Guide to Micronutrients
Micronutrients are smaller than the macronutrients that compose our diet (fat, carbohydrate, and protein). The macronutrients provide us with, among other things, calories to burn, whereas the micronutrients don't give us energy.
What they do have other essential functions such as energy production, immune function, blood clotting and other functions. Meanwhile, minerals play an important role in growth, bone health, fluid balance and several other processes.
Your body needs smaller amounts of micronutrients relative to macronutrients. That’s why they’re labeled “micro.”
Types of Vitamins
There are two types of vitamin: fat soluble and water soluble. Vitamins A, D, E and K are the fat soluble vitamins. These tend to circulate in the blood and any excess is stored in fatty tissue. This means that they are available whenever your body needs them and don’t need to be eaten as often.
VITAMIN A: Our eyes, skin and immune system all benefit from vitamin A. It exists in two forms: in meat, in food such as dairy, liver and fish; and in plants, in fruits, vegetables and oils.
VITAMIN D: The majority of vitamin D in the body comes from from sunlight. Vitamin D is made when UV rays hit the skin and is then used to help absorb calcium and maintain bone. It only takes around 10 minutes of sun on your face, arms and hands three times a week to get all the vitamin D you need. However, it is also found in some foods such as eggs, fish and fortified milk and spreads.
Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
VITAMIN E: Helps maintain healthy skin and eyes, and strengthen the body's natural defence against illness and infection (the immune system). You can find vitamin E in green vegetables, whole grains, eggs, nuts, seeds and plant oils.
VITAMIN K: Crucial for blood clotting and stops excessive bleeding. It is found in some foods such as cabbage and milk, but is also made by gut bacteria.
B VITAMINS: B vitamins are essential to energy metabolism. Some of them help produce energy during exercise; others help produce red blood cells and repair strained tissues. You can find B vitamins in enriched and whole grains. Other sources include meat, nuts, dairy and green vegetables. If you don’t eat meat, nutritional yeast is a good source of B-12.
IRON: Without adequate iron, you’re likely to tire easily and feel drained before you finish your run. Low levels of iron can impair muscle function and limit your capacity to exercise. Iron is also one of the most common deficiencies in athletes. It’s easiest for the body to absorb heme iron, the form of iron that comes from animal products like beef, pork, poultry and liver. If you don’t eat meat, non-heme iron sources such as black beans, kidney beans, fortified grains and breakfast cereals are good options. The body will absorb iron better if you consume iron-rich foods with those that are also rich in vitamin C.
MAGNESIUM: Magnesium is critical to maintaining strong bones; it helps to regulate a proper balance of calcium and vitamin D in the body. Magnesium is also critical to blood-sugar control, protein synthesis and blood pressure regulation.
Leafy green veggies such as spinach, as well as many whole grains, seeds, and nuts, are good sources of magnesium. Seafood, beans and dairy products also contain some magnesium. Refined and processed foods are generally low in this nutrient.