Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy life. Micronutrients are nutrients that your body cannot produce and needs to come from an external source, with the exception of vitamin D which your body produces from sunlight. All micronutrients are important and you should get them on a daily basis, your body does not need a lot of them. The 7 most important micronutrients are vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, Magnesium, zinc, iron, and folate.
1. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 is needed for our Central Nervous system and metabolism. Specifically, vitamin B6 helps with:
- Creating red blood cells, specifically creating hemoglobin
- Creating neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, etc…)
- Aids in fetal brain development
- Help turn food into energy assists with the metabolization of protein, fats, and carbohydrates
- Aids in proper cell nutrition
Vitamin B6 is also water-soluble so any unused vitamin B6 will be excreted through the urine.
How much Vitamin B6 do we need?
|0-6 months||0.1 mg|
|7-12 months||0.3 mg|
|1-3 years||0.5 mg|
|4-8 years||0.6 mg|
|9-13 years||1 mg|
|14-18 years||1.3 mg|
|19-50 years||1.3 mg|
|51+ years||1.7 mg|
|Pregnant/Lactating women||2 mg|
Sources of Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 comes from many sources, the majority can be found in meats.
- Beef, liver, poultry, tuna, and salmon (3 oz yellowfin tuna = 0.9 mg)
- Fortified cereals
- Chickpeas and dark leafy greens (1 cup chickpeas = 1.1 mg)
- Bananas, oranges, and cantaloupe (1 banana = 0.4 mg)
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is known for its role in our immune system but its benefits range throughout the body. Years ago people used to develop scurvy (characterized by swollen bleeding gums and the opening of previously healed wounds) due to the lack of vitamin C, it is not as prevalent in the modern age. Research has also shown that vitamin C is associated with a less likelihood of getting sick, even lowering the length and severity of a cold. Vitamin C has been shown to assist with:
- Iron absorption
- Wound healing and scar formation
- Cartilage, bone, and teeth health
- Assists in the creation of skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels
- A key player in the formation of a protein called collagen
- Antioxidant properties assist in the breakdown of free radicals
How much vitamin C do we need
Vitamin C is also water-soluble and all excess gets excrete through our urine. The recommended dose is anywhere from 75 mg to 2,000 mg. You can exceed doses above 2,000 mg but it may cause nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
Sources of vitamin C
Vitamin C has been found in the majority of citrus fruits.
- Oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, and cantaloupe (¾ cup of orange juice = 93 mg)
- Broccoli, tomatoes, cabbage, and cauliflower (½ cup of cauliflower = 26 mg)
3. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a lesser-known vitamin and is easily overlooked. It is a fat-soluble vitamin and the most common deficiencies occur in people that have an issue absorbing fat, like Crohn’s and cystic fibrosis. Vitamin E has shown to play a crucial role in:
- Vision. Decreased the Incidence of age-related and chronic eye conditions such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration
- Reproduction, aids in both female and male fertility
- Antioxidant properties decrease oxidative stress
- Some studies are showing a decreased incidence of heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and certain cancers.
How much vitamin E
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning your body does not excrete it through urine, and over-consuming can lead to dangerous complications, however, overdose is not very common.
|Birth – 6 months||4 mg|
|7 – 12 months||5 mg|
|1 – 3 years||6 mg|
|4 – 8 years||7 mg|
|9 – 13 years||11 mg|
|14 – 18 years||15 mg|
|Pregnant/breastfeeding women||15 – 19 mg|
Sources of vitamin E
Vitamin E is mostly found in vegetables, oils, and nuts. It is fat-soluble, overconsumption is rare but can occur.
- Fortified cereals
- Almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds (1 oz of almonds = 7.8 mg)
- Peppers, broccoli, and spinach (1 cup of spinach = 3.7 mg)
- Olive oil and wheat germ oil (1tbsp of wheat germ oil = 20.3 mg)
Magnesium is the 4th most abundant mineral in the human body. Magnesium is one of the electrolytes we look at every morning in the hospital. It is crucial in proper cardiac function and a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems.
- Cardiac health. Helps regulate rhythm and blood pressure
- Brain health. Regulates NMDA which aids in brain development, memory, and learning.
