Micronutrients Explained

what are micronutrients

micronutrients definition



Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin with multiple functions in the body. It helps cells differentiate, an essential part of cell reproduction. It is a central component for healthy vision; vitamin A nourishes cells in various structures of the eye and is required for the transduction of light into nerve signals in the retina. It is required during pregnancy, stimulating normal growth and development of the fetus by influencing genes that determine the sequential growth of organs in embryonic development. It influences the function and development of sperm, ovaries and placenta and is a vital component of the reproductive process. Vitamin A micronutrient foods include:


- Eggs &Dairy

- Salmon and Fish

- Yellow Fruits &Vegetables

- Prunes

- Blueberries



Vitamin B1 is a water-soluble vitamin that the body requires to break down carbohydrates, fat and protein. Every cell of the body requires vitamin B1 to form adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Vitamin B1 is also essential for the proper functioning of nerve cells. Vitamin B1 micronutrient foods include:


- Whole Grains

- Meat

- Nuts

- Yeast Products

- Legumes



Vitamin B2 is a water-soluble vitamin that helps the body process amino acids and fats, activate vitamin B6 and folic acid, and helps convert carbohydrates to adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Under some conditions, vitamin B2 can act as an antioxidant. Vitamin B2 micronutrient foods include:


- Leafy Green Vegetables

- Fish

- Eggs &Dairy

- Meat &organ Meats

- Whole Grains


Vitamin B3 is required for cell respiration and helps release the energy in carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It also supports proper circulation and healthy skin, functioning of the nervous system, and normal secretion of bile and stomach fluids. It is used in the synthesis of sex hormones, treating schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, and as a memory-enhancer.

Vitamin B3 micronutrient foods include:


- Poultry &Meats

- Nuts

- Whole Grains

- Fish

- Dairy Products


Vitamin B5 plays an important role in releasing energy from sugars and fats. It is also important in the production of fats and also has a role in modifying the shape of proteins.

- Peas &Beans

- Whole Grains

- Meats

- Poultry

- Fruits



Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin and is part of the vitamin B complex. Vitamin B6 plays a role in the synthesis of antibodies by the immune system, which are needed to fight many diseases. It helps maintain normal nerve function and also acts in the formation of red blood cells. Vitamin B6 is also required for the chemical reactions needed to digest proteins. The higher the protein intake, the more the need for vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 micronutrient foods include:


- Bananas

- Potatoes

- Meats &Organ Meats

- Fish &Poultry

- Leafy Green Vegetables



Vitamin B9, also known as Folic acid, is a B vitamin necessary for cell replication and growth. Folic acid helps form building blocks of DNA, which holds the body's genetic information, and building blocks of RNA, needed for protein synthesis. Folic acid is most important, then, for rapidly growing tissues, such as those of a fetus, and rapidly regenerating cells, like red blood cells and immune cells. Vitamin B9 micronutrient foods include:


- Leafy Greens

- Fermented Foods

- Offal Meats

- Bran Cereals

- Tea



Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin needed for normal nerve cell activity, DNA replication, and production of the mood-affecting substance SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine). Vitamin B12 acts with folic acid and vitamin B6 to control homocysteine levels. An excess of homocysteine has been linked to an increased risk of coronary disease, stroke and other diseases such as osteoporosis and Alzheimer's. Vitamin B12 micronutrient foods include:


- Dairy Products

- Eggs

- Fish

- Meats

- Fermented foods


Vitamin C is an essential water-soluble vitamin that has a wide range of functions in the human body.

One of vitamin Cs important functions is acting as an antioxidant, protecting LDL cholesterol from oxidative damage. When LDL is damaged the cholesterol appears to lead to heart disease, but vitamin C acts as an important antioxidant protector of LDL. Vitamin C may also protect against heart disease by reducing the stiffness of arteries and the tendency of platelets to coagulate in the vein.


