vitamins
Fat soluble vitamins are insoluble in water. They are best absorbed when consumed in conjunction with a source of fat.
After consumption, fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the liver and adipose tissues for future use.
The names and functions of fat soluble vitamins are:
- Vitamin A: helps improve vision and organ function.
- Vitamin D: increases immune function and aids in calcium absorption and bone growth.
- Vitamin E: supports immune function and acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage.
- Vitamin K: necessary for blood clotting and proper bone development.
In what foods can these vitamins be found?
- Vitamin A: Retinol (liver, dairy, fish), carotenoids (sweet potato, carrot, spinach)
- Vitamin D: Sunlight, fish oil, milk.
- Vitamin E: Sunflower seeds, wheat germ, almonds.
- Vitamin K: Green leafy vegetables, soybeans, pumpkin.
Macrominerals are considered "electrolytes" and are needed in larger amounts than trace elements to fulfill their function.
These are the macrominerals and their functions:
- Calcium: It is necessary for the proper structure and function of bones and teeth. It helps muscle function, the contraction of blood vessels.
- Phosphorus: is part of the structure of the bone and cell membrane.
- Magnesium – Aids in over 300 enzymatic reactions, including regulation of blood pressure.
- Sodium: Provides electrolytes, which help balance fluids and maintain blood pressure.
- Chloride: usually found with sodium. Helps maintain fluid balance as well as sodium. It is used to make digestive juices.
- Potassium: electrolyte that maintains the liquid state in cells and helps nerve conduction and muscle function.
- Sulfur: is part of all living tissues. Contains methionine and cysteine in amino acids.
Recommended sources of macrominerals
- Calcium: Dairy products, green leafy vegetables, broccoli.
- Phosphorus: salmon, yogurt, turkey.
- Magnesium: Almonds, cashews, black beans.
- Sodium: salt, processed foods.
- Chloride: seaweed, salt, celery.
- Potassium: lentils, pumpkin, banana.
- Sulfur: Garlic, onion, Brussels sprouts, eggs, mineral water.
Trace elements are needed in smaller amounts than macrominerals. However, they provide important functions in the body.
Some trace elements and their functions:
- Iron: Helps provide oxygen to muscles and forms certain hormones.
- Manganese: helps the metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids and cholesterol.
- Copper: Necessary for the formation of connective tissue and the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system.
- Zinc: Necessary for normal growth, the immune system, and wound healing.
- Iodine: helps in the regulation of the thyroid.
- Fluoride: necessary for the development of bones and teeth.
- Selenium – Important for thyroid health, reproduction, and defense against oxidative damage.
Recommended sources of trace elements
- Iron: white beans, spinach.
- Magnesium: pineapple, walnuts, peanuts.
- Copper: liver, crabs, cashew.
- Zinc: Oysters, crab, chickpea.
- Iodine: Seaweed, cod, yogurt.
- Fluoride: Juice, water, crab.
- Selenium: Brazil nuts, sardines, ham.
Health benefits of micronutrients
All micronutrients are extremely important for the body to function properly.
Consuming adequate amounts of different vitamins and minerals is the key to optimal health. It can even help fight disease.
This is because micronutrients are part of almost every process in the body. Also, some vitamins and minerals can act as antioxidants.
Antioxidants may protect against cell damage associated with certain diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, and heart disease.
For example, studies have linked an adequate dietary intake of vitamins A and C with a lower risk of certain types of cancer.
These studies show that consuming a sufficient amount of all micronutrients, especially those with antioxidant properties, provides health benefits.
How important are micronutrients for fitness?
Athletes and coaches focus more on macronutrients when planning a better diet.
Macronutrients are foods that directly provide the energy we need to live, work, complete and be active. However, micronutrients contribute to this process , even if they are not direct sources of energy.
Vitamins, for example, are largely coenzymes . They work with enzymes and provide chemical reactions in the body.
An example of how this affects energy and fitness is vitamin B3, niacin. The vitamin B3 coenzyme is necessary for the formation of the NAD molecule, an electron carrier that is an essential part of the energy transfer process.
All micronutrients are necessary and important for humans. However, those who are very active , including athletes, and people who train regularly need more than normal.
Be aware of your micronutrient intake and make sure that all the foods you eat are part of a varied and nutritious diet to get enough of each, especially if you are trying to lose weight .
Recommendations for the consumption of micronutrients
Try to eat three different vegetables at each meal and vary from day to day and week to week. Choose vegetables that are in season.
Consume combinations of fruits and vegetables , whole carbohydrates, lean proteins, and vegetable oils at each meal.
Also, the micronutrient content of each food is different, so it would be more beneficial to eat different foods to get enough vitamins and minerals.
Eat raw and cooked products occasionally . Some nutrients are lost during cooking, while others become more concentrated. Eating both together is the best option to maximize micro consumption.
Take care of the cooking times of some foods
Depending on the time or cooking style of some foods, the value of the vitamin decreases. For example, boiling broccoli for only 3-4 minutes or steaming it causes the vitamin C value to drop by about 25%.
When you cook your food, be careful not to lose its nutritional value .
Consult with a specialist
Each person's need for micronutrients varies with age, gender, exercise level, dietary preferences, medications, and other factors.
Many micronutrient needs can be met with a varied diet rich in whole foods.
However, these needs are best evaluated by a professional , especially if you are on an eating plan in which you want to lose weight or increase muscle mass.
Extremes are never good in any field and being deficient in nutrients, or excessive, can be dangerous to your health .
Symptoms, causes and risk factors of micronutrient deficiency
The human body needs different amounts of each mineral to stay healthy. Minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium are found in the skeleton and structure of the teeth.
Minerals like iron and cobalt are important in blood production, while zinc is important for the immune system.
Mineral deficiencies can cause a variety of health problems such as bone loss, fatigue, or immune system disorders.
So what are the symptoms of mineral deficiency?
Common ones that may indicate there may be a problem include:
- Dry Skin
- impaired immunity
- bleeding gums
- Eye sight problems
- bruises easily
- Loss of memory
- Muscle cramps
How is mineral deficiency treated?
Treatment of a mineral deficiency depends on the type and severity of the deficiency.
In the case of vegans and vegetarians , for example, they may lack iron, B vitamins and zinc. While those on a gluten-free diet should pay close attention to the intake of B vitamins like folic acid and thiamine.
Other underlying conditions leading to the deficiency are also a factor. For example, those who have recently undergone surgery suffer from ulcerative colitis or celiac disease.
Before proceeding with mineral deficiency treatment, your doctor may order some tests.
This may include treatment of other diseases or changes in the medicines used.
If you are deficient in a small amount of minerals, a change in dietary habits may help correct the deficiency.
People with iron deficiency anemia may be told to eat more red meat, poultry, eggs, and iron-fortified grains.
Those with severe mineral deficiency should visit a specialist. The nutritionist can prepare a nutritional program for a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
You may also be asked to keep a food diary to keep track of the foods you've eaten and your progress.
Some mineral deficiencies cannot be treated with diet alone. You may need to take a multivitamin or mineral supplement.
These can be taken alone or with other supplements that help the body absorb or use minerals. For example, vitamin D is often taken with calcium.
Your doctor or healthcare professional will decide how much and how often you should take the supplements.
It is very important to follow your healthcare instructions at this time, as taking too much of some supplements can be harmful.