The term “macronutrients” is used frequently in the health and fitness world, and for the right reasons. Your macronutrients consist of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. This is how people record and monitor the quantity of each macronutrient they consume daily to weekly with the goal of either to lose, gain or maintain body weight.
However, the term heard less often is micronutrients. Often a neglected aspect of the diet; but why don’t people record this element too? It can be argued that it is just as important to be hitting the recommended daily allowance of the different micronutrients. The reasons for this will be highlighted in this article by showing you the importance and benefit of micronutrients for overall health and body functioning.
What are micronutrients?
Micronutrients are substances required by the body in order to facilitate normal bodily functioning. In an overview, they are crucial for the production of enzymes, hormones and other substances that are key for key processes within the body (World Health Organisation). The two major micronutrients are vitamins and minerals.
Vitamins & Their Benefits
There are 13 essential vitamins and they can be grouped into 2 categories – fat and water-soluble. There are 4 fat-soluble vitamins and 9 water-soluble vitamins. All of these vitamins play different roles in the functioning of your body. In summary, these are just some of the roles vitamins play:
- Maintenance of normal skin – Vitamin A
- Maintenance of normal bones – Vitamin D
- Maintenance of hair – Biotin
- Contributes to normal psychological function – Vitamin B6
- Contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism, normal function of the nervous system, normal red blood cell formation – Vitamin B12
- Contributes to normal collagen formation and the normal function of gums – Vitamin C
- Contributes to normal collagen formation and the normal function of teeth – Vitamin C
- Contributes to normal blood clotting – Vitamin K
- Contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism – Vitamin B1
These are only some of the roles vitamins play. There are so many other functions that the vitamins mentioned above (and the ones missed) play on body growth, repair and maintenance.
If you really struggle to eat enough foods such as fruit and vegetables which are filled with vitamins, multivitamin complexes are a great alternative without having to take numerous different tablets!
Are you beginning to see why micronutrients should be important in your diet? Let’s move on to minerals.
Minerals & Their Benefits
Minerals can be classed as inorganic substances, similar to vitamins, which have many different functions. Again, like all of the micronutrients, they are only needed in small amounts. But do not underestimate their significance. They can be split up into two categories also – major minerals and trace minerals.
Major Minerals consist of:
- Contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism – Calcium
- Contributes to normal muscle function – Calcium
- Contributes to normal neurotransmission – Calcium
- Contributes to normal protein synthesis – Magnesium
- Contributes to normal muscle function – Magnesium
- Contributes to normal function of the nervous system – Magnesium
- Phosphorus contributes to the maintenance of normal bones – Phosphorus
- Phosphorus contributes to the maintenance of normal teeth – Phosphorus
- Potassium contributes to normal functioning of the nervous system – Potassium
- Potassium contributes to normal muscle function – Potassium
- Potassium contributes to the maintenance of normal blood pressure – Potassium
- Chloride contributes to normal digestion by production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach – Chloride
Trace Minerals consist of:
- Iron contributes to normal formation of red blood cells and haemoglobin
- Iron contributes to normal oxygen transport in the body
- Fluoride contributes to the maintenance of tooth mineralisation – Fluoride
- Selenium contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress – Selenium
- Chromium contributes to the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels – Chromium
Food sources high in minerals are generally; fish, nuts, seeds, legumes and vegetables.
So as you can see, even though you only need to consume small quantities of vitamins and minerals, they have a huge impact all over the body to keep you fit and healthy.
The advice we would give is to check up on your diet and see what vitamins and minerals you are obtaining through your meals. Are you missing any of them? If so, can you add foods to improve your vitamin or mineral content? Or, if you struggle to incorporate this, vitamin and mineral supplements can be a great alternative.
Micronutrients should be considered and incorporated appropriately into any diet, as the long term benefits won’t necessarily be noticed, but you will appreciate them.
About the Authors
Connor Stead and Andrew Triggs are Sport and Exercise Science students who write about training, nutrition and supplementation in exercise. Their background in sport comes mainly from football where they coach and compete at university level. More recently, they have started giving training and nutritional advice through Instagram (@trainingwithscience).