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The human body is a wonder of nature. But it is only able to carry out all those wonders when it is adequately fed. On the principal level, everything that we eat and imbibe can be broken down into two groups: macronutrients and micronutrients.
As these names indicate, macronutrients are the group of nutrients that human body requires in large amounts (grams or more). On the other hand, micronutrients are only required in milligrams and micrograms. Nevertheless, their small amounts don’t imply that our bodies can remain healthy if we don’t take care of those fractions of grams.
Micronutrients: Eclipsed by the Brouhaha Over Macronutrients
Almost 100 hundred years ago, humans were not aware of such terms. So, nutritional charts didn’t exist back then and humans would eat food for their apparent benefits. Food sciences experienced significant development post-industrialization and the revelation about the presence of macronutrients and micronutrients in foods was virtue of that progress.
The flood of information due to a better understanding of food science has benefitted us in many ways but with some caveats attached. While we are now aware of macronutrient and micronutrients, continuous coverage highlighting the importance of one group over the other has resulted in skewed diet patterns and routines. It is important to understand what we mean here.
Majority of Diet Plans are Only Focused on Macronutrients
Modern Lifestyle Also Signifies Macronutrients More
Obesity is now a worldwide issue and modern lifestyle with limited physical activity is one of the major reasons. Carbohydrates in different forms are also very much responsible for obesity. Similarly, fat is another macronutrient that is very much discussed in connection with weight loss.
In addition, different fitness regimens emphasizing lean and sturdy bodies are the advocates of increased protein consumption. So, with these three macronutrients taking all the limelight, it is only natural that people are less aware of their micronutrient needs.
How Has Less Awareness Regarding Micronutrients Turned Out?
The never-ending discussions on carbs, fats, and proteins and relatively negligible discourse on micronutrients have resulted in different health problems worldwide. For instance, micronutrient deficiency is even common in the population of developed countries that are not facing any food scarcity. This deficiency is caused by this simple reason: less understanding and knowledge regarding micronutrients.
As per the statistics of World Food Programme, a food-assistance subdivision of the United Nations, nearly two billion people globally are suffering from different kinds of micronutrient deficiencies.
As we have established the importance of micronutrients in the above discussion, it will be fitting to get into the details of different micronutrients now. Like macronutrients, micronutrients are also divided into subgroups.
Vitamins: Life-Sustaining Organic Compounds
Vitamins are organic molecules usually composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. According to their atomic arrangements and bonds, there are different types of vitamins. Vitamins are usually consumed by a metabolic reaction in the body instantaneously. However, there are some vitamins that can be stored in fat tissues and the liver.
Let’s have a look at vitamins, their sources and how their deficiencies can affect us.
Vitamin A is responsible for many different bodily functions. From cell differentiation to bone formation, Vitamin A plays its part. It is popularly known for improving vision.
Sources: Animal source foods are the main source of Vitamin A. Whole milk, egg yolks, and liver are rich in this vitamin.
Deficiency: Night blindness and weak immune system particularly against infections are the major consequences of Vitamin A deficiency.
Also known as thiamin, this vitamin is present in nearly every food item. Our body needs an amount proportionate to how many calories we consume. Vitamin B1 is responsible for many cellular reactions and therefore its deficiency can cause numerous health complications. From muscle atrophy to nerve damage, the deficiency of Vitamin B1 can be very detrimental to the human body.
Luckily, deficiency of Vitamin B1 is very rare because we can get a sufficient amount from most types of common diets.
Vitamin C is known for its role in various critical functions in the body. It helps mechanisms that are responsible for the synthesis of different hormones and neurotransmitters. It also facilitates the production of genetic material in the body. Moreover, it strengthens the musculoskeletal system by catalyzing the synthesis of collagen. Its sufficient intake also plays its part in fighting anemia by increasing the rate of iron absorption in the body.
Plants, particularly citrus fruits and green vegetables, are good sources of Vitamin C. Prolonged deficiency of this vitamin leads to scurvy, a health condition characterized by anemia, oral diseases, and skin hemorrhages.
Vitamin D is responsible for regulating calcium levels in the body. This is the reason it is central to the health of bones. This vitamin is also unique because it is synthesized in the skin with the exposure of sunlight. The amount of Vitamin D in food items is nearly negligible.
However, small traces of Vitamin D can be found in some fish, egg yolks, and mushrooms. Researchers are now also studying Vitamin D for its preventive role against autoimmune diseases. Deficiency of Vitamin D makes bones more vulnerable to fractures.
This is another vitamin that is required in a very small amount by the body. A few micrograms of daily intake are enough for both men and women. Vitamin K is responsible for the process that facilitates blood clotting and bone formation. Deficiency of Vitamin K is rare but it can lead to impaired blood clotting and reduced bone density.
Vegetables such as kale and broccoli contain a good amount of Vitamin K. Adding them to your regular diet will easily fulfill your Vitamin K needs.
Iron is the most important trace mineral of them all. In a way, iron is responsible for the circulation of oxygenated blood in the body. It also plays a part in many different metabolic reactions and in the development of the brain and nervous system.
Animal flesh is the major source of iron that our body uses to bind oxygen to the blood cells. You can also get a sufficient amount of iron from different plant-based foods such as legumes, raisins, and spinach. Anemia, a leading world health problem, is mainly caused by iron deficiency in the body.
Aside from iron, zinc, iodine, chromium, manganese, copper, selenium, fluoride, and molybdenum are also important trace minerals responsible for the healthy growth and function of a person.