Why You Need Micronutrients to Be Truly Healthy

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that are required in relatively small quantities. Below is an outline of the vitamins and minerals that are necessary for peak health in humans.

Water-Soluble Vitamins:

1. Vitamin B1 - Thiamin

The body requires vitamin B1 to help break down macronutrients (i.e. carbohydrates, fats and proteins). The body's cells need vitamin B1 to form adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Vitamin B1 is also crucial for the proper functioning of nerve cells.

Vitamin B1 food sources include:
- Fish
- Meat
- Nuts & Seeds
- Wheat
- Green peas
- Asparagus

2. Vitamin B2 - Riboflavin

Vitamin B2 helps to activate vitamin B6 and folic acid in the body. It aids in the process of converting carbohydrates to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and also helps process amino acids and fats.  

Like the other B vitamins, vitamin B2 is associated with the body's energy metabolism. It has been found to affect the metabolism of iron in significant ways.

Food sources that are rich in vitamin B2 include:
- Soybeans
- Leafy green vegetables (e.g. spinach, kale)
- Yoghurt
- Eggs
- Asparagus
- Almonds
- Mushrooms

3. Vitamin B3 - Niacin, Nicotinamide, Nicotinic Acid

Vitamin B3 comes in 3 forms: nicotinic acid, Niacinamide and Inositol Hexaniacinate. Vitamin B3 has been studied widely and shows positive results treating a broad range of many general health problems.

Vitamin B3 contributes massively to sustaining a healthy cardiovascular system and metabolism.  It helps balance the body's blood cholesterol levels. Vitamin B3 also helps with brain function and supports the formation of healthy skin.

 Foods that are rich in vitamin B3 include:
- Fish
- Meat
- Nuts (in particular peanuts)
- Sunflower seeds
- Avocado

4. Vitamin B5 - Pantothenic acid

Vitamin B5 is in all living cells within the body. Vitamin B5 plays a significant role in releasing energy from sugars and fats.

Vitamin B5 also plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy digestive tract, thus boosting the body's immunity.

Good sources of vitamin B5 include:
- Fish
- Avocados
- Eggs
- Meat (in particular pork, beef and chicken)
- Sunflower seeds

5. Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine, Pyridoxal, Pyridoxamine

Vitamin B6 is a vitamin that's known to help maintain a healthy metabolism, liver function, nerve function, eye health, skin health, and helps boost energy levels.

Vitamin B6 is required for the chemical reactions necessary to digest proteins. The more protein in your diet, the higher the need for vitamin B6.

Food sources that are high in vitamin B6 include:
- Bananas
- Seeds
- Meat
- Fish
- Spinach
- Avocados

6. Vitamin B7 – Biotin

Vitamin B7, formerly known as vitamin H, is involved in the body's production of energy, the synthesis of fatty acids and supports the growth of the nervous system.

Foods that are rich in vitamin B7 include:
- Organ meats
- Pork & Poultry
- Avocado
- Broccoli
- Mushrooms
- Spinach
- Nuts

7. Vitamin B9 - Folic Acid

Vitamin B9 is required for cell replication and growth. Vitamin B9 helps form the building blocks of DNA, holding the body's genetic information, and the building blocks of RNA, which is necessary for protein synthesis.

Good food sources of vitamin B9 include:
- Beans
- Lentils
- Spinach
- Asparagus
- Avocado
- Broccoli
- Oranges

8. Vitamin B12 - Cobalamin

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that helps contribute to your mood, memory, heart, skin, hair, energy level,  and digestion. Vitamin B12 is critical to supporting adrenal fatigue, multiple metabolic functions (including DNA synthesis, enzyme production, and hormonal balance) and sustaining healthy nervous and cardiovascular systems.

Food sources that are high in vitamin B12 include:
- Shellfish
- Fish
- Skim milk
- Meats
- Eggs

9. Vitamin C – Ascorbic Acid

Vitamin C has various functions in the body. It is necessary for the growth and repair of all tissues. Vitamin C helps the body produce collagen, an important protein used to make tendons, ligaments, skin, blood vessels and cartilage. Additionally, it is needed for healing wounds, and for repairing and maintaining bones and teeth. It also helps the body absorb iron from plant foods.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant. Antioxidants inhibit the oxidation of molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction damage that can produce free radicals, which are substances that may damage DNA. The build-up of free radicals over a period may be linked to the ageing process and contribute to the development of health conditions like cancer and heart disease.

