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  • Steven Shuster, MS, CISSN

Nutrition Basics: Introduction to the Micronutrients

The micronutrients are those essential nutrients that are required in small amounts - usually a few grams to less than a tenth of a gram per day. Remember that essential means we cannot produce them ourselves. We get these

micronutrients from the plants and animals that we eat. copyright: Kenny Point https://www.flickr.com/photos/kennypoint/

They do not provide us with any calories, but they have key roles for every process that goes on in our bodies.

Micronutrients are all the vitamins and minerals that we need to survive and thrive. Though the RDA (recommended daily allowance) and AI (adequate intake) are written in amount per day, we really do not need most of these every day.

Though average consumption throughout the week is most important, we do need some micronutrients more frequently than others. For example, we are sensitive to daily fluctuations in sodium.

But others, like B12, may take years to deplete to the point that we experience symptoms of deficiency even when we are not consuming any at all.

Vitamins and minerals also have an upper limit (UL) or tolerable upper intake. This is the amount that can generally be safely consumed indefinitely before symptoms of toxicity appear. Most people will never have a problem with exceeding the UL when relying on food; it is usually only when one uses supplements that they need to worry.

Breaking micronutrients down, there are two main categories: vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins can be further broken up into two types: fat soluble and water soluble.

Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble, while the B vitamins and vitamin C are water soluble. Fat soluble vitamins will the be topic of the next post.

Minerals can also be categorized in a few different categories based on how much we need: macrominerals, micro or trace minerals, and ultra trace minerals.

As our series on Nutrition Basics continues, we will discuss each of these groups in turn.

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