Vitamin C has a range of additional functions. It is needed to make collagen, a substance that strengthens many parts of the body, such as muscles and blood vessels, and plays important roles in healing and as an antihistamine. Vitamin C also aids in the formation of liver bile which helps to detoxify alcohol and other substances. Evidence indicates that vitamin C levels in the eye decrease with age and that vitamin C supplements prevent this decrease, lowering the risk of developing cataracts. Vitamin C micronutrient foods include:


- Berries

- Fruits esp. citrus

- Red Peppers &Tomatoes

- Broccoli &Spinach

- Sprouts



Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps maintain blood levels of calcium, by increasing absorption from food and reducing urinary calcium loss. Both functions help keep calcium in the body and therefore spare the calcium that is stored in bones. Vitamin D may also transfer calcium from the bone to the blood, which may actually weaken bones. Though the overall effect of vitamin D on the bones is complicated, some vitamin D is certainly necessary for healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin D micronutrient foods include:


- Fatty Fish

- Eggs

- Organ Meats

- Milk

- Sunlight


Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects cell membranes and other fat-soluble parts of the body, such as LDL cholesterol (the 'bad' cholesterol), from damage. Several studies have reported that supplements of natural vitamin E help reduce the risk of heart attacks.

Vitamin E also plays some role in the body's ability to process glucose. Some trials suggest that vitamin E may help in the prevention and treatment of diabetes.

In the last decade, the functions of vitamin E have been further clarified. In addition to its antioxidant functions, vitamin E has now been shown to directly effect inflammation, blood cell regulation, connective tissue growth and genetic control of cell division.

- Nuts &Seeds

- Avocado

- Vegtables and Vegetable Oils

- Whole Grains

- Organ Meats &Eggs


Vitamin H is actually part of the B-complex. It is involved in energy production, synthesis of fatty acids and support of nervous system growth

- Dairy Products

- Meat &Poultry

- Oats &Grains

- Soyabeans and Legumes

- Mushrooms &Nuts


Vitamin K is necessary for proper bone growth and blood coagulation. Vitamin K accomplishes this by helping the body transport calcium. Vitamin K is used to treat overdoses of the drug warfarin. Also, doctors prescribe vitamin K to prevent excessive bleeding in people taking warfarin but requiring surgery.

- Leafy Vegetables

- Whole Grains

- Eggs

- Polyunsaturated Oils

- Seaweed


Of all the essential minerals in the human body, Calcium is the most abundant. Calcium helps the body form bones and teeth and is required for blood clotting, transmitting signals in nerve cells, and muscle contraction. Calcium helps prevent osteoporosis; of the two to three pounds of calcium contained in the human body, 99% is located in the bones and teeth.

Calcium also seems to play a role in lowering blood pressure, and has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women.

- Dairy Products

- Fish w/bones

- Whole Grains, Seeds &Nuts

- Green Vegetables

- Beans


Present in the body as the chloride ion,this and sodium are essential to life. It is responsible in part for maintennance of membrane potential in nreves, nutrient absorption and transport, maintennance of blood volume and pressure, and many more fuctions.

- Table Salt

- Tap and Bottled Water

- Seafood

- Pickled foods

- Salted Foods


A trace element, chromium is essential in the production of a substance called glucose tolerance factor (GTF) which is important in the utilisation of insulin, a hormone which stabilises blood sugar. It is also involved in the synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol.

- Fermented Foods

- Whole Grains

- Dairy Products and Meats

- Grapes &Raisins

- Beets &Black pepper


Copper is a trace element that is essential for most animals, including humans. It is needed to absorb and utilize iron. The influence of copper upon health is due to the fact it is part of enzymes, which are proteins that help biochemical reactions occur in all cells. Copper is involved in the absorption, storage and metabolism of iron. The symptoms of a copper deficiency are similar to iron deficiency anemia. Copper may be absorbed by both the stomach and small intestinal mucosa, with most absorbed by the small intestine. Copper is found in the blood bound to proteins.

- Seafood

- Whole Grains &Nuts

- Meats &Organ Meats

- Legumes &Green Vegetables

- Molasses


Iodine aids in the development and functioning of the thyroid gland. It is an integral part of the hormone thyroxine, one of the thyroids major hormones. Thyroid hormones are essential for proper cellular metabolism.

- Shellfish

- Fish

- Seaweed

- Iodised Table salt

- Whole Grains


Iron is one of the human body's essential minerals. It forms part of hemoglobin, the component of the blood that carries oxygen throughout the body. People with iron-poor blood tire easily because their bodies are starved for oxygen. Iron is also part of myoglobin, which helps muscles store oxygen. With insufficient iron, adenosine triphosphate (ATP; the fuel the body runs on) cannot be properly synthesized. As a result, some iron-deficient people can become fatigued even when they are not anemic.

- Seafood &Fish

- Meat &Organ Meats

- Poultry &Eggs

- Fruit &Vegetables

- Whole Grains &Legumes


Magnesium is an essential mineral for the human body. It is needed for protein, bone, and fatty acid formation, making new cells, activating B vitamins, relaxing muscles, blood clotting and forming adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The production and use of insulin also requires magnesium.