Foods that are high in vitamin C include:
- Kiwifruit
- Kale
- Peppers
- Broccoli
- Berries (in particular strawberries)
- Citrus Fruits (oranges etc.)
- Tomatoes

Fat-Soluble Vitamins:

1. Vitamin A – Retinol, Retinal, Retinoic Acid

Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant. It plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy vision, neurological function, healthy skin, and more. Vitamin A helps reduce inflammation through fighting free radical damage.

Antioxidants like vitamin A are also attributable to building strong bones, controlling gene regulation, supporting healthy skin, aiding cell differentiation, and boosting immune functions.

Some of the best food sources of vitamin A include:
- Kumara
- Carrots
- Leafy green vegetables (e.g. spinach, kale)
- Dried apricots
- Blueberries
- Tuna

2. Vitamin D - Calcitriol

Vitamin D is stored in the liver and fatty tissues of the body. Vitamin D varies from other vitamins as the body makes most of its vitamin D itself, rather than wholly relying on food sources.

The body produces vitamin D by converting the sun's UV rays into chemicals that are used by the body. Cholesterol in the skin turns previtamin D and makes it into vitamin D3 (sometimes called provitamin D). Previtamin D travels through the kidneys and liver in the bloodstream and then turns into a biologically active and functional substance called calcitriol.

Sources that are high vitamin D include:
- Sunlight
- Cod liver oil
- Mushrooms (Portobello)
- Oily fish
- Tofu
- Eggs

3. Vitamin E - Alpha-Tocopherol

Vitamin E is an antioxidant which protects cell membranes and other parts of the body, such as LDL cholesterol, from damage. Vitamin E also plays a role in the body's capacity to process glucose.

In addition to being an antioxidant, vitamin E has been shown to affect inflammation, connective tissue growth, blood cell regulation, and genetic control of cell division.

Good sources of vitamin E include:
- Almonds
- Spinach
- Sunflower seeds
- Avocados
- Olive oil
- Fish

4. Vitamin K – Phylloquinone, Menaquinone

Vitamin K is stored in fat tissue and the liver of the body. Vitamin K is needed for bone growth and blood coagulation. It achieves this by supporting the transport of calcium in the body.

Food sources of vitamin K include:
- Herbs (basil, thyme, parsley)
- Green leafy vegetables (in particular kale and spinach)
- Spring onions
- Brussel sprouts
- Asparagus
- Olive oil

Major Minerals:

1. Calcium

Calcium helps the body form bones and teeth. It is also required for muscle contraction, blood clotting, and achieving nerve transmission. Of all the calcium contained in the body, 99% of it is stored in the bones and teeth.

Calcium helps prevent osteoporosis. Calcium also helps the regulation of the body's blood pressure.

In order to absorb calcium, your body also needs magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K.

Good sources of calcium include:
- Dairy products
- Kale
- Broccoli
- Almonds
- Green beans

2. Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral that's needed by the human body.
It is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions, including protein synthesis, controlling blood glucose levels, synthesising adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and the regulation of the body's blood pressure.

It's also necessary for healthy nerve and muscle function, the immune system, and supporting the development of the bone structure.

Good sources of magnesium include:
- Spinach
- Kale
- Nuts & seeds
- Fish
- Avocado
- Bananas

3. Sulfur

Sulphur is the third most abundant mineral in the human body, after calcium and phosphorous. It's an essential mineral element which you attain almost wholly through dietary proteins.

About half of the sulphur in the body can be found in muscles, skin and bones. However, it plays a major role in many bodily systems, including converting vitamins thiamine and biotin (which are vital for the conversion of carbohydrates into energy), synthesis of important metabolic intermediates (such as glutathione), and healthy insulin function.

Good dietary sources of sulphur include:
- Broccoli
- Cauliflower
- Kale
- Eggs
- Garlic
- Fish
- Meat
- Legumes

Trace Minerals:

1. Iron

Iron has many essential functions in the body. It produces the red blood cell haemoglobin, which transports oxygen to the brain, tissues, muscles and cells in the body. It also an integrated part of critical enzyme systems in various tissues.

