If you read this blog you already know what beasts macronutrients & micronutrients are. If no, then read it here “What Do You Know About the Food?” To refresh a bit the memory here are definitions of both terms:
Macronutrients are called this as our body needs them in a big amount. Energy is counted in calories and is necessary for the body to grow, heal, and develop new tissues, conduct nerve impulses, and control the cycle of life. They include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Micronutrients include minerals and vitamins. Unlike macronutrients, our body needs them in very small amounts. Both, are extremely important for the normal functioning of the body. Their main function is to enable the many chemical reactions to occur in the body.
I guess most of you can recognize what is your food. If it is meat, veggies or pasta if there are carbs, fats or proteins. But do you know what is it inside of your food? Let´s take a closer look at what micronutrients are.
What are Micronutrients?
The term micronutrients people use to describe vitamins and minerals in general. Your body needs smaller amounts of micronutrients relative to macronutrients. That’s why we call them “micro.” Humans must obtain micronutrients from food since your body cannot produce vitamins and minerals — for the most part. That’s why they’re also referred to as essential nutrients.
Vitamins are a group of substances that are essential for normal cell function, growth and development.
Minerals are the nutrients that exist in the body and are as essential as our body needs for oxygen to sustain life.
Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. They’re crucial for several important functions in our body and must be consumed from food.
When you eat, you consume the vitamins that plants and animals created or the minerals they absorbed. The micronutrient content of each food is different. An adequate intake of all micronutrients is necessary for optimal health, as each vitamin and mineral has a specific role in your body.
Vitamins and minerals are vital for growth, immune function, brain development, and many other important functions. Depending on their function, certain micronutrients also play a role in preventing and fighting disease. In this article today we talk about vitamins.
Vitamins and Antioxidants
There are two main groups of vitamins: fat-soluble and water-soluble. The body can store fat-soluble vitamins, but any excess water-soluble vitamins are easily removed from the body with urine, so regular intake of them is necessary. Have you ever been scared that your urine became bright yellow? It is excess water-soluble vitamin B, so you shouldn´t worry about it.
There are 13 essential vitamins, meaning that they are needed for the body to function. These are:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
- Vitamin B5 (Panthothenic acid)
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
- Vitamin H (Biotin)
- Vitamin B12
- Folate (Folic acid)
Fat-soluble vitamins do not dissolve in water. They’re best absorbed when consumed alongside a source of fat. After consumption, fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your liver and fatty tissues for future use.
The fat-soluble vitamins and their functions are:
- Vitamin A: Necessary for proper vision and organ function. It keeps skin and mucous membrane cells healthy and prevents early aging.
- Vitamin D: “Sunshine” vitamin. Promotes proper immune function and assists in calcium absorption and bone growth. It can be synthesized below the surface of your skin in the presence of UV light.
- Vitamin E: This vitamin is not a single compound, but consists of eight closely related chemicals. The most important one is responsible for bout 90% of its activity in the body, alpha-tocopherol. Vitamine E assists immune function and acts as an antioxidant that protects cells from damage. It can prevent certain cancer types like lung and mouth cancer.
- Vitamin K: Required for blood clotting and proper bone development. It is also important for the prevention of osteoporosis and bone fractures.
Sources and Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) or Adequate Intakes (AIs) of fat-soluble vitamins are:
Pay attention to how much fat you eat. If you restrict the fat from your diet, you can actually lose all the above-mentioned benefits of fat-soluble vitamins.
Most vitamins dissolve in water and are therefore known as water-soluble. They’re not easily stored in your body and get flushed out with urine when consumed in excess. While each water-soluble vitamin has a unique role, their functions are related.
For example, most B vitamins act as coenzymes that help trigger important chemical reactions. A lot of these reactions are necessary for energy production.
Micronutrients are part of nearly every process in your body. Some even act as antioxidants. Due to their important role in health, they may protect against diseases.
The water-soluble vitamins and their functions are:
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine): Thiamine is essential in many metabolic pathways in the body, especially in the processing of carbs to provide energy.
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): Necessary for energy production, cell function, and fat metabolism.
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): Drives the production of energy from food
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): Necessary for the fatty acid synthesis
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): Helps your body release sugar from stored carbohydrates for energy and create red blood cells
- Vitamin B7 (biotin): Plays a role in the metabolism of fatty acids, amino acids, and glucose.
- Vitamin B9 (folate): Important for proper cell division.
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): Necessary for red blood cell formation and proper nervous system and brain function. Vital for cell division, especially in bone marrow, since it also plays a role in DNA synthesis.
- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid): Required for the creation of neurotransmitters and collagen, the main protein in your skin. An antioxidant that promotes healthy teeth and gums. It helps to absorb iron and maintain healthy tissue.
Since these vitamins are not stored in your body, it’s important to get enough of them from food.
Sources and recommended daily intakes (RDA) of water-soluble vitamins are:
Keep in mind, these vitamins are dissolved easily in water. With this in mind, it is important not to overcook foods containing water-soluble vitamins. Additionally, water that is leftover after cooking these foods can be used in sauces and soups to enhance the nutritive value of your dishes.
Antioxidants are actually powerful molecules found in some foods like pomegranate, berries, tomatoes, grape seed extract. The reason antioxidants are so popular is because of the ability to inhibit oxidation of other molecules in our body. Oxidation can cause DNA changes and lead to cancer and aging. Antioxidants vary in type and examples of different types can be found below:
- Tocopherol: vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, grain
- Beta-carotene: sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach
- Lycopene: tomatoes
- Vitamin C: fruits
- Lutein: Brussel sprouts, kale, spinach
- Various polyphenols: blueberries, green tea, dark chocolate, pomegranate, yacon
According to some researches, besides being crucial for cancer and aging prevention, antioxidants can also significantly increase your chances to lose weight and burn fat.
Vitamin deficiency is the condition of a long-term lack of a vitamin. When caused by not enough vitamin intake it is classified as a primary deficiency. Here are some symptoms and diseases that deficiency of vitamins can cause.
- Thiamine (Vitamine B1). Symptoms of deficiency include weight loss, emotional disturbances, impaired sensory perception, weakness and pain in the limbs, and periods of an irregular heartbeat.
- Riboflavin (Vitamine B2). Deficiency causes painful red tongue with a sore throat, chapped and cracked lips, and inflammation at the corners of the mouth. Eyes can be itchy, watery, bloodshot and sensitive to light. Riboflavin deficiency also causes anemia with red blood cells that are normal in size and hemoglobin content but reduced in number.
- Niacin (Vitamine B3). Deficiency causes pellagra, a reversible nutritional wasting disease characterized by four classic symptoms often referred to as the four Ds: diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, and death. Chronic alcoholism is a contributing risk factor.
- Pantothenic acid (Vitamine B4). Deficiency is extremely rare. Symptoms include irritability, fatigue, and apathy.
- Vitamin B6. Deficiency is uncommon, although it may be observed in certain conditions, such as end-stage kidneys diseases or malabsorption syndromes, such as celiac disease, Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis.
- Biotin (Vitamin B7). Deficiency is rare, although biotin status can be compromised in alcoholics and during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Deficiency affects hair growth and skin health.
- Folate (Vitamin B9). Deficiency is common, and associated with numerous health problems, but primarily with neural tube defects in infants when the mother’s plasma concentrations were low during the first third of pregnancies.
- Vitamin B12. Deficiency can lead to pernicious anemia, megaloblastic anemia, subacute combined degeneration of spinal cord, and methylmalonic acidemia, among other conditions.
- Vitamin C. Deficiency is rare. Deficiency leads to weakness, weight loss, and general aches and pains. Longer-term depletion affects connective tissues, severe gum disease, and bleeding from the skin.
- Vitamin A. Deficiency can cause nyctalopia (night blindness) and keratomalacia, the latter leading to permanent blindness if not treated.
- Vitamin D. Deficiency is common. Most foods do not contain vitamin D, indicating that a deficiency will occur unless people get sunlight exposure or eat manufactured foods purposely fortified with vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is a known cause of rickets and has been linked to numerous other health problems.
- Vitamin E. Deficiency is rare, occurring as a consequence of abnormalities in dietary fat absorption or metabolism. Deficiency causes poor conduction of electrical impulses along nerves due to changes in nerve membrane structure and function.
- Vitamin K. Deficiency as a consequence of low dietary intake is rare. A deficient state can be a result of fat malabsorption diseases. Signs and symptoms can include sensitivity to bruising, bleeding gums, nosebleeds, and heavy menstrual bleeding in women. Newborn infants are a special case. Plasma vitamin K is low at birth, even if the mother is supplemented during pregnancy because the vitamin is not transported across the placenta.
Vitamins play an essential role in our overall health. There is no need to take all of them as supplements if you eat different and vitamins- rich food. If you take extra vitamins, be careful with amounts as there is also vitamin overdose. Don´t exceed RDA amounts. If you feel bad, exhausted, in a bad mood, do not hesitate to visit a doctor. Eat well, stay healthy and love food.