- Muscle contraction and protein synthesis. Magnesium competes with calcium to help relax muscles.
- Regulates blood sugar levels
How much magnesium?
|Birth – 6 months||30 mg|
|7 – 12 months||75 mg|
|1 – 3 years||80 mg|
|4 – 8 years||130 mg|
|9 – 13 years||240 mg|
|14 – 18 years||360 – 410 mg|
|Adults||310 – 420 mg|
|Pregnant/breastfeeding women||310 – 400 mg|
Sources of Magnesium
Most sources of magnesium are from plant-based foods.
- Pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and almonds (1 oz of pumpkin seeds = 156 mg)
- Fortified cereals
- Beans and edamame (½ cup of black beans = 60 mg)
Zinc is a vital mineral that aids the body in many functions. We only need a small amount of zinc yet it is responsible for over 100 enzymes.
- Gene expression, DNA, and protein synthesis. Zinc stabilizes the structure of RNA, DNA, and ribosomes in cells.
- Wound healing helps to create new cells and collagen formation
- The immune function helps control inflammation and the aggregation of WBCs
- Growth and development
How much zinc
With so many functions requiring zinc, it is important to meet at least the daily requirements.
|Birth – 6 months||2 mg|
|7 – 12 months||3 mg|
|1 – 3 years||3 mg|
|4 – 8 years||5 mg|
|9 – 13 years||8 mg|
|14 – 18 years||9 – 11 mg|
|Adults||8 – 11 mg|
|Pregnant/breastfeeding women||11 – 13 mg|
Sources of zinc
Zinc is an easy mineral to get a hold of because it is found in a wide variety of plant and animal foods.
- Fish, oysters, and poultry (3.5 oz of Alaskan crab = 7.6 mg)
- Legumes, nuts, and seeds (100 g of black beans = 6.5 mg)
- Eggs and dairy products (1 cup of milk = 1 mg)
- Kale, mushrooms, and peas (1 cup mushroom – 1.9 mg)
Iron is a crucial mineral in healthy blood cells. If you consistently feel tired it may be a sign of iron deficiency. Roughly 10 million people in the US have low iron and about half of those have an iron deficiency. Iron isn’t only responsible for healthy red blood cells, it has a much more crucial function:
- Creation of hemoglobin
- Myoglobin serves as a storage site for oxygen in muscles
How much iron?
|Birth – 6 months||0.27 mg|
|7 – 12 months||11 mg|
|1 – 3 years||7 mg|
|4 – 8 years||10 mg|
|9 – 13 years||8 mg|
|14 – 18 years||11 – 15 mg|
|19 – 50 years||8 – 18 mg|
|51+ years||8 mg|
|Pregnant/breastfeeding women||9 – 27 mg|
Sources of iron
The main sources of iron are going to be lean meats, poultry, and seafood. There is some iron in certain plant-based foods.
- Meats, poultry, and seafood (290g of ribeye = 6.5 mg)
- Fortified cereals
- Nuts and dried fruit (1 cup of pumpkin seeds = 11.4 mg)
- Beans, spinach, and peas (3.5 oz of spinach = 2.7 mg)
The topic of folate or folic acid usually comes around during pregnancy. It is essential in preventing neural tube defects. Folate is important for overall good health. It is sometimes referred to as vitamin B 9.
- Make and repair DNA. folate is necessary for the creation of certain enzymes that synthesize and modify DNA
- Produce red blood cells
How much folate
|Birth – 6 months||65 mcg|
|7 – 12 months||80 mcg|
|1 – 3 years||150 mcg|
|4 – 8 years||200 mcg|
|9 – 13 years||300 mcg|
|14 – 18 years||400 mcg|
|19+ years||400 mcg|
|Pregnant/breastfeeding women||500 – 600 mcg|
Sources of folate
Folate can be found most commonly in dark leafy greens. People who have absorption issues in their small intestine may have improper folate absorption.
- Spinach, Brussel sprouts, and asparagus (1 cup of cooked spinach = 263 mcg)
- Beef and liver (3 oz beef liver = 212 mcg)
- Nuts, beans, and peas (100 g of kidney beans = 130 mcg)