When the body has insufficient iron levels, it cannot produce enough haemoglobin, and therefore it starves the body of oxygen; a process that's known as anaemia. On an extreme level, a chronic deficiency in iron may lead to organ failure.

Good sources of iron include:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Seafood
- Nuts
- Meat
- Beans
- Spinach

2. Chromium

Chromium is essential in the production of the substance glucose tolerance factor (GTF), which is significant in the utilisation of insulin. Chromium is also a vital nutrient that is required for sugar and fat metabolism.

Food sources high in chromium include:
- Shellfish
- Brazil Nuts
- Tomatoes
- Broccoli
- Pork

3. Copper

Copper is a micronutrient that is essential for humans. It is needed for infant growth, bone strength, red and white cell maturation, host defence mechanisms, iron transport, cholesterol and glucose metabolism, and development of the brain. Copper deficiency can be a cause of a possible inherited defect, such as Menkes syndrome.

Food sources of copper include:
- Seafood
- Kale
- Avocado
- Nuts & Seeds
- Chickpeas
- Beans

4. Fluoride

Fluoride in the body occurs as calcium fluoride. Therefore, much like calcium, almost 99% of the body’s fluoride resides in the bones and teeth.

Fluoride helps preserve our teeth from decay. It helps strengthen the surface of teeth, fights bacteria that can cause cavities and helps fix the early damage of tooth decay.

Good sources of fluoride include:
- Seedless raisins
- Shrimp
- Tap water

5. Iodine

Iodine is a vital nutrient for the human body. Although iodine is only required in trace amounts, it's an essential component of thyroid hormones.

Thyroid hormones maintain the body’s metabolic state and support stable growth and development in children. Iodine is particularly vital for healthy brain development.

Some of the best sources of iodine are:
- Shellfish
- Shrimp
- Fish
- Seaweed
- Iodised Table Salt

6. Manganese

Manganese is found mostly in bones, kidneys, liver and pancreas. Manganese helps the body form bones, blood-clotting factors, connective tissue and sex hormones. It also plays a role in the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates, regulation of blood sugar levels and calcium absorption. Manganese is essential for healthy brain and nerve function.

Good sources of manganese include:
- Seafood
- Nuts & Seeds
- Bread
- Beans
- Fish
- Spinach
- Whole grains (brown rice)

7. Molybdenum

Molybdenum has been shown to be necessary for the activity of at least seven enzymes in the human body, and numerous body systems depend on these enzymes for support. Important functions of molybdenum include its promotion in the body's optimal balance of sulphur, and that it aids in the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.

Good sources of molybdenum include:
- Lentils
- Dried peas
- Beans
- Oats

8. Selenium

Selenium is a mineral that acts as an antioxidant, helping protect the body against damage. Selenium supports the regulation of blood pressure and helps maintain our immune system.

Selenium also plays critical roles in thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis and reproduction.

Good sources of selenium include:
- Nuts & Seeds
- Seafood
- Fish
- Meat
- Mushrooms

9. Zinc

Zinc is a vital mineral that's required by the body to help boost functions of the immune system, build protein, promote insulin sensitivity and many other benefits.

A deficiency in zinc can cause loss of appetite, growth issues, weakened immune system (which can then lead to illness), and poor wound healing ability, among various other things.

Recommended sources of zinc include:
- Seafood
- Meat
- Spinach
- Nuts & Seeds
- Beans
- Mushrooms

Summary:

If you've read this far, it should hopefully make sense to you now as to why the choice of foods is vastly important in nutrition. People may be able to get by on an If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) diet, however, you need to eat natural sources of food in order to maintain optimal health and thus be able to operate at your highest capability.

You'll notice that there are no references for this article. I initially went into this with good intentions to reference my sources. However, it became abundantly clear that the amount of information I was gathering was going to drown me in a sea of referencing. Therefore, I ask you to look at this article as a blog post and take it as a layman's guide to micronutrients, as opposed to gospel.

It needs to be noted that I'm not a trained nutritionist, nor do I have any qualification in nutrition. I am purely an interested soul with a passion for health and improvement.

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