Micronutrients & Their Importance
Micronutrients are crucial to the day to day functions of your body.
Vitamins can be broken down into two categories, fat soluble and water soluble vitamins. The fat soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat soluble vitamins play an important role in overall health by promoting healthy bones, skin, eyesight, lungs and digestive health. When not being used by the body, fat soluble vitamins are stored in the liver and fat tissues as reserves - this means it can take a long time for fat soluble vitamins to be eliminated by the body. Because of this, very large doses of fat soluble vitamins can be toxic and cause adverse health effects . However, consuming fat soluble vitamins through diet alone usually does not pose any risk and it is easy to find fat soluble vitamins in common everyday foods. Avocados and almonds are high in vitamin E, carrots and sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, dark leafy green vegetables are high in vitamin K and fatty fish such as tuna and salmon are high in vitamin D2.
“Minerals are also micronutrients and they are classified as inorganic chemical structures, meaning that they do not contain a carbon atom versus vitamins that do contain a carbon atom.”
Water soluble vitamins consist of the B-complex vitamins and vitamin C. The human body is made up of mostly water, making it easy for vitamins B and C to be circulated throughout the body. Unlike fat soluble vitamins, there is no storage form of water soluble vitamins, so if there is an excess amount vitamins B and C then they are eliminated through urine1,3. Thus, it is important to consume the proper amounts of vitamins B-complex and C every day in order to meet the required daily amounts. Water soluble vitamins, specifically the B vitamins, play an essential role in converting the food that we eat into energy to be used by the body. Vitamin C also plays a major role in the functioning of the human body by boosting metabolism, acting as a powerful antioxidant and assisting in the formation of collagen helping to heal wounds. Water soluble vitamins are found mostly in plant based foods. B vitamins are found in whole grains, legumes, leafy green vegetables, mushrooms and some meat and poultry products. Vitamin C is found in fruits (especially citrus fruits) and vegetables3.
Minerals are also micronutrients and they are classified as inorganic chemical structures, meaning that they do not contain a carbon atom versus vitamins that do contain a carbon atom. Because of this, minerals are able to hold onto their chemical structure better than vitamins, which make it easier for the body to access minerals through the foods that we eat. Vitamins, on the other hand, are considered to be “vital” because their nutritional properties are more vulnerable to damage and can be lost through a number of cooking, storage and preparation methods8. Nevertheless, consuming the proper amount of minerals is just as important as consuming the proper amount of vitamins. The fact that vitamins are organic and minerals are inorganic only has to do with their basic chemical structure and does not mean that one is healthier or better for you than the other.
There are two different types of essential minerals; major minerals and trace minerals. The six major minerals are: sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphorous and magnesium and they are required in larger amounts by the body compared to the trace minerals. Major minerals are important for maintaining proper fluid balance and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) as well as helping to support bone, hair, skin and nail health.
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