How Important Are Micronutrients?

How Important Are Micronutrients?
November 24 08:43 2020 Print This Article

Most discussions around the human diet revolve around Protein, Carbohydrates and Healthy fats. These form the bulk of our dietary needs, which is why they are called macronutrients. However, in addition to these, a smaller yet significant part of our dietary needs are met by an entire class of ingredients called micronutrients. This comprises vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, enzymes and coenzymes.

Micronutrients are important for our body as they perform or regulate various metabolic functions. Vitamins help resist infections, keep the nervous system healthy, produce and release energy from food. They help your blood to clot properly, build proteins and cells, make collagen, build bones, protect vision, interact favourably with each other and protect the body overall.

While some micronutrients are synthesized by the body, most of them are not. Further, they deplete or degrade when stored inside the body for long, which is why they must be replenished regularly through the food we consume.

Various micronutrients and their roles

Calcium: Critical for bone and teeth health; present in dairy products, meat eaten with bones, green leafy vegetables and foods fortified with calcium.

Vitamin C: Plays a vital role in immune system function, and as an antioxidant, it helps fight free radicals that cause aging of cells. Present in citrus fruits, grapefruit, cherries, kale, red pepper etc.

Omega-3: Regulates health of the circulatory system, brain function and mood. Present in oily fish, fish oil, algal oil, hemp seeds etc.

Vitamin D – Vital for bone and colon health, Vitamin D is synthesized by the body when you get exposed to sunlight. Present in fatty fish, broccoli, cereals and egg yolks.

Iron: Iron is the carrier of oxygen throughout the body and this is what imparts the red colour to blood. Iron deficiency or anaemia can cause autoimmune disorders like lupus. Present in spinach, amaranth, beetroot, beans, clams and liver.

Also Read:

Spotting Iron Deficiency Anaemia in Children and Ways to Overcome it

Potassium: Similar to calcium and magnesium, potassium is an electrolyte that helps regulate fluid balance and keep the body well-hydrated. It also helps regulate blood pressure. Not present in meat and found in farm produce like bananas, citrus, and spinach.

Vitamin A: Also known as a carotenoid, Vitamin A helps fight chronic diseases and is good for the eyesight. Present in yellow-orange vegetables and fruits such as carrots, pumpkin, cantaloupe and squash. Also found in broccoli and meat, especially liver.

Vitamin E: An important antioxidant, Vitamin E helps fight the damage caused by free radicals and in turn boosts the immune function. Found in green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and their oils.

Vitamin K: A class of compounds, most important of which are K1 and K2. These help in clotting of blood which prevents excessive bleeding. Found in green leafy vegetables, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cereals, eggs, fish, liver and red meat.

Co-Q10 or Ubiquinol: This is a co-enzyme that helps increase blood oxygenation and fight free radicals by virtue of being an antioxidant. Present in cauliflower, peanuts, broccoli, spinach, legumes, shellfish, beef and liver.

Fluoride: A compound of Fluorine, this strengthens bones and fights tooth decay (hence used in toothpastes).

Zinc This boosts the immune response, aid in blood clotting and perceptions of taste and smell.

Copper: This is required for synthesizing haemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood. It is also required in synthesizing various enzymes that perform different roles including regulation of iron metabolism.

Vitamin B

Vitamin B is not a single vitamin but a family of 8 vitamins, each with a clear role to play.

