Now that we completed understanding macro-nutrients, it is time to understand micro-nutrients and their role in health. Micro-nutrients are essential parts of food that is required in small amounts. These include vitamins such as A, B, K etc and minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc etc. Vitamins are required for a healthy immune system, converting food to energy, healthy eye sight and so on, where as minerals help in fluid balance, growth, muscle functioning. We need to obtain most of the vitamins and minerals from food since our body cannot make some of them. So what are the different kinds of micro-nutrients and how do we get sufficient amount?
Disclaimer: I am neither a nutritionist or a fitness adviser. I don’t have any certification. Take all my advice with a pinch of salt. I have been into health and fitness since 2008 and that is probably my only credibility. I am not liable for any health issues that might arise following my advice. Risk is all yours.
Vitamins come in two flavors -- water soluble and fat soluble vitamins. Water soluble vitamins as the name implies, dissolve readily in water and when we have excess vitamins, these get flushed out in urine. Since our body does not store these vitamins, you need to replenish them through food frequently. Examples of water soluble vitamins are B and C vitamins. The B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12) help in converting food to energy, generation of new red blood cells, maintaining healthy brain functions etc. Food rich in B vitamins include whole grain, meat, fish, eggs, milk, beans, green leafy vegetables, potatoes etc. Vitamin C is most well known for its role in improving immune system among many other benefits. Food rich in Vitamin C include citrus fruits (lemons, oranges etc) and peppers (red, green etc).
Fat soluble vitamins do not dissolve in water and hence should be taken with fat. Unlike water soluble vitamins, fat soluble vitamins can be stored in your body in fat tissue and can be used later when needed. Vitamins A, D, E, K are fat soluble vitamins. Vitamin A can be found in carrots, spinach. Vitamin D is available for free and in abundance in sunlight :) and also can be found in milk. Vitamin E can be found in almonds and K can be found in green leafy vegetables.
Minerals also come in two flavors -- macro minerals and trace minerals. Macro minerals are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium etc. You can find them in milk products, green leafy vegetables, fish, nuts, salt, bananas etc. Trace minerals such as iron, manganese, zinc, iodine can be found in beans, green leafy vegetables, nuts, fruits etc.
Sources of Vitamins and Minerals
Your best source for micro-nutrients are a variety of fruits, vegetables (especially green leafy vegetables), beans, nuts, dairy products and meat. You can also supplement with multi-vitamin tablets, but it is rarely necessary if you eat healthy nutritious food. Your cakes, biscuits and chips will have zero nutrition (hence called empty calories), so skip all of the junk and replace with the healthy ones and you will never be deficient. Since excess water soluble vitamins cannot be stored in body, there is no issue of toxicity if you overdose on them. While fat soluble vitamins can be stored in the body, you will never get too much of it from food. But if you are supplementing, they may become toxic if taken in excess. There are some cases of vitamin A toxicity for example, not because they were eating a lot of carrots, but taking vitamin A tablets in excess.
- Micro-nutrients are required in small amounts
- Micro-nutrients are vitamins and minerals
- Vitamins can be water soluble or fat soluble
- Minerals can be macro minerals or trace minerals
- Best sources of micro-nutrients are a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, nuts, dairy products and meat