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An Introduction to Micros

An Introduction to Micros

When a person starts trying to change their eating habits to adopt a healthier lifestyle, one of the first things they’ll do is adjust their macronutrients. Macronutrients, which include carbohydrates, fat, and protein, are what make up the bulk of the calories we consume in a day.

To learn more about macronutrients, read our latest article on the topic An Introduction to Macros


However, our health is about so much more than the calories we eat. Too often, people overlook micronutrients, which are the vitamins and minerals that our body requires from our food to stay healthy.


Today, we’ll talk about micronutrients, what our body uses them for, and how to get enough to support your long-term health.  

What are Micronutrients?

At their most basic level, micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to survive. They’re called micronutrients because while they are essential, we don’t need them in huge quantities. Instead of being measured in grams, they’re measured in micrograms or milligrams.


Despite being necessary only in small quantities, these vitamins and minerals are extremely important. Vitamins and minerals play a central role in supporting immune health, energy production, blood clotting, bone health, and many, many other essential processes that keep us alive.


Our body can only obtain micronutrients from our food, with one exception (vitamin D, which we synthesize from the sun). This means that if we don’t get enough from dietary or supplemental sources, it has the potential to disrupt our development and growth.


While they’re often lumped into the same category, vitamins and minerals are different.


Vitamins are organic compounds that are derived from either plant or animal sources. They can be broken down by different forces such as acid or heat. Vitamins are typically divided into two different categories – water-soluble, and fat-soluble.


Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water, which means that any excess is easily flushed through our urine. For this reason, it’s hard to consume too many water-soluble vitamins.


Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed when we eat fat and are typically stored longer-term in our liver and fatty tissue.  


Some popular vitamins include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, and B vitamins.

To learn more about vitamins, read our article Fat vs Water Soluble Vitamins



Minerals are inorganic compounds that are typically derived from soil or water. The minerals we find in our food are absorbed from the soil by plants, which we then consume directly or indirectly through our consumption of animals.


There are two different types of minerals – macrominerals (necessary in larger quantities) and trace minerals (which we need in smaller quantities). Some of the most well-known minerals include calcium, magnesium, sodium, iron, copper, iodine, and selenium.


Regardless of whether we need them in large or small quantities, minerals are essential to our health.


How to Ensure You’re Getting the Micronutrients Your Body Needs

One of the best ways to ensure you’re getting the micronutrients you need is to eat a balanced diet that’s rich in plants as well as animal-based protein if that’s an option for you. Vitamin D is the only micronutrient that we can get from sources other than food, so it’s important to make sure our diet is balanced.


A healthy variety of foods includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, dairy products, and low-fat protein. In general, processed foods like pre-made cakes, cookies, chips, sodas, or other unhealthy snack foods contain the lowest amounts of micronutrients.


However, some mass-produced foods that we enjoy today are fortified with vitamins and minerals. For example, adding iodine to salt or vitamin D to milk has been adopted in most countries around the world, and has helped to correct nutrient shortfalls, leading to a lower overall rate of birth defects as well as other serious conditions like rickets.

What Happens If You Don’t Get Enough Micros?

If you’re not getting enough of one or several nutrients, there are a few tell-tale warning signs. Depending on the micronutrients you’re missing, you may notice symptoms that include:

  • Hair loss
  • Lack of energy or fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry skin
  • Broken and soft nails
  • Swollen tongue

Updated on
Photo of Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson

Medically reviewed by:

Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson, Ph.D., RD

Kristin is an RDN who also earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition from Arizona State University with an emphasis on insulin resistance, lipid metabolism disorders, and obesity. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Mayo Clinic where she focused on nutrition-related proteomic and metabolic research. Her interests include understanding the exact mechanism of action of various genetic variations underlying individual predispositions to nutrition-related health outcomes. Her goal is to help all individuals prevent chronic diseases and achieve long, healthy lives through eating well.

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