ITEMS ADDED TO CART
  • No products in the cart.
 

Benefits of Daily Vitamins, Minerals, and Other Micronutrients

Last Updated on: October 20, 2021

basket full of healthy foods

It can be confusing to navigate the world of nutrients, understand what they do, and learn how best to incorporate them into our diets. Read on to learn about micronutrients and why we need them.

Our bodies need the benefits of daily vitamins and minerals for hundreds of processes, like building and repairing cells and tissues, powering chemical reactions, and fighting disease. These nutrients are both supplied by foods and made by the body. The nutrients our bodies cannot make are called essential nutrients, and we must ingest them in foods. The essential nutrients we need in larger quantities are called macronutrients, and there are three: carbohydrates, fats, and protein. All others are called micronutrients because we need them in comparatively small amounts. Vitamins, minerals, omega fatty acids, and essential amino acids are examples.

Micronutrients

Though we need less of the micronutrients than the macronutrients, micronutrients are no less important. Vitamins, minerals, omega fatty acids, and essential amino acids are crucial for a great many body processes. Every day, your body produces skin, muscle, bone, and blood, which carries nutrients and oxygen to every cell. Your body sends nerve signals along thousands of miles of pathways with trillions of connections, issuing the instructions that help sustain your life. Constantly fueling these amazing processes are micronutrients. Let’s take a closer look at each type. (1, 2)

healthy fruits and vegetables
Vitamins are organic compounds found in foods.

Vitamins

Vitamins are organic compounds that come in two forms: fat soluble and water soluble. As the labels imply, fat-soluble vitamins dissolve in fat, and water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water. Both are essential for good health.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

What they are:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K

What they are responsible for (1):

  • Healthy eyes, skin, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and nervous system
  • Bone formation
  • Favorable interactions
    • Without vitamin E, your body would have difficulty absorbing and storing vitamin A
  • Protecting the body
    • Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant (a compound that helps protect the body against damage from free radicals)

Foods they are found in (3):

  • Vitamin A: fish liver oil, beef liver, cheese, milk, sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, carrots, cantaloupe, black-eyed peas, and fortified breakfast cereals
  • Vitamin D: oily fish and fish oils, fortified dairy products, plant-based milks, cereals, beef liver, eggs, and exposure to the sun
  • Vitamin E: wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds and oil, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, spinach, broccoli, kiwi, and mango
  • Vitamin K: kale, liver, spinach, parsley, butter, and egg yolks

Where and how they are stored:

  • Once you ingest fat-soluble vitamins, your body can store them in fatty tissue and your liver for later use. (1)

NOTE: Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your body for long periods and can build up to toxic levels. This is most likely to happen if you take supplements. It’s very rare to get too much of a vitamin just from food. (1)

Water-Soluble Vitamins

What they are:

  • Vitamin B
  • Vitamin C

What they are responsible for (4):

  • Releasing energy from food
  • Producing energy
    • Thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and biotin engage in energy production
  • Building proteins and cells by metabolizing amino acids and helping cells multiply
  • Making collagen
    • Collagen repairs wounds, supports blood vessel walls, and forms a base for teeth and bones

Foods they are found in (4):

  • B vitamins: nuts, seeds, whole grains, liver, pork, whole-grain cereals, leafy greens, cauliflower, organ meats, egg yolks, mushrooms, edamame, and chickpeas
  • Vitamin C: fruits and vegetables (in particular, guava, red bell peppers, kale, kiwi, citrus fruits, and broccoli)

Where and how they are stored: Water-soluble vitamins are absorbed directly into the bloodstream as food is broken down or as a supplement dissolves. Because your body is over 60% water, water-soluble vitamins circulate through it easily. Your kidneys continuously regulate their levels and send excesses out of the body in urine. (1, 5)

NOTE: Some water-soluble vitamins can stay in the body for long periods. You probably have several years’ supply of vitamin B12 in your liver. Folic acid and vitamin C stores can last more than a couple of days. Generally, though, water-soluble vitamins should be replenished every few days.
(1, 6)

family making a salad together
Minerals are inorganic compounds that come from the earth.

Minerals

Minerals are inorganic compounds that are crucial for muscle and bone health, controlling blood pressure, nervous system function, and repairing damage to cells. Minerals form when a medium that contains and transports mineral-making ore releases and deposits the ore. Magma is one such medium, and water is another. Minerals like salt or calcium carbonate can be transported and released from seawater, river water, or groundwater. Heavier minerals fall to the bottoms of lakes and riverbeds and lighter ones wash up on shores. Some minerals remain in the ground and must be mined or quarried. (7)

Once gathered, minerals are refined to remove impurities and then processed in ways that humans can best use them. (7, 8)

Major Minerals

Major minerals are those we need in larger amounts, but not as much as macronutrients. Sodium, chloride, and potassium — you may know these as electrolytes — balance water in the body to keep you hydrated, regulate muscle contractions, and help balance your pH levels (the measure of acidity and alkalinity). Calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium are important for healthy bones, and sulfur helps stabilize proteins. (1, 9)

