Micronutrients definition, explanation, role

Micronutrients: definition, explanation, role

The nutritional needs of the body are mostly met with food. All the foods we eat contain a different proportion of micronutrients. What are these micronutrients made up of? What are their benefits and the proportions necessary for the body to function properly?

What are micronutrients?

Learning about the ratio of micronutrients in your diet that is useful in your diet for good health can help you make positive lifestyle changes. The foods we eat are foods of plant, animal or mixed origin. They are made up of nutrients (micronutrients and macronutrients), water and fiber to provide the energy needed by the body’s cells to function properly.

Micronutrients are nutrients that are present in very small amounts of food. Unlike macronutrients, micronutrients have no energy value. Their actions are fundamental to maintaining the body’s functioning despite their crippling dose.

What is the difference between micronutrients and macronutrients?

Micronutrient is the term used to describe the class of vitamins and minerals that the body needs in the wrong amount of food. They include vitamins A, B (all vitamin B derivatives), C, D, E, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. Micronutrients are therefore composed of the vitamins, minerals and trace elements present in food.

On the other hand, the term macronutrient is used to describe the number of calories. More specifically, it refers to the energy contained in a food ration. It is the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that have an important and unique role in the body in terms of muscle building, growth, and development.

We need both micronutrients and macronutrients to keep our bodies in shape. Because together they form a balanced nutritional capital that nourishes our tissues and organs, contributes to strengthening our immune system, hormone production, and maintaining good health.

No type of food contains all the micronutrients we need. It is the variety of your diet that is the key to benefiting from them. Eating foods from different groups (fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, meats, fish, dairy products…) will help you get the macronutrients and micronutrients you need.

The Importance of Micronutrients on Health and Body Size

Micronutrients (which play no energy role) are essential components of a quality diet. Although they are present only in small quantities (milligrams or micrograms), they are essential for the maintenance of life.

Different types of micronutrients are useful to the body. Each plays different roles and functions. For example, vitamins A, C, and E (usually referred to as antioxidants) help your body resist infections, protect against bacteria, and repair tissue damage. B vitamins help transport electrons and provide energy to your muscles. Potassium, calcium, and magnesium are important for building bone strength, strengthening muscle movement, regulating blood pressure, etc

Micronutrient deficiencies in children and pregnant women have devastating consequences. Children lacking these vitamins suffer from physical and cognitive growth retardation, weakened immunity, and recurrent infections. Micronutrient deficiency puts pregnant women at risk of weakening during childbirth.

The different types of micronutrients

Micronutrients are made up of :

  • vitamins (water-soluble and fat-soluble)
  • minerals
  • trace elements

All vitamins are found in different families, namely water-soluble vitamins (water-soluble) and fat-soluble vitamins (fat-soluble).

Water-soluble vitamins

They are soluble in water and not storable in the body. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C and B group vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B4…B12). The latter are involved in the protection of the blood vessel wall, defense against bacterial and viral infections, iron assimilation, and antioxidant action (the capture of free radicals). The main dietary sources of B vitamins are dried or green vegetables, dairy products, wild rice, mushrooms, lentils, avocado, meat, poultry, fish, etc

Vitamin C has anti-inflammatory and healing properties. It strengthens the immune system, reduces the risk of infections related to the alternation of seasons. It is mainly present in fruits (red fruits, citrus fruits) and vegetables.

Fat-soluble vitamins

They are soluble in fat, and the body can store it for energy use to power the muscles, digestive system, and other organs of the body. Their group includes vitamins A, D, K, and E.

Vitamin A participates in multiple functions in our body, notably in the mechanism of vision, cell growth, and the immune system. You can benefit from it in foods such as fish liver oil, foie gras, carrots, apricots..

Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin by the action of ultraviolet and solar rays. Its main function is to increase the intestine’s capacity to assimilate calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D is contained in vegetable oils, salmon, sardines, herring, and enriched dairy products.

Vitamin K promotes calcium fixation in the bones and is essential for blood clotting. These food sources are green vegetables, fermentation products (fermented cheeses, etc.), and some vegetable oils.

Finally, vitamin E acts mainly at the level of cell membranes to prevent the proliferation of harmful molecules resulting from a poor lifestyle (smoking, alcoholism, stress, etc.) which generate attacks on the cells to make them age or make the individual sick. Certain edible oils and their derivatives are foods rich in vitamin E: avocado oil, sunflower oil, cod liver oil, hazelnut oil, etc.


Mineral salts are present in almost all foods: green vegetables, wholegrain cereals, chocolate, dried vegetables, mineral water… The most important are calcium, iron, potassium, sodium, and magnesium. These mineral salts are present in the diet in the form of salts (chlorides) and contribute to the regeneration of tissues, the maintenance of normal blood pH, and the health of bones and teeth.

But beware of cooking at high temperatures, which can destroy them in food. Prefer cooking by steaming or stewing, which does not alter the minerals.

Trace elements

The trace elements are iron (formation of hemoglobin), zinc (maintains cell youthfulness), copper (formation of enzymes), chlorine (maintenance of the acid-base balance in blood and urine), selenium, fluorine, and manganese.

Your body is not capable of synthesizing trace elements on its own. It must, therefore, draw them from your daily diet. To ensure an adequate intake, it is important to vary your diet and make sure you eat a balanced diet.

Foods rich in trace elements include seafood, seaweed, green and dried vegetables, poultry, egg yolk, mineral water, whole grains, dried mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, etc.

Recommended daily micronutrient intakes

The role of an adequate intake of micronutrients is essential in the prevention of many pathologies. However, remember that each person has different needs in vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. This varies according to age, gender, physical condition, lifestyle, and physical activity. Over-consumption can, therefore, have harmful long-term effects.

The daily intakes recommended here are benchmarks provided as a necessary reference for an average adult (male or female):

MicronutrientRecommended Daily Allowance
Vitamin A800 μg
Vitamin B11.1 mg
Vitamin B21.4 mg
Vitamins B316 mg
Vitamins B56 mg
Vitamin B61.4 mg
Vitamin B850 μg
Vitamin B9200 μg
Vitamins B122.5 μg
Vitamin C80 mg
Vitamin D5 μg
Vitamin E12 mg
Vitamin K75 µg
Calcium800 mg
Chloride800 mg
Copper1 mg
Iron14 mg
Iodine150 μg
Magnesium375 mg
Manganese2 mg
Phosphorus700 mg
Potassium2,000 mg
Selenium55 μg
Zinc10 mg