  • B1 (thiamine): Helps in the development and functioning of organs such as brain and heart. Found in peas, fresh fruits, eggs, sunflower seeds, fortified foods such as rice, pasta, cereals, flour, and in red meat.
  • B2 (riboflavin): Along with being an antioxidant, Vitamin B2 helps the body absorb and break down fats from food. Found in spinach, asparagus, mushrooms, peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, whole grain bread, milk, dairy products, eggs, poultry and red meat.
  • B3 (niacin): This helps lower blood cholesterol levels, improve digestion and keep the skin healthy. Found in potatoes, fortified breakfast cereals, milk and dairy products, eggs, chicken, oily fish such as salmon and mackerel and in red meat.
  • B5 (pantothenic acid): Critical for good health of the brain and nervous system. Found in cauliflower, broccoli, kale, mushrooms, peanuts, wholegrains, milk and dairy products, poultry, fish and red meat.
  • B6 (pyridoxine): Helps: fight infection, produce insulin and neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Found in carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, peanuts, wholegrains, milk and dairy products, eggs, poultry and fish.
  • B7 (biotin): Regulates health of hair and fingernails, as well as the nervous system. Found in nuts and seeds, yeast, egg yolk, salmon, liver and kidney meat.
  • B9 (folate/folic acid): Important for foetal health in pregnant women and reducing the risk of congenital deformities. Found in chickpeas, wholegrains, peas, asparagus spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, bananas and oranges.
  • B12 (cobalamin): Vitamin B12 regulates the production of new red blood cells which helps fight fatigue and prevent pernicious anaemia. It also helps with digestion and keeping nerve cells healthy which in turn improves the cognitive function. Found in dairy products, fortified cereals, eggs, fish, chicken and red meat.

Also Read: Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency


In addition to being an electrolyte like calcium and potassium, magnesium is an important mineral as it plays various roles in the human body. This includes:

  • Relieving muscle tension and repairing muscle tissue after you’ve exercised or played sports. Having low levels of magnesium can impair this ability, leaving you fatigued.
  • Improving the quality of your sleep; so having low levels of magnesium can significantly affect your sleep
  • Strengthening your bones
  • Replenishing your skin
  • Helps synthesise proteins in the body

Magnesium can be consumed as a supplement but it’s naturally found in brown rice, legumes such as lentils, split peas, tofu; beans such as black, kidney, edamame; nuts such as almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts; seeds such as sunflower, sesame; pumpkin, buckwheat and whole grain cereals, dark green vegetables such as spinach and seafood.

How to consume Micronutrients

Micronutrients are indispensable for good health and when consumed in the right proportion, they can help prevent conditions such as scurvy, blindness, rickets, weak bones, weak teeth and birth defects of the brain and spine. Given the wide range of vitamins and micronutrients required by the body, it’s important to have a balanced diet.

With age, the body’s ability to synthesize or absorb micronutrients from food reduces. So, in recent years, you would have noticed friends and family consuming vitamin supplements or multivitamin pills. Most of them are easily available as over-the-counter drugs, so people tend to indulge in them recklessly. But this can be very dangerous. Please note, micronutrients are required in small amounts. No more, no less.

Consuming excess of these can cause various complications, and further some of these micronutrients interact unfavourably with each other. Even excess sodium in your diet that comes from salty snacks can leach calcium out of your body making your bones weak.

A doctor is always the best qualified person to guide you in this matter. Consult a reputed hospital for your annual health check-up. Once you have the results, consult a dietician or nutritionist at the hospital. He/she will evaluate your and your family medical history, your diet-style (vegan/vegetarian/non-vegetarian) and then recommend the right supplements with the right dosage. Rest-assured, these supplements combined with exercise and a balanced diet will ensure good health for the rest of your life.

Kauvery Hospital is globally known for its multidisciplinary services at all its Centers of Excellence, and for its comprehensive, Avant-Grade technology, especially in diagnostics and remedial care in heart diseases, transplantation, vascular and neurosciences medicine. Located in the heart of Trichy (Tennur, Royal Road and Alexandria Road (Cantonment), Chennai, Karaikudi, Hosur and Salem, the hospital also renders adult and pediatric trauma care.

Chennai – 044 4000 6000 • Trichy – Cantonment – 0431 4077777 • Trichy – Heartcity – 0431 4003500 • Trichy – Tennur – 0431 4022555 • Karaikudi – 04565 244555 • Hosur – 04344 272727 • Salem – 0427 2677777

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1 Comment

  1. Sumangala
    November 25, 05:49 #1 Sumangala

    I am always under the impression that micronutrients should not be popped in, as and when we please. A doctor’s prescription is very important. This article details the ill effects of over use. Thanks for this very well written piece. Sharing it.

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