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Micronutrients: What They Are and Why They're Essential

Micronutrients are different from macronutrients (like carbohydrates, protein and fat) because they are necessary only in very tiny amounts. Nevertheless, micronutrients are essential for good health, and micronutrient deficiencies can cause serious health problems. Micronutrients include such dietary minerals as zinc and iodine, and they are necessary for the healthy functioning of all your body's systems, from bone growth to brain function.

What Micronutrients are and Their Role in Your Health

Micronutrients are what are commonly referred to as "vitamins and minerals." Micronutrients include such minerals as flouride, selenium, sodium, iodine, copper and zinc. They also include vitamins such as vitamin C, A, D, E and K, as well as the B-complex vitamins.

As mentioned, micronutrients are different from the macronutrients protein, carbohydrate and fat, and micronutrients are called "micro"-nutrients because your body needs only very small quantities of them for survival. However, if your body doesn't get the small quantities of micronutrients that it needs, serious health problems can result.

Micronutrients are vital to the proper functioning of all of your body's systems. Sodium, for instance, is responsible for maintaining the proper fluid balance in your body; it helps fluids pass through cell walls and helps regulate appropriate pH levels in your blood. Here are some of the ways that other micronutrients help maintain your body's systems:

  • Manganese promotes bone formation and energy production, and helps your body metabolize the macronutrients, protein, carbohydrate and fat.
  • Magnesium helps your heart maintain its normal rhythm. It helps your body convert glucose (blood sugar) into energy, and it is necessary for the metabolization of the micronutrients calcium and vitamin C.
  • Iron helps your body produce red blood cells and lymphocytes.
  • Iodine helps your thyroid gland develop and function. It helps your body to metabolize fats, and promotes energy production and growth.
  • Chloride helps regulate water and electrolytes within your cells, as well as helping to maintain appropriate cellular pH.

Getting Enough Vitamins and Minerals in Your Diet

Getting enough micronutrients in your diet isn't hard. Eat a balanced diet including plenty of nuts, whole grains and green leafy vegetables. Eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, like red cherries, purple grapes, yellow bananas and orange carrots. The more colorful your diet, the better.

It's easy to include more fruits and vegetables in your diet. Eat fruit salads for dessert instead of sweets. Prepare your own homemade soups and salads, and include two or more vegetable side dishes with each meal.

Common Micronutrient Deficiency Disorders

Micronutrient deficiency can lead to some serious health problems. The World Health Organization feels that micronutrient deficiency presents a huge threat to the health of the world's population. Some common micronutrient deficiencies include iodine deficiency, vitamin A deficiency and iron deficiency.

Iodine deficiency is the world's foremost cause of brain damage. Iodine deficiency during pregnancy can result in stillbirth, miscarriage and irreversible mental retardation. Fortunately, it's easily prevented by the use of iodized salt.

Vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of blindness in children; in pregnant women it can cause night blindness and increases maternal mortality rates.

Iron deficiency is the most common deficiency in the world, and the only one prevalent in developed countries. Over 30% of the world's population suffers from iron deficiency anemia.

Ingest the proper amount of micronutrients to ensure optimal health and prevent deficiency disorders!

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