Under certain circumstances magnesium has been found to improve vision in people with glaucoma. Similarly, magnesium has demonstrated an ability to lower blood pressure.

- Meat &Dairy

- Fish

- Whole Grains &Green Vegetables

- Nuts &Beans

- Fruits


Manganese is an essential trace mineral that is required in small amounts to manufacture enzymes necessary for the metabolism of proteins and fat. It also supports the immune system, blood sugar balance, and is involved in the production of cellular energy, reproduction and bone growth.

Manganese works with Vitamin K to support normal blood clotting. Working with the B-complex vitamins, manganese helps promote a positive outlook when faced with stress, frustration, and anxiety.

- Seeds &Nuts

- Whole Grains &Leafy Vegetables

- Berries &Fruit

- Eggs &Avocado

- Tea &Seaweed


Molybdenum is an essential trace mineral in animal and human nutrition. It is found in several tissues of the human body and is required for the activity of some enzymes that are involved in catabolism, including the catabolism of purines and the sulfur amino acids. Animals can be made molybdenum deficient by feeding them diets containing high amounts of tungsten or copper.

- Legumes

- Dark Leafy Green Vegetables

- Whole Grains

- Dairy Products

- Organ Meats


Phosphorus is an essential mineral that is usually found in nature combined with oxygen as phosphate. Most phosphate in the human body is in bone, but phosphate-containing molecules (phospholipids) are also important components of cell membranes and lipoprotein particles, such as good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol. Small amounts of phosphate are engaged in biochemical reactions throughout the body.

The role of phosphate-containing molecules in aerobic exercise reactions has suggested that phosphate loading might enhance athletic performance, though controlled research has produced inconsistent results.

- Fermented Foods

- Meats &Poultry

- Whole Grains &Seeds

- Dairy &Eggs

- Mushrooms &Vegetables


Potassium is an essential mineral needed to regulate water balance, levels of acidity and blood pressure. Potassium, together with sodium-potassium inside the cell and sodium in the fluid surrounding the cell, work together for the nervous system to transmit messages as well as regulating the contraction of muscles.

People with low blood levels of potassium who are undergoing heart surgery are at an increased risk of developing heart arrhythmias and an increased need for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Potassium is also required for carbohydrate and protein metabolism.

- Fruits &Vegetables

- Legumes &Whole Grains

- Seeds &Nuts

- Dairy &Meats

- Poultry &Fish


Selenium is an essential trace mineral. Selenium activates an antioxidant enzyme called glutathione peroxidase, which may help protect the body from cancer. Yeast-derived forms of selenium have induced "apoptosis" (programmed cell death) in cancer cells in test tubes and in animals. One study found that men consuming the most dietary selenium developed 65% fewer cases of advanced prostate cancer than did men with low levels of selenium intake.

Selenium is also essential for healthy immune functioning. Even in a non-deficient population of elderly people, selenium supplementation has been found to stimulate the activity of white blood cells. Selenium is also needed to activate thyroid hormones.

- Nuts &Seeds

- Whole Grains

- Fish &Shellfish

- Fermented Foods

- Organ Meats


Sodium functions with chloride and bicarbonate to maintain a balance of positive and negative ions (electrically charged particles) in our body fluids and tissues. The body receives sodium primarily in the form of table salt (sodium chloride). Sodium, the principal extracellular ion, has the property of holding water in body tissues.

Sodium is vital component of nerves as it stimulates muscle contraction. Sodium also helps to keep calcium and other minerals soluble in the blood, as well as stimulating the adrenal glands. High sodium levels can cause high blood pressure. Sodium aids in preventing heat prostration or sunstroke

- Table Salt

- Fermented Foods

- Fish, Shellfish &Seaweed

- Soy Products

- Peppers &Pickles


Sulphur is needed in the formation of the hormones and is a component of some amino acids. Important in the manufacture of many proteins, it also helps keeps your energy levels stable. Helps to keep hair, muscles and skin health and contributes to fat digestion and absorption. Found in insulin and helps to regulate blood sugar. Combines with toxins to neutralize them.

- Beans &Vegetables

- Meats &Eggs

- Fish &Garlic

- Fish

- Dairy Products


Zinc is an essential mineral with a wide variety of functions within the human body. Zinc is a component of over 300 enzymes needed to repair wounds, maintain fertility in adults and growth in children, synthesize protein, help cells reproduce, preserve vision, boost immunity, and protect against free radicals, among other functions.

