In our last post “THE IMPORTANCE OF THE THREE MACRONUTRIENTS – PROTEIN, CARBOHYDRATES AND FATS IN OUR BODY” we discussed the significance and role of the three macronutrients namely protein, carbohydrates and fats in our body. Here we are going to discuss the other form of nutrients called “micronutrients” which even though are not required in ‘macro ’ proportions by our body, nonetheless, play equally important role in the day to day functioning of the body.
Micronutrients basically consist of many vitamins and minerals out of which approximately 40 are essential to us and each of them plays a pivotal role in metabolism and the maintenance of tissue function. This includes energy production, cell division, replication, the growth, maintenance and function of our brains, heart, blood production, immune system, lung, skin, bone, muscle, etc. Micronutrients are said to play an important role in our body and depletion of few micronutrients can cause illness or certain harmful effects. Therefore, one should regularly get laboratory tests done to check if the body is deficient in any micronutrient in particular. A lot of diseases/illnesses can be prevented or treated by maintaining optimum amount of these nutrients in our body. Here we will discuss some important micronutrients along with their role and function in our body.
- Vitamin A: Our bodies require vitamin A for clear vision along with cell differentiation and bone health too. It supports immune function. Vitamin A also aids both male and female reproductive processes. Recommended daily dosage is between 700-900 micrograms. Animal foods like egg yolk, whole milk, yellow/orange fruits and green leafy vegetables are good source of vitamin A.
- Vitamin B1: Also known as “Thiamin”; this water soluble vitamin assists in carbohydrate and amino acid metabolism. The recommended daily dosage is between 1.1 and 1.2 mg. Sources include cereals, grains, beans and peas.
- Vitamin B2: This vitamin is also known as Riboflavin and assists in carbohydrate and fat metabolism. The recommended daily dosage is between 1.1 and 1.3 mg and its sources include dairy products, cereals and whole grains.
- Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 helps in protein and carbs synthesis and also supports nervous system and blood cell synthesis. The main sources of Vitamin B6 are meat, poultry, bananas, potatoes, sunflower seeds and oil etc. The allowed intake is in between 1.3 to 1.7 mg daily.
- Vitamin B12: This essential nutrient helps in maintaining healthy nerve cells and also produces DNA, the body’s genetic structure. It also keeps our body’s blood cells healthy. There are no known vegetable sources of Vitamin B12 and it has to be taken from animal sources only. The Recommended dietary Allowance (RDA) is 2.4 micro grams.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is required for growth and repair of tissues in our body and it helps the body to make collagen which is a type of protein required to make skin, blood and bone vessels. It is an important nutrient for healing wounds and bone and teeth health. Vitamin C is available in most of the fruits and vegetables and most abundantly in citrus fruits like oranges and lemons too. The RDA for this nutrient is 75-100 milligrams.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium in the body, thereby, assisting in growth and maintenance of bones and bone health respectively. The primary source of Vitamin D is sunlight and can also be acquired from fish, meat and eggs. The RDA is 600 IUs (international units)
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E is primarily an antioxidant which means it helps protect tissues from damage caused by free radicals which are harmful for cells and organs. It is also believed to play a role in anti-ageing properties of the body. The primary sources of Vitamin E are seeds, nuts and vegetable oils and the RDA is 19 mg.
- Vitamin K: It assists in the clotting of the blood and also plays an essential role in bone health. The daily dosage should be between 90-120 micrograms and major sources include leafy vegetables and soybeans.
- Calcium: We all know that calcium is the major ingredient to maintain healthy bones, gums and teeth. In addition to that it helps in blood clotting, muscle contraction, nerve transmission and cell metabolism. The RDA for calcium in human body is 1000 mg approximately and dairy products like milk, cheese along with vegetables like spinach and kale are major sources of calcium.
- Magnesium: Magnesiumis an essential nutrient for approximately 300 biochemical reactions of our body. It strives to maintain normal nerve and muscle function, supports a healthy immune system, keeps the heart beat steady, and helps bones remain strong. In addition to this it also helps to regulate blood glucose levels and aid in the production of energy and protein. RDA is 300-400 milligrams and green leafy vegetables, potatoes, whole grains and nuts & seeds can provide sufficient quantities of Magnesium in our body.
- Iron: It is a vital element of blood production in our body and also helps carry oxygen to different parts of the body. It also supports healthy nervous and immune system. Animal sources like poultry, fish, pork, legumes, spinach, and tomatoes are the biggest sources of iron.
- Zinc: Zinc is needed for body’s immune system to work properly and prevents cell damage. It is critical nutrient for growth and sexual maturation. It is also needed for the sense of smell and taste. Major sources include oysters, beef, clams and whole grains and the recommended dietary allowance is 9-15 mg.
Here we discussed all the major vitamins and minerals. In addition to these there are other minerals like potassium, copper, iodine, sodium, phosphorus and vitamins like vitamin b3, vitamin b5, vitamin b7 etc. which also play a vital role in maintaining a healthy body function. Each nutrient is as important as the other and each of them play a unique role in our body. A deficiency in any one of the nutrient will adversely affect our body health and general wellbeing. It is therefore recommended to have a balanced diet which combines macro and micronutrients in near perfect ratio so that your body can work at optimum levels. We would also like to recommend adding a good multivitamin/multi-mineral supplement to your daily diet in consultation with your doctor so that it can fill in the shortfall of the nutrients which your diet cannot fulfill sufficiently.