The importance of micronutrients
Micronutrients are essential for your health. Here we will tell you about the most common of them – what health benefits they provide, when and how to take them, and so on.
1. Magnesium (Mg)
This essential mineral is involved in over 300 metabolic reactions including energy production and excreted through sweat. Professional athletes often take in magnesium supplements. Magnesium is very important for muscle movement and nerve conduction. With age our muscles start to cramp, so magnesium becomes more important for both movement and heart health. You have magnesium deficiency if you experience cold extremities, chronic fatigue, cramps, insomnia, PMS and anxiety. Great source of magnesium in food is oat bran (96 mg in ½ cup), almonds, barley, molasses, wholegrain cereals, kelp, eggs and seeds. Keep in mind that caffeine and alcohol can impede with magnesium absorption, so don’t drink alcohol beverages, coffee or tea (at least 2 hours), if you’re about to eat some food rich in this mineral or take supplements. Also high levels of calcium or iron may compete with magnesium.
How much you need daily: 310 to 420 mg/day
B vitamins are water soluble, so they’re eliminated quickly and need to be replaced. You have B vitamin deficiency is you tend to have cracked lips, fatigue, poor immunity, sleepiness, weakness and lethargy. To restore your levels of B vitamins you should consider including the following foods to your menu: liver is a great source of all B vitamins, especially B5; 85 g of chicken liver contains 7 mg; tuna contains over 1 mg of B6 per 100 g serve. Vitamin B12 can only be found in animal products: a 100 g fillet of salmon supplies more than double the recommended daily intake. Vegetarians may need to take B12 supplements. Excessive protein, coffee, tea, alcohol and cigarettes can reduce absorption of B vitamins. The B vitamins are synergistic, meaning they need each to be utilized efficiently by the body, which is why most are packaged as B multivitamins.
How much you need daily: B1 (thiamine) – 1.1 to 1.2 mg/day; B2 (riboflavin) – 1.1 to 1.3 mg/day; B3 (niacin) – 14 to 16mg/day; B5 (pantothenic acid) – 4 to 6mg/day; B6 (pyridoxine) – 1.3 to 1.7 mcg/day; B12 (cobalamin) – 2.4mcg/day.
3. Zinc (Zn)
Zinc can be hard to absorption, plus many factors cause excessive loss of zinc, such as stress, alcohol, cigarettes, gastrointestinal and digestive disorders and chronic diarrhoea. If you have deficiency of zinc, you may suffer from brittle nails, acne, impaired wound healing, loss of taste and smell, low sperm counts, poor concentration, increased incidence of colds/flus. To get enough zinc from food, you should include into your menu these products: oysters (the richest source of zinc – one oyster (50 g) provides around 8 mg),shellfish, red meat, eggs, milk, sunflower seeds and whole grains. Alcohol and some prescription meds may also inhibit absorption, as well as excessive calcium.
How much you need daily: 8 to 14 mg/day for adults.
4. Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Vitamin helps strengthen immunity, promotes healthy teeth and gums, wound healing and enables collagen synthesis for youthful skin. Our body can’t produce vitamin C, so it’s crucial to have dietary sources or supplementation. Symptoms of a shortfall are bleeding gums, fatigue and increased susceptibility to infection/colds. While deficiency of vitamin C, known as scurvy, is quite rare these days, it still can happen, with symptoms including irritability, leg pain, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, fever, tissue haemorrhaging and pain. Great food sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, kiwi, berries, guava, broccoli and sprouts. Chillies are also rich in this vitamin: a single red chilli contains 65 mg of vitamin C. Like other water-soluble vitamins, vitamin C is unstable when exposed to heat and light. Absorption is impeded by excessive intake of coffee/tea, alcohol, cigarettes and blood thinning medications, e.g. aspirin. But bioflavonoids boost vitamin C absorption by up to 35%.
How much you need daily: 45 mg/day.
5. Iron (Fe)
Iron is essential in moving oxygen through the blood stream to prevent anaemia and tiredness. According to statistics, about 25% of the population is at risk of iron deficiency. Signs of it include tiredness, pale inside lower eyelid, inhibited cognition, menstrual problems, brittle nails, cold sensitivity, increased bruising and weakness. But keep in mind that it’s easy to overdose on iron, so be careful with it. Have a blood test to determine whether supplementation is necessary. Foods that are rich in iron: red meat (100g of lean red meat provides around 1.1 to 1.5 mg), almonds, avocado, liver, kidney, parsley poultry, wheat germ. Take iron (food or supplements) separate from coffee, which can decrease absorption by up to 40%, and dairy. Beware of excess zinc, aspirin and antacids. On the contrary, copper is required for iron metabolism, and vitamin C is required for its absorption.
How much you need daily: 18 mg/day. Women of menstruating age need more.
6. Calcium (Ca)
About 99% of calcium in the body resides in bones and teeth. This mineral is essential for bone growth and strength and used in muscle contractions. Calcium deficiency is called ‘hypocalcaemia’ and causes bone breakdown as the body uses all stored calcium to maintain normal functions. Chronic deficiency can result in osteoporosis. Moderate deficiency symptoms include cramps, joint pains, heart palpitations, insomnia, brittle nails, eczema and limb numbness. Make sure your menu includes these products rich in calcium: sesame seeds (the richest source of calcium), dairy foods (a glass of milk (around 200 ml) provides 300 mg), legumes, tofu, kale, broccoli, spinach, rhubarb, and nuts. Magnesium and zinc can affect calcium’s absorption, so take them separately. Excess caffeine, dietary fat, dietary fiber and high-protein diets can lead to high calcium excretion. Combining vitamin D and exercise enhances absorption of calcium.
How much you need daily: 1,000 to 1300mg/day for adults. Requirements increase for menopausal women, who absorb less calcium and lose an additional 30mg in urine. Have a blood test to determine calcium levels before supplementing.
7. Essential fatty acids (EFAs)
Omega-3 types EPA and DHA are synthesized from alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). The body can’t synthesize its own ALA, or cousin linoleic acid (LA), so you need to get it from food or a supplement. But EFAs compete for the same enzyme, so an abundance of one EFA may cause a weakened metabolism of the other. Fortunately, most good-quality fish oils provide the correct ratio. Make sure you have enough fish oils in your diet to make skin glow, increase brain power and development, as well as reducing joint pain as an anti-inflammatory. Deficiency can result in dermatitis, acne, dry skin, brittle hair, joint stiffness/pain, respiratory infections, and varicose veins. And recent research links high intakes of fish and omega-3 fatty acids to decreased rates of major depression. The best food sources of ALA: flaxseeds (linseeds), walnuts, walnut oil and canola oil; LA: nuts, seeds, soybeans; DHA/EPA: oily fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna and cod.
If you’re taking some anticoagulant medication such as aspirin and warfarin, be careful with high doses of EFAs.
How much you need daily: about 500 mg/day of DHA and EPA and 2 g/day of ALA to lower coronary disease risk.