The role of micronutrients
Published 2:26 pm Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Last week we learned about macronutrients. This week, let’s continue our study with their counterparts, micronutrients.
Micronutrients are dietary components the body needs in smaller quantities. They can be described as tiny but mighty nutrients that provide a wide range of benefits to the body. So what’s the difference between macronutrients and micronutrients?
Macronutrients and micronutrients can be thought of as the body’s “big picture” and “fine details,” respectively. Micronutrients are vitamins, minerals and trace elements that are required for various processes such as metabolism, immune performance and cognitive function, and their deficiency may lead to a range of health challenges.
Vitamins are organic compounds the body needs in smaller quantities for various essential functions. Specific vitamins have different functions, as they play a crucial role in processes such as metabolism, immune system function and cellular growth and repair. In general, vitamins act as coenzymes or cofactors, which are necessary for the proper functioning of enzymes, the proteins that catalyze biochemical reactions in the body.
For example, vitamin A is essential for vision, immune system function and skin health, while vitamin D is important for bone health and immune system regulation. Vitamin C is necessary for collagen synthesis, wound healing and immune system function, while vitamin E is involved in antioxidant defense and cellular membrane stability. Vitamin K is required for blood clotting and bone health, while B complex vitamins are involved in energy production, neurotransmitter synthesis and DND repair.
Dietary minerals are inorganic substances that are essential for the human body to carry out various physiological functions. Even though minerals are considered micronutrients, they too can be subdivided into two categories: macrominerals and trace minerals.
Macrominerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride are needed in larger amounts, typically at least 100 milligrams per day. Trace minerals such as iron, zinc, copper, manganese, iodine, choline and selenium are required in smaller amounts, typically less than 100 milligrams per day.
Some of the primary functions of dietary minerals in the body include building and maintaining healthy bones, regulating fluid balance, supporting nerve function, energy metabolism and immune function.
Other micronutrients include the co-enzyme Q10, probiotics, phytochemicals and essential fatty acids.
The most advantageous way to obtain micronutrients is through a balanced and varied diet that includes a wide range of nutrient-rich foods. Some folks with specific conditions or in certain environments should take advantage of nutritional supplementation. These groups include pregnant and breastfeeding women, vegetarians, vegans and older adults.
Also, though a balanced and varied diet may provide adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients, most populations need to take supplements to prevent deficiency.
David Crocker is a nutritionist and master personal trainer. Questions? Email David at email@example.com or text to 864-494-6215.