What are Micronutrients

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Micronutrients play a critical role in human health and development, despite only being needed in small quantities by the body.

What are Micronutrients?

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that every organ system in the body needs for proper functioning. These micronutrients are responsible for hormone production, energy metabolism, cellular growth, heart rate, and pH balance in the body, among hundreds of other key functions. All vitamins, both water-soluble and fat-soluble, are considered micronutrients, as are all minerals, even though some are needed in larger quantities than others. Antioxidants are also grouped into micronutrients by some experts, but they aren’t the focus of this particular article.

If you don’t consume the proper amounts of minerals and vitamins, you will experience micronutrient deficiency, which can lead to a wide range of unwanted side effects. Some of the most common types of these deficiencies include the following:

Flatline pic of hand holding a card saying 'I' surrounded by dried fruits, fruits, fish, greens, egg, seaweed, and salt, placed on a blue surface.

Our food contains micronutrients that are essential for the body. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Even if the daily recommendation is only a few milligrams of these nutrients, it is essential that you shape your diet to include what your body needs.

Types of Micronutrients

The primary types of micronutrients are vitamins and minerals, although some minerals are considered macrominerals and others are called microminerals.

Micronutrient Foods

The best foods that contain high concentrations of micronutrients are green leafy vegetables, fruits, seeds, and whole grains, among others.

Fruits

Starting your morning off with various fruits can deliver high levels of vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, fiber, vitamin A, folate, and potassium.

Leafy Vegetables

These vegetables are often rich sources of vitamin K, C, A, and folate, as well as iron and calcium.

Seeds

Seeds are very impressive sources of minerals, including copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, calcium, and vitamin B.

Legumes

These popular foods are rich in iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium, as well as B vitamins, fiber, and various phytonutrient antioxidants.

Whole Grains

If you eat whole grains regularly, you will be increasing your magnesium, iron, selenium, and B vitamin levels, which can benefit your health in a number of ways.

Benefits of Micronutrients

The primary health benefits of micronutrients include their ability to produce digestive enzymes, aid in hormone production, boost the metabolism, and improve cognition, among others.

Digestion

Vitamins play a key role in the production of digestive enzymes, without which we wouldn’t be able to properly break down our food to access more of those important nutrients. Other micronutrients can help maintain a healthy bacterial balance in our gut.

Metabolism

B vitamins are particularly critical to metabolic functions throughout the body, but other minerals and vitamins are also necessary to synthesize DNA and encourage cellular reproduction for repair and healing purposes.

Brain Health

Without micronutrients, the brain would have very little protection from oxidative stress and inflammation, which can quickly lead to plaque deposition and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as poor memory retention and concentrations skills.

Hormone Production

One of the key functions of these nutrients in our diet is in the production of hormones. This can affect every part of our body, from our mood and anxiety levels to muscle pain, fatigue, weakness, cramping, and sexual performance.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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