Present in small doses in our body and in what we eat, the essential micronutrients are the type of nutrient that usually goes unnoticed in our daily diet and at the time of training.
Although it is understandable that most of us focus more on the macronutrients that give us energy, we cannot fail to point out the importance of consuming micronutrients too: they regulate most of our functions, keep our health in balance and are essential in general to live.
To be more aware of the importance of all this, it is useful to know what micronutrients are really and what is their true importance for our organism.
What are micronutrients?
Micronutrients are nutrients that the human body needs to absorb from plants and animals, because it does not produce them by itself. Its name does not refer to its molecular size is lower than the macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats). Actually, micro means that the proportions in which we need to consume them are quite low, if we compare it with the amount of macronutrients that we should consume daily.
On the other hand, micronutrients fall into two categories: vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are organic compounds, which we absorb through plants and animals, and which can be decomposed by the action of heat, acid or air. Minerals, on the other hand, are inorganic, come from the earth or from water and cannot be decomposed, so we absorb them when they receive what has been integrated into them from the plants and animals that we ingest.
Although the functions of each micronutrient are different, we can say that they work together to maintain a basic balance in our body, collaborating in different processes, such as the following:
- Cell growth
- Immune function
- Brain development
- Transport and energy storage.
Types of micronutrients and functions
1.Water soluble vitamins
Some vitamins have in common the fact that they dissolve in water. This makes them easy to absorb, but difficult to store, as they tend to get lost in urine. Therefore, we must consume them sufficiently.
These are the types of water-soluble vitamins, and the foods and amounts in which an adult should consume them daily:
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine): helps to convert nutrients into energy. It is found in grains, meat and fish.
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): helps in the production of energy, cell function and fat metabolism. It is found in animal organs, eggs and milk.
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): directs the production of energy from food. It is found in meat, salmon and vegetables.
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): necessary for the synthesis of fatty acids. It is found in animal organs, tuna and avocado.
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): helps create red blood cells and release sugar from stored carbohydrates for energy. It is found in fish, milk, carrots and potatoes.
- Vitamin B 7 (biotin): helps metabolize fatty acids, amino acids and glucose. It is found in eggs, almonds, spinach and sweet potatoes.
- Vitamin B9 (folic acid): improves cell division. It is found in beef, liver, asparagus and spinach.
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): necessary in the formation of red blood cells, and functioning of the brain and nervous system. It is found in clams, fish and meat.
- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid): necessary for the formation of neurotransmitters and collagen. It is found in citrus fruits, red pepper and Brussels sprouts.
This type of vitamins does not dissolve in water. Therefore, they should be consumed with fat, to which they are bound to be stored in the liver and fatty tissues.
These are the fat-soluble vitamins, their common functions and quantity that we should eat daily:
- Vitamin A: necessary for the sight and function of the organs. It is found in retinol (liver, dairy and fish) and in the caretinoids
- Vitamin D: improves immune function, calcium absorption and bone development. It is found especially in the sun’s rays, fish oil and milk.
- Vitamin E: assists in immune function and acts as an antioxidant to protect cells from deterioration. It is found in sunflower seeds, wheat germ and almonds.
- Vitamin K: necessary for the coagulation of the blood and the development of the bones. It is found in green leafy vegetables, soybeans and squash.
As with micro and macronutrients, when we talk about macrominerals we do not talk about the size of them but their presence in the organism. That is to say, they are the minerals that our body needs to a greater extent.
These are the existing macrominerals, their function, and the sources and quantities in which we must consume them:
- Calcium: necessary for the formation of bones and teeth and useful in muscle functions and contraction of blood vessels. We found it in dairy, green leafy vegetables and broccoli.
- Phosphorus: helps in the formation of bones and cells. It is found in salmon, yogurt and turkey.
- Magnesium: helps in the reaction of about 300 enzymes, including the regulation of blood pressure. It is found in almonds, black beans and cashews.
- Sodium: electrolyte that helps in the balance of fluids and the maintenance of blood pressure. It is found in salt and artificially processed foods.
- Chloride: helps maintain fluid balance and make digestive juices. It is found in combination with sodium, seaweed, salt and celery.
- Potassium: electrolyte that maintains fluid balance in cells and helps with nerve transmission and muscle functions. It is found in bananas, lentils and acorn squash.
- Sulfur: found in the tissues of living beings and contains amino acids such as methionine and cysteine. It is present in garlic, onion, Brussels sprouts, eggs and mineral water. A recommended daily consumption has not been established.
The trace minerals are needed in smaller amounts, but equally important functions fulfilled. Here are some of them:
- Iron: provides oxygen to the muscles and promotes the creation of some hormones. It is found in oysters, spinach and white beans.
- Manganese: helps metabolize carbohydrates, amino acids and cholesterol. It is present in nuts, pecan and pineapple.
- Copper: involved in the formation of connective tissue and the functioning of the brain and nervous system. It is found in liver, crab and cashew nuts.
- Zinc: necessary for growth, the immune system and the healing of wounds. It is present in oysters, crabs and chickpeas.
- Iodine: helps regulate the thyroid. They contain seaweed, cod and yogurt.
- Fluoride: necessary for the development of bones and teeth. It is found in fruit juices, water and crabs.
- Selenium: useful for the thyroid, reproduction and defense against oxidative damage. It is found in Brazil nuts, sardines and ham.
Can we obtain micronutrients through supplements?
Micronutrients seem modest to the naked eye, but they have an impact on most functions of our organism. That is why it is so important to consume them: in fact, it is estimated that by consuming them well, in the long term we can prevent diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s or cardiovascular diseases. However, for different issues not all consume the sources of micronutrients they need through food. That’s why we ask ourselves: Is it possible to get the same benefits with supplements?
As you know, vitamin and mineral supplements are quite popular and useful: doctors recommend them in different treatments. However, what the studies proclaim so far is that they cannot substitute the benefits of good nutrition. Therefore, whenever you can, you should ingest the micronutrients directly from the natural food.
The micronutrient supplements such as vitamin D, E, iron and others serve to improve absorption of the same among people with disabilities or who need special regime consumption. However, although they should not be the first option, they are healthy if they are consumed in fair doses, they are prepared by recognized companies and if they have the seal of quality from a reliable health organization.
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