Micronutrients: WHAT are they and WHY are they important?

Micronutrients are known as the vitamins and minerals essential for the body to function properly, but are only needed in trace amounts. Most of these nutrients come from our diet; but if we don’t like a specific food that carries that nutrient, or if we are in a calorie restriction for whatever reason, we may need to supplement to we do not end up with a deficiency.

I spoke before about macronutrients (protein, fats and carbohydrates) which we need in large quantities to fuel our bodies and micronutrients are vitamins and minerals we need in only small quantities. Most people understand macronutrients and their importance in the diet, but few know which vitamins and minerals we need and what their functions are, so that is what we will be discussing in todays blog!

Vitamins:

Vitamin C

Function: Plays a role in immune function, acts as antioxidant, helps collagen synthesis

Foods: Citrus Fruits, Bell Peppers, broccoli, strawberries

Recommended Daily Amount: 75 milligrams

Common Deficiencies: Scurvy (bleeding gums, bone pain, depression, fractures)

Vitamin A

Function: Aids in male and female reproductive processes, required for night and color vision

Foods: Liver, egg yolks, whole milk, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables

Recommended Daily Amount: 700-900 micrograms

Common Deficiencies: blindness, infection, impaired reproductive functions

Vitamin D

Function: support bone health

Foods: Fatty fish (salmon and tuna), egg yolks, orange juice, fortified milk

Recommended Daily Amount: 600 IU (international units)

Common Deficiencies: osteoporosis, increased risk of certain cancers and autoimmune diseases (Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis)

Vitamin E

Function: protects cell membranes from free radicals that can hard cells, tissues and organs

Foods: olive oil, avocado, wholegrain cereals

Recommended Daily Amount: 19 milligrams

Common Deficiencies: hemolytic anemia (early destruction of red blood cells)

Vitamin K

Function: aids in blood clotting and bone health

Foods: Brussel sprouts, broccoli, leafy green vegetables, soybeans

Recommended Daily Amount: 90-120 mircograms

Common Deficiencies: Low levels of Vitamin K could lead to increased bone fractures and impaired blood clotting

B Vitamins (Niacin, Riboflavin,Thiamin, 6, 12)

Function: B12 (breaking down fats and proteins), B6 (breakdown carbohydrates and fats), Niacin (using and storing energy), Thiamin (brain and nerve function) Riboflavin (make and transport energy and helps with brain function)

Foods: B12 (animal products), B6 (meats, whole grains and vegetables), Niacin (chicken, fish, tomatoes, leafy vegetables), Thiamin (whole grains, asparagus, kale, cauliflower), Riboflavin (milk, cheese, leafy vegetables, beans, mushrooms)

Recommended daily amount: B12 (2.4mcg), B6 (1.3mg), Niacin (16mg), Thiamin (1.2mg)  Riboflavin (1.3mg)

Common deficiencies: B12 (anemia, depression, paranoia), B6 (anemia, skin disorders), Niacin (digestive issues and confusion), Thiamin (very uncommon)  Riboflavin (very uncommon)

Minerals:

Calcium

Function: strengthen bones and teeth, needed for muscle contraction, helps with cellular metabolism and nerve transmission

Foods: Diary products, almonds, green leafy vegetables

Recommended Daily Amount: 1000mg

Common Deficiencies: osteoporosis, risks of high blood pressure and colon cancer

Magnesium

Function: participates in muscle contraction, supports activity in the cells, assists enzymes in chemical reactions within the body

Foods: nuts, seeds, legumes, leafy green vegetables

Recommended Daily Amount: 310-400 milligrams

Common Deficiencies: increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood press and type 2 diabetes

Iron

Function: carries oxygen throughout the body, helps with neurotransmitter production, aids in energy metabolism and other chemical reactions

Foods: Lean meat, green leafy vegetables, legumes

Recommended Daily Amount: 8mg (18mg for premenopausal women)

Common Deficiencies: anemia (iron is the most common nutrient deficiency)

Chromium

Function: enhances effects of insulin, helps metabolism fats and carbohydrates

Foods: whole grains, nuts, dark chocolate

Recommended Daily Amount: 25-35mcg

Common Deficiencies: impaired glucose tolerance

Zinc

Function: helps with proper function of enzymes and is critical for growth and sexual maturation

Foods: lean meat, chicken, fish, pumpkin seeds

Recommended Daily Amount: 8-11mg

Common Deficiencies: delayed growth and sexual maturation, gastrointestinal distress

Potassium

Function: Electrolyte that conducts electrical impulses through the body

Foods: fruits, leafy greens, carrots, lean meats, beans and nuts

Recommended Daily Amount: 4,700 milligrams

Common Deficiencies: Hypokalemia

A great way to get all of these essential micronutrients are through eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, proteins and grains. If you eat whole, healthy foods you will likely be consuming all of the needed nutrients above and have no worries of deficiencies. If you find yourself coming up short with actually eating them all, i would suggest some kind of greens supplement or multi-vitamin. Make sure you check the labels so there aren’t any added fillers or unwanted chemicals in them, the pharmaceutical world is getting sneaky!

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