Understanding Micronutrients: Types, Deficiency, Benefits And Foods

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Published on: 16-Nov-2023

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Shrabani Pattnaik

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Understanding Micronutrients: Types, Deficiency, Benefits And Foods

Understanding Micronutrients: Types, Deficiency, Benefits And Foods

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In the denizen diary of nutrition, our focus is usually more centred towards macronutrients (proteins, carbs, fats) rather than micronutrients, which are truly important for our health and well-being.


Micronutrients are essential nutrients your body needs in small amounts to function properly. They include vitamins and minerals and play a role in nearly every process in your body, from energy production to immune function and growth and development.


Here, we will explore micronutrients, their types, benefits and deficiencies. We will also focus on the difference between macronutrients and micronutrients. So, to learn about more micronutrients, keep reading the blog!


Table Of Contents 

  1. What Are Micronutrients?

  2. What Are The Types Of Micronutrients? 

  3. Why Are Micronutrients Important?

  4. Understanding Micronutrient Deficiency 

  5. Difference Between Macronutrients and Micronutrients

  6. Top 10 Micronutrient-Enriched Foods 

  7. The Final Say

  8. FAQs

  9. References 

What Are Micronutrients?

Micronutrients definition stands for the nutritional substances that our body needs in small amounts compared to macronutrients. But the small quantities of these things do not make them nonessential. 


Micronutrients are important for many physiological processes, such as energy production, bone repair, immunity, and neurological function, but the body cannot synthesise them; they must be obtained through food.


What Are The Types Of Micronutrients? 


The list of micronutrients can be broadly categorised into two groups: 


1. Vitamins

Vitamins are e­ssential organic compounds that play a variety of roles in our body's me­tabolism, immune system function, and overall well-being. Micronutrient vitamins can be divided into:  


A) Water-Soluble Vitamins

These are the vitamins that are easily dissolved in water. These include vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, and vitamin B. Vitamin C helps promote collagen synthesis, aids in healing the skin (wounds) and supports immune response. 


In contrast to fat-soluble vitamins, which can be used for several days since they are stored in your body, water-soluble vitamins must be taken daily.


B) B-Complex Vitamins

These include different vitamins B, such as 

  • B1 (thiamine)

  • B2 (riboflavin)

  • B3 (niacin)

  • B5 (pantothenic acid)

  • B6 (py B complex of vitamins)


Also Read: Vitamin B3 Foods and Functions in the Body 


C) Fat-Soluble Vitamins

These are essential nutrients that dissolve in fat and are stored in the body's fatty tissues. These vitamins include A, D, E, and K and require dietary fat for absorption.

  • Vitamin A: Necessary for eyesight, immunity, and healthy skin.

  • Vitamin D: Essential for calcium uptake and osteoporosis prevention.

  • Vitamin E: An antioxidant which helps prevent cell death.

  • Vitamin K: Required for Blood Clotting and Bone Metabolism

2. Minerals

Mine­rals are inorganic eleme­nts that contribute to crucial processes like maintaining strong bones, transmitting nerve signals, balancing fluids, and transporting oxyge­n. Minerals can be further divided into two categories:  


A) Major Minerals

  • Calcium: Essential for healthy teeth and bones.

  • Potassium: Required for the nervous system and muscles.

  • Magnesium: Supports muscle and nerve function, bone health, and energy production.

B) Trace Minerals

  • Iron: Necessary for manufacturing blood cells and haemoglobin.

  • Zinc: Key for immune response, wound healing and DNA synthesis.

  • Iodine: Needed to make thyroid hormone (which controls the metabolic rate).

Why Are Micronutrients Important?

Every single micronutrient is unique and performs different activities. They are not replaceable within the body. Here are some important micronutrient examples:

  • Vitamin A: Essential for eye health and immunity

  • Vitamin C: Helps produce collagen & aids the healing of wounds.

  • Vitamin D: Required for calcium absorption and healthy bones.

  • Iron: Essential for synthesising red blood cells and transporting oxygen.

  • Iodine: Required for proper thyroid function.

Understanding Micronutrient Deficiency 

Deficiency in micronutrients is a universal issue impacting many nations because of poor food habits and limited opportunities for nutrient-dense foods. 


Micronutrient deficiencies are commonly termed “Hidden Hunger”, meaning that starvation still exists despite sufficient food availability. Some common micronutrient deficiencies include:

 

  • Iodine Deficiency: Iodine deficiency is marked by low immunity and susceptibility to infections. It also leads to Goiter disease. Taking iodine-rich salt will prevent this problem.