- Whole Grains &Vegetables

- Meat &Poultry

- Fish &Shellfish

- Eggs &Dairy

- Seeds &Mushrooms


Flavonoids, an array of over 6,000 different substances found in virtually all plants and are responsible for many of the yellow, orange, and red plant colors. Most flavonoids function in the human body as antioxidants. In this capacity, they help neutralize overly reactive oxygen-containing molecules and prevent these overly reactive molecules from damaging parts of cells. Flavonoids have also been shown to play a role in fighting excessive inflammation and have also shown antiviral activity. Flavonoids are comprised of groups such as flavonols, dihydroflavonols, flavones, isoflavones, flavanones, anthocyanins, and anthocyanidins. Examples of flavonoids are quercetin, hesperidin and the soy isoflavones.

- Coloured Fruits

- Berries

- Cabbage, Onions and Parsley

- Soybeans and Soy products

- Tomatoes


Carotenoids represent one of the most widespread groups of naturally occurring pigments. Like Flavonoids, these compounds are largely responsible for the red, yellow, and orange color of fruits and vegetables, and are also found in many dark green vegetables. Many of the carotenoids are Vitamin A precursors, so help with Vitamin A deficiency. They also have strong antioxidant and immune enhancing activity and have been shown to play a role in enhancing cell communication. Carotenoids include molecules such as lutein, lycopene and beta cryptoxanthin.

- Carrots

- Tomatoes and Coloured Vegetables

- Sweet Potatoes

- Spinach

- Collard Greens


Lecithin is a fatlike substance called a phospholipid. It is produced daily by the liver if the diet is adequate. It is needed by every cell in the body and is a key building block of cell membranes. Lecithin protects cells from oxidation and largely comprises the protective sheaths surrounding the brain. It is composed mostly of B vitamins, phosphoric acid, choline, linoleic acid and inositol. Although it is a fatty substance, it is also a fat emulsifier. Hence, it supports the circulatory system. Its choline is used in the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

- Eggs

- Soyabeans

- Peanuts

- Organ Meats

- Supplements


Coenzyme Q lies at the heart of our cells and energy producing process. Special organelles (tiny organs) inside our cells, called mitochondria, take fat and other substances and convert them into usable energy. This process always requires coenzyme Q. In some cells, like heart cells, this energy conversion process can be the difference between life and death and so can the activity of coenzyme Q. Coenzyme Q is a well-established antioxidant used by the body to protect cells from oxygen damage. It is also referred to as ubiquinone.

- Organ Meats

- Fish

- Whole Grain Germ

- Poultry

- Supplements


Cholesterol is a component of cell membranes and a precursor for synthesis of steroid hormones and vitamin D. The compound is synthesized in the liver under feedback control by dietary cholesterol. Because sufficient amounts of cholesterol can be synthesized endogenously to meet physiological demands, dietary cholesterol is not considered an essential nutrient for adults and children over the age of 2 years. Cholesterol is lipid sterol compound found exclusively in foods of animal origin such as dairy products, eggs, beef, pork, lamb, poultry and fish. The most concentrated sources of dietary cholesterol are liver and other organ meats, egg yolk, and shellfish. Plants contain sterol analogues of cholesterol called phytosterols. Cholesterol is mentioned here more for reference purposes, as dietary cholesterol is not essential in humans over 2.

- Organ Meats

- Egg Yolks

- Shellfish

- Meat and Poultry

- Whole Milk


Other than the carotenoids and flavonoids, there are many other phytonutrients (nutrients from plants) that are consumed regularly and have a proven beneficial effect on health. These benefits include, antioxidant properties, antitumour, cardioprotective and neuroprotective properties. Some major examples are:

- Indoles: Cruciferous vegetables

- Sulphurophane: Cruciferous vegetables

- Alicin: Garlic, Onions.

- Genistein: Soy products (e.g., tofu)

- Polyphenols: Green Tea

- Anthocyanins: Wild blueberries, bilberries, black berries

- Limonoids: Citrus Fruits

- Capsaicin: Chilli and Peppers

- Sterols: Cruciferous vegetables, cucumbers, squash, sweet potatoes, soy foods, eggplant, whole grains, tomatoes

- Elegiac acid: Strawberries

- Lignans: Nuts and seeds

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