Trace Minerals

We need other minerals in minute amounts. These are called trace minerals, and a thimble can easily hold all that we need in a day. These trace minerals are chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc. Trace minerals are responsible for a wide range of tasks. For example (1):

  • Iron carries oxygen throughout the body
  • Fluoride strengthens bones and wards off tooth decay
  • Zinc helps blood clot, is essential for taste and smell, and bolsters the immune response
  • Copper helps form enzymes
  • The other trace minerals perform equally vital jobs, such as helping to block damage to body cells

Minerals are found in meat, all cereal grains and fortified breakfast cereals, fish, milk and dairy foods, fruits and vegetables, and nuts. (1, 10)

Cautions About Vitamins and Minerals

Micronutrients enable the body’s normal growth and development. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that deficiencies in iron, vitamin A, and iodine are the most common around the world, particularly in children and pregnant women. Micronutrient deficiencies are mostly seen in low- and middle-income countries, and they can cause dangerous health conditions. (11)

Here are a few examples of diseases that can result from micronutrient deficiencies (1, 12):

  • Scurvy: caused by a lack of vitamin C. Characterized by fatigue and bleeding gums
  • Blindness: caused by vitamin A deficiency
  • Rickets: caused by a lack of vitamin D. Characterized by soft, weak bones that can lead to skeletal deformities. Partly to combat rickets, the U.S. has fortified milk with vitamin D since the 1930s
  • Anemia: caused by a lack of iron. Characterized by tiredness, weakness, a weakened immune system, and impaired brain function

Milder symptoms of micronutrient deficiencies can include reduced energy levels and mental capacity.

The following populations are at the highest risk for nutritional deficiencies (13):

  • Those who are homeless
  • Women who have a short inter-pregnancy interval
  • Immigrants
  • People with medical conditions that influence nutrient absorption (i.e. celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, renal disease, and genetic disorders)
  • Individuals with a history of gastrointestinal surgery (including gastric bypass)
  • Individuals taking medications that are known to interact with the absorption or excretion of certain vitamins and minerals
  • People with substance-use disorders. For example, people whose alcohol intake is high are at greater risk of developing a magnesium deficiency
  • Smokers are more likely to have a vitamin C deficiency due to increased oxidative stress

On the other hand, too much of any one micronutrient can create imbalances with others or cause others to become deficient, and the difference between “too much” and “just enough” is often minute. For example, a minor overload of manganese can exacerbate iron deficiency. Generally, food is a safe source of both major and trace minerals, but if you take supplements, it’s important to make sure you don’t exceed safe levels. (1)

Omega Fatty Acids

Omega fatty acids are fats that the body cannot make on its own, and therefore they are essential nutrients, meaning you must get them from food. You’ve probably heard of omega-3 fatty acid, but there’s also omega-6 fatty acid.

Omega-3s

There are three compounds in omega-3s that we need for good health. Two of them are found in fish, and the other one is found in plants. Omega-3s are key to the structure of all cell walls and help keep your heart, lungs, blood vessels, and immune system in working order. They also help reduce inflammation throughout the body. (14, 15)

Omega-6s

Omega-6s are also essential fats. There are four types: linoleic acid, arachidonic acid, gamma linoleic, and conjugated linoleic acid. Omega-6 fats play an important role in regulating our genes and promoting immune health and blood clotting. These fats can also help with the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and dermatitis, though more research is needed on this. More research is also needed to explore the idea that some fatty acids appear to cause inflammation, but others seem to have anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-6s can be found in soybeans, corn, safflower and sunflower oils, nuts and seeds, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. (16, 17)

raw steak ready to be cooked
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.

Essential Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins; they also help our bodies grow, repair tissue, maintain immune function, and produce hormones. The body requires 21 amino acids for these functions, and 9 of them are essential (must be ingested). The nine essential amino acids are phenylalanine, valine, tryptophan, threonine, isoleucine, methionine, histidine, leucine, and lysine. These 9 essential amino acids are responsible for such functions as (18):

  • Producing various chemical messengers (neurotransmitters)
  • Maintaining the structure and function of proteins and enzymes
  • Promoting muscle and tissue growth and regeneration
  • Helping with energy production
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Promoting the absorption of minerals
  • Regulating blood sugar levels
  • Stimulating wound healing

Most animal proteins provide all the essential amino acids you need, but there are many plant-based foods that provide essential amino acids, as well. The following is a list of the best sources of essential amino acids (18, 19):

  • Quinoa
  • Eggs
  • Turkey
  • Cottage cheese
  • Mushrooms
  • Most types of fish
  • Legumes and beans

A Word About Fiber

Sometimes fiber is included as a micronutrient, although we need more of it daily than other micronutrients. Fiber passes through the digestive system relatively intact. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.

  • Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels and is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, and psyllium.
  • Insoluble fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and is found in whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans, and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans, and potatoes. (20)

Conclusion

The benefits of daily vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients cannot be understated, as they are needed in the proper amounts to maintain, defend, and repair your body. Generally, you can get these from eating a healthy, balanced diet, but sometimes supplements may be needed. Always check with your doctor before adding any supplements to your daily routine to make sure they don’t interact negatively with one another or with any medications you’re taking.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top