How Important are Micronutrients?

by Aimee Wojtowecz

In today’s world, we are constantly blasted with confusing and oftentimes contradicting information about nutrition. Some people swear by the importance of protein and animal products, while others tell us it’s all about the caloric balance, while yet others tell us to eat nothing but fruit. Now, because fat, protein and carbohydrates are out there stealing the spotlight, there is one aspect of nutrition that is largely ignored…that is the importance of micronutrients, which is the topic of discussion for today!

So without further ado, let’s dive in on micronutrients and discuss what they are, what they do in the body and what some of the best sources are!

Macro VS Micro

So what exactly is the difference between macronutrients and micronutrients? Well, as the names suggest, macronutrients are the primary nutrients our bodies need in big quantities – Protein, fats and carbohydrates. These nutrients provide caloric value and are needed to sustain a healthy body weight and physiological functioning.

On the other hand, micronutrients do not really have a caloric value, but are just as important, due to their role in a variety of important processes all around the body. Micronutrients include phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and last but not least, antioxidants! The body needs these nutrients to sustain the production of a variety of enzymes and hormones, which relate to overall healthy functioning of the many systems and processes the body does on a daily basis.

Micronutrient Deficiencies

Though the body needs micronutrients in small amounts, their absence quickly surfaces with a flurry of unwanted side effects.

For example, a magnesium deficiency can cause you to:

  1. Sleep poorly
  2. Crave sugar 
  3. Cramp
  4. Be unable to focus

Vitamins and minerals are an important part of human nutrition, mainly because they help kids grow healthy and strong, while adults can reap the benefits of sustained health. Fortunately enough, micronutrient deficiencies are generally easy to address with a varied diet of colorful foods.

Common Micronutrient Deficiencies 

With the abundance of nutrient-poor foods available micronutrient deficiencies are quite a common thing!

Here are the most common micronutrient deficiencies found in humans:

  1. Vitamin B12
  2. Iron 
  3. Iodine
  4. Magnesium
  5. Vitamin D

Some of these are easy to recognize and don’t pose much risk, but others can cause severe discomfort and if sustained in the long term, even damage. For instance, B12 deficiencies, can lead to anemia, memory issues, mood swings, irregular work of the heart and even neurological problems.

Micronutrient-Rich Foods

Unless you have severe deficiencies (which should be diagnosed through your PCP!), micronutrient supplements are not mandatory, as most deficiencies can be treated with a slight change in nutritional habits. Let’s have a look at some of the most vitamin & mineral-abundant foods!

  1. Fatty fish – Omega-3s, vitamin D
  2. Citrus fruits – Vitamin C, Folic acid
  3. Carrots – Vitamin A
  4. Eggs- Vitamin B, Iron
  5. Avocados – Vitamins B2, B5, B6 (And tons of healthy fat!)
  6. Kiwis – Vitamin A, C, E, K, Folate & Choline

Including these foods in your menu regularly will keep you away from deficiencies and maintain a balanced inner chemistry.

Take-Home Message

  • Your best nutrition plan is a good balance between macronutrients, micronutrients and calories, with a little bit of fun thrown in.
  • Though micronutrients do not provide a caloric value, they play important roles in a variety of bodily functions.
  • Last but not least, micronutrients don’t really need to be tracked as long as you consume a variety of foods throughout your week.


How can you add variety to your diet this week?