Food can be split into two categories; macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are the foods that we need to take in big quantities which are proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Micronutrients are those that are needed by the body in small or minute quantities and these include vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, phytonutrients and amino acids. There are about 53 known micronutrients. Though they are only needed in small quantities, a lack of micronutrients can lead to adverse health effects including deficiency diseases.
What Do They Do?
Micronutrients play a vital role in keeping your body healthy by building up resistance, assisting blood and oxygen flow, rebuilding muscles and making strong bones and teeth. Some examples are:
Vitamin A – Boosts immunity by triggering action by enzymes to resist invasion by foreign bodies.
B Vitamins – Essential for energy production. Maintains healthy skin and helps balance blood sugar. Essential to help your body utilise protein.
Vitamin C – Boosts metabolism and strengthens bones, collagen and joints. An antioxidant that protects against cancer and boosts your immune system.
Vitamin E – Improves wound healing, an antioxidant that can protect against cancer.
Calcium – Essential for bone and teeth strength.
Chromium – Helps regulate body blood sugar.
Copper – Helps in the formation of haemoglobin which makes the blood coagulate in case of an injury.
Iron – Helps the red blood cells carry oxygen, crucial for energy production.
Omega 3 – Good for the heart, anti-inflammatory, reduces cholesterol, healthy skin.
Potassium – Helps regulate blood sugar.
Zinc – Helps in the formation of strong teeth, bones and hair.
Where Can You Find Micronutrients?
Most vitamins and minerals are commonly found in higher quantities in fruits, and vegetables. Vitamin D is made in the skin, when exposed to sunlight. Sources of some other micronutrients include:
Vitamin A – Carrots, liver.
B Vitamins – Beef, fish, eggs, peas, mushrooms, broccoli, bananas.
Vitamin C – Peppers, oranges, broccoli, tomatoes.
Vitamin E – Seeds, nuts and wheat germ.
Calcium – Fresh milk, cheese, yogurt.
Chromium – Wholewheat, potatoes, rye, oysters.
Copper – Cocoa, poultry, nuts, soy beans.
Iron – Green leafy vegetables, red meat, liver.
Omega 3 – Fish, egg yolks.
Potassium – Cauliflower, spinach, banana.
Zinc – Nuts, ginger, oats.
Antioxidants – Fruits and vegetables.
What Happens When We Lack Micronutrients?
A lack of micronutrients can have lots of implications for your health, symptoms are varied and can include:
Lack of energy.
Poor immune system, frequent colds.
Poor hair, skin or nails condition.
Eczema or dermatitis.
Craving sweet food.
Micronutrients are as important in nutrition as macronutrients. A well balanced diet should feature foods rich in these vital nutrients to help your body function to it’s highest potential, fortunately most of the foods rich in micronutrients are tasty and help make meals delicious!