Micronutrients - Nutrients With Elementary Importance
Besides the macronutrients proteins, fats and carbohydrates which are needed in bigger amounts, there are the micronutrients (Greek micro = small). Micronutrients are the essential vitamins and minerals (including trace elements) as well as the phytochemicals. Vitamins and minerals cannot be built from the body itself. They are contained in the different foods in varied amounts. Especially vegetables and fruit are rich in micronutrients.
In opposite to the macronutrients, micronutrients do not provide any energy. Nevertheless, they have vital functions for the body. Concerning metabolic processes and preserving tissue, they play a central role 1. They are also involved in cell growth, developing blood and hormones, impulse transmission, building up muscles and regeneration and they are also part of the immune system as antioxidants. Moreover, micronutrients are indispensable for healthy bones 2. This is the reason why five portions of fruit and vegetables a day are recommended, it optimizes the intake of micronutrients.
The body only needs small amounts of micronutrients. But because of a defective diet, many people cannot cover the daily needs.
Overview Of The Micronutrients
Below an overview of all as essential indentified micronutrients:
- Iron (list of foods containing iron)
- Potassium (list of foods rich in potassium)
- Calcium (list of foods with calcium)
- Copper (foods rich in copper)
- Magnesium (list of foods with magnesium)
- Manganese (foods containing manganese)
- Sodium (foods containing sodium)
- Phosphorus (foods with phosphorus)
- Selenium (list of foods rich in selenium)
- Zinc (list of foods that contain zinc)
Below an overview of all as essential indentified vitamins:
- Folic Acid (foods containing folic acid)
- Vitamin A (retinol; foods with vitamin A)
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine; foods that contain vitamin B1)
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin; foods containing vitamin B2)
- Vitamin B3 (niacin; foods with niacin)
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid; foods that contain vitamin B5)
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, pyridoxal, pyridoxamine; foods containing vitamin B6)
- Vitamin B7 (biotin)
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin; list of foods rich in vitamin B12)
- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid; foods that contain vitamin C)
- Vitamin D (calciferous; list of foods with vitamin D)
- Vitamin E (tocopherol; foods with vitamin E)
- Vitamin K (phyllochinone; foods that contain vitamin K1)
Deficiency Of Micronutrients
Our organism can only save small amounts of micronutrients. Even a short period of deficiency can lead to deficiency symptoms like fatigue, muscle weakness or muscle cramps. If the deficiency of micronutrients is not fixed for a longer period of time, serious health damages like cancer and cardiovascular diseases can be caused 3.
According to studies, a lack of micronutrients can also lead to a damage of the DNA 4. As well, it is proven that the quarter of the population with the lowest consumption of fruit and vegetables has a risk twice as high as the quarter that consumes the highest amount of fruit and vegetables.
Athletes Have A Higher Need Of Micronutrients
Caused by many metabolic processes, that are active during physical activities, there can be a higher need of micronutrients 5. Intensive sporting and professional activities contribute to a formation of sweat, which leads to a higher loss of several micronutrients (e.g. calcium, sodium, zinc, magnesium).
Excess Of Micronutrients
Consumed in high amounts, vitamins and minerals can have a toxic effect or even cause cancer.
The Amounts Of Micronutrients Are Influenced By Many Factors
Keep in mind that vitamins are destroyed by heat and they also get lost during storage. Parts of the minerals are rinsed out while contact with water, for instance cooking or soaking, that reduces the food's percentage of micronutrients. So save some of them, you can use the water as a basis for sauces soups or stocks. Highly processed foods also contain lower amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Additionally, antinutrients like phytic acid or oxalic acid inhibit the absorption of certain minerals, so that most of them are excreted unused. These acids are contained in pulses, seeds, nuts and dark green vegetables in higher amounts. By processing the foods (cooking, soaking, fermenting), you can reduce the acidity and improve the bioavailability of the nutrients 6.
What Do Vegans Have To Consider?
Vegans especially have to have an eye on supplying sufficient amounts of vitamin B12, B2 and vitamin D (mainly in the winter months). There can also be a deficiency of the minerals iodine, iron, zinc, calcium and selenium (see potential nutrient deficiency with vegan diet). Nonetheless, according to examinations, with a balanced diet and the revenue of supplements or enriched products there is no need to worry about deficiencies 7.