As a dietitian, I always advocate for variety in the diet to increase exposure to micronutrients. But what are micronutrients? Below is a quick overview, more in-depth articles to follow.
As seen previously, macronutrients are the “bigger” components of food, namely protein, fat and carbohydrates. Water can be also considered a macronutrient, however it does not contribute any energy. Conversely, alcohol cannot be considered nutritious but does contribute energy.
The prefix “macro” comes from the ancient Greek makrós, which means “long”. It is normally used to mean “big” or “large”. Thus, macronutrients are needed in large amounts in the diet (tens or hundreds of grams).
The prefix “micro” comes from the ancient Greek mikrós, which means “small”. Thus, micronutrients are needed in small amounts in the diet (milligrams or micrograms).
What are micronutrients?
Micronutrients are components of food that confer health benefits and are needed in small amounts in the body.
Micronutrients are responsible for the healthiness of foods, either when naturally occurring or when added via fortification. They are also prominent in the supplement industry.
Vitamins are easily recognisable as they are named after alphabet letters, although they also have alternate chemical names. They are organic compounds, meaning they contain carbon.
Vitamins are commonly classified by their solubility:
- Water-soluble: vitamin C and B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, biotin, and pantothenic acid)
- Fat-soluble: vitamin A, D, E, K
Minerals are chemical elements that have a spot in the periodic table. They are organic compounds, meaning they contain carbon. Some minerals are beneficial for health, some can be toxic.
Minerals are generally divided based on how much our bodies need:
- Major minerals: calcium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, sulphate
- Trace minerals: iron, iodine, zinc, chromium, selenium, fluoride, molybdenum, copper, and manganese
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