ALL ABOUT MICRONUTRIENTS

Most of us have heard that we should aim for 5-a-day when it comes to our fruits and veggies, this doesn’t sound too hard, yet most individuals are still not getting in enough of these foods filled with goodness. This makes us think… should we supplement or is it better to get our vitamins and minerals from foods we consume? What are some of the benefits? Let’s take a closer look. 1. Essential nutrients Everyday our bodies perform many different functions, sending instructions throughout our bodies to help us sustain life. For this to happen we need some raw materials. These include at least 30 vitamins, minerals and dietary components that the body can’t make on its own insufficient amounts1,2. Vitamins and minerals are known as essential nutrients because acting in concert, they perform many roles in the body. They are also called micronutrients, meaning we need them in relatively small amounts. They are the building blocks that keep the body functioning at its best. They are also our bodies defenders, builders and maintenance workers, helping our bodies to build muscle and bone, they help us utilise nutrients by converting food into energy, they strengthen our immune systems and help to repair cellular damage1-3. 2. Vitamins vs. minerals Vitamins and minerals are both considered micronutrients, but they differ in some basic ways. Vitamins are known as organic compounds, they can be broken down by air, heat and acid. Minerals on the other hand are inorganic compounds which hold on to their chemical structure2,3. Minerals found in water and soil can easily find their way into our bodies by what we eat therefore through fish, animals, plants and fluids. Where as vitamins are more of a challenge as cooking, storage and simple exposure to air can inactivate these more fragile components2,4. 3. Vitamins 101 We get different types of vitamins and these are classified into being: a. Water-soluble Water-soluble vitamins are packed into the watery portions of foods we eat. As food breaks down during digestion they are directly absorbed into the bloodstream2-4. About 60% of our body is made up of water, this makes circulation of water-soluble vitamins easy, the kidneys continuously regulate levels of water-soluble vitamins moving excesses out of the body via your urine. Although water-soluble vitamins have various functions in the body, one of the most important tasks is helping to free the energy found in the food you consume, others help keep tissues healthy2-4. Some water-soluble vitamins can stay in the body for long periods but in general water-soluble vitamins should be replenished every few days. b. Fat-soluble Unlike water-soluble vitamins that easily slip into the bloodstream, fat-soluble vitamins gain entry to the bloodstream via lymph channels in the intestinal wall. These vitamins help to build bones, protect our vision and body and help to absorb, store and utilise vitamins2. Fat-soluble vitamins travel through the bloodstream under escort by proteins which act as carriers. Vitamins A, D, E and K are all fat-soluble vitamins, together these vitamins help keep your eyes, lungs, skin, gastrointestinal tract as well as nervous system healthy2-5. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body for long periods, toxic levels can therefore build up. This rarely happens just from food and is more likely to happen if you take supplements2. 4. Minerals 101 Major minerals are needed by the body and these can be stored in fairly large amounts. Major minerals together with trace minerals are both equally important for your health2,5. Major minerals travel through your body in different ways, some travel freely and others like your calcium requires a carrier for transport and absorption. One of the biggest functions of minerals is to maintain the correct balance of water in the body, sodium, potassium and chloride take the lead in obtaining this. Whereas calcium, phosphorous and magnesium are important for healthy bones. Sulphur on the other hand helps stabilize protein structures, some include those that make up hair, skin and nails2. Trace minerals carry out many different functions too, for example iron plays an important role in our blood and helps to carry oxygen, fluoride (also found in toothpaste) helps to prevent tooth decay and strengthens bones, zinc helps blood clot and is essential for us to taste and smell food and copper helps many enzymes2,5,6. Other trace minerals play roles in metabolism, form key enzymes and helps with our immune systems. 5. Should we supplement vitamins and minerals As dietitians, we advise people to achieve their required nutrient intake through consumption of food sources where possible, though sometimes this may not be achievable due to time constraints or other dietary factors. Thus, it may be more practical to consume certain nutrients in supplement form, like your vitamins and minerals. These supplements tend to be quite pricey, so we usually pick the cheapest option. Note that while we believe that we are taking in the amount of specified on the bottle, this may not always be the case. Try to choose a reputable brand that is true to its label. Better yet try consuming foods rich in vitamins and minerals so that supplementation isn’t necessary. FUTURELIFE® Smart food™and FUTURELIFE® HIGH PROTEIN Smart food™ are both high in 15 vitamins and minerals thus assisting you in meeting your daily requirements. Enjoy it as a meal or drink anytime of the day. CONCLUSION We can now understand why so much stress is being placed on having our 5-a-day, try start tomorrow morning on the right foot by having a fruit with your favourite, affordable breakfast cereal, FUTURELIFE® Smart food™ of course. We also often hear that we should be having a rainbow of fruits and veggies. This is simply implying we should have variety as different colours usually contain different vitamins and minerals. Lets all aim for our 5-a-day and make sure we are getting enough of these foods filled with goodness. REFERENCES
  1. Mahan, L., Escott-Stump, S., & Raymond, J. (2012). Krause's Food & the Nutrition Care Process 13th Edition. Elsivier
  2. Harvard Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from Making Sense of Vitamins and Minerals: https://www.health.harvard.edu/special-health-reports/vitamins-and-minerals-choosing-the-nutrients-you-need-to-stay-healthy
  3. Nguyen, G. T. (2014, October 6). Ted Ed. Retrieved from How do vitamins work? -: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISZLTJH5lYg
  4. (n.d.). Vitamins and Minerals Are We Getting Enough? Retrieved from Help Guide: https://www.helpguide.org/harvard/vitamins-and-minerals.htm/
  5. Canada, R. D. (2019). Readers Digest. Retrieved from 13 Essential Vitamins Your Body Needs to Stay Healthy: https://www.readersdigest.ca/health/healthy-living/13-essential-vitamins-your-body-needs-stay-healthy/
  6. Sirikanth, R. (2017, May 16). Calorie Bee. Retrieved from Trace Minerals and Their Functions: https://caloriebee.com/nutrition/Trace-minerals-and-their-functions
  7. Senekal, P. (2018, June 21). International Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges (AMDR). Retrieved from https://www.nutritionsociety.co.za/2018/06/21/fact-sheet-dietary-recommendations-for-health/