  • Vitamin A Deficiency: Vitamin A deficiency results in night blindness. It may be observed by high rates of infection, especially diarrhoea and measles. It is known that dark-coloured foods such as rajma, spinach, sweet potato, etc, can help to treat this deficiency. 

  • Iron Deficiency: Anaemia caused by iron deficiencies is common and results in low immunity and tiredness. Other symptoms include dizziness, weakness and frequent headaches. Adding iron-rich foods such as beans, tofu, tomato, corn, etc can reduce this. 


Also Read: Vitamin D Deficiency In India: How To Address The Deficiency? 


Difference Between Macronutrients and Micronutrients 

With so many lists of nutrients, it’s often challenging to distinguish between macro and micronutrients. However, in this table, we will resolve this: 

Factors

Micronutrients

Macronutrients

Definition

Essential micronutrients are required in small quantities by the body.

Essential macronutrients are required in large quantities by the body.

Types

Vitamins and minerals

Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats

Quantity in Diet

Needed in trace amounts (milligrams or micrograms)

Needed in relatively large amounts (grams)

Energy Contribution

Do not provide calories (energy)

Provide calories (energy)

Role in Body

Facilitate various biochemical reactions, support the immune system, and promote overall health

Primary source of energy, tissue building, and metabolic functions

Examples

Vitamins (e.g., vitamin C, vitamin D) and minerals (e.g., iron, calcium)

Carbohydrates (e.g., sugars and fibre), proteins (e.g., meat, beans), and fats (e.g., oils, butter)

Absorption and Storage

Absorbed and stored in small quantities by the body. Excess is excreted.

Absorbed and stored in larger quantities. Excess can be stored as fat for future energy use.

Deficiency and Excess

Deficiency can lead to specific health issues (e.g., scurvy due to vitamin C deficiency).

Excess consumption can lead to weight gain and related health problems (e.g., obesity).

Dietary Sources

Found in a wide variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fortified products.

It is found in grains, meats, dairy products, and oils.

Top 10 Micronutrient-Enriched Foods 


To enhance your intake of essential micronutrients, here are the top 10 best foods that you can include in your diet:

Food Group

Key Nutrients

Benefits

Food Varieties

Nuts & Seeds

Iron, Zinc, Selenium, Magnesium, Vitamin E

  • Supports immune function 

  • Promotes heart health

  • Enhances cognitive function

Pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, almonds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts

Leafy Greens

Vitamin K, Iron, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium

  • Supports bone health

  • Aids in blood clotting

  • Boosts immune system

Lettuce, kale, spinach, fenugreek leaves, radish greens

Legumes

Potassium, Magnesium, Iron

  • Provides sustained energy 

  • Supports muscle health

  • Aids digestion

Black beans, kidney beans, soybeans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, peanuts

Dairy & Alternatives

Vitamin D, Calcium

  • Strengthens bones and teeth 

  • Supports heart health 

  • Promotes skin health

Milk, cottage cheese, curd, almond milk, coconut milk, yoghurt

Fish

Selenium, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin D

  • Supports brain health 

  • Reduces inflammation 

  • Promotes heart health

Sardines, salmon, tuna

Whole Grains

Magnesium, Iron, B Vitamins

  • Sustains energy levels

  • Aids digestion

  • Supports cognitive function

Oats, brown rice, quinoa

Citrus Fruits

Vitamin C, Potassium

  • Boosts immune system

  • Promotes skin health

  • Aids in digestion

Lemons, oranges

Eggs

Protein, Selenium, B Vitamins, Vitamin D

  • Builds and repairs tissues

  • Supports vision health 

  • Enhances bone health

Eggs

Berries

Antioxidants

  • Fights inflammation

  • Supports heart health

  • Boosts cognitive function

Various types of berries

Dark Chocolate

Magnesium, Iron, Selenium

  • Enhances mood

  • Promotes heart health 

  • Provides antioxidants

Dark chocolate (70% cocoa content)

The Final Say

Micronutrients are required in small percentages in our bodies, but their impact is big. They prevent several deficiencies, support our metabolism, and improve immunity and our overall health. With micronutrients, vitamins and minerals in the diet, we can make our living sustaining and our body fit. 


FAQ

1. What are some micronutrients in plants?

You will find most of the edible plants rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron, making them valuable sources to be included in our plate every day. 


2. Will dairy products have micronutrients?

Yes, dairy products contain micronutrients like vitamin D and calcium. They are very much essential for our bone building and health. 


3. Why do we need micronutrient vitamins?

Micronutrients are like moderators of our health. They prevent diseases, boost our immune system and also help in digestion and metabolism. 


4. Any side effects of eating different types of micronutrients?

No, they are required in adequate amounts. Too much consumption can lead to hyperaccumulation, and it may be dangerous. 


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