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What are micronutrients?

Micronutrients is the general name given to compounds that are needed in small or minute quantities to sustain healthy body functions, such as vitamins and minerals.

What are macronutrients vs micronutrients?

Our foods contain many different nutrients. In order to help us understand the basics of healthy eating, scientists split the nutrients in our food into two different categories – macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are the large-scale nutrients that our bodies need to maintain energy. They are usually measured in grams. 

The three macronutrients we get from food are:

  •   Carbohydrates
  •   Fats
  •   Proteins

Our bodies also require micronutrients, but in much smaller amounts. Micronutrients are the vitamins, minerals, and other trace nutrients that are required for specific tasks within our body. Most micronutrients are measured in milligrams or micrograms.

Popular micronutrients include but are not limited to: 

  •   Vitamin B12
  •   Folic Acid
  •   Vitamin A
  •   Zinc
  •   Calcium

Micronutrients may be small, but they are critical to a healthy body.

Is iron a micronutrient?

Yes, iron is a micronutrient! Our bodies need it to make healthy red blood cells, but it also supports our metabolism and immune health. Most of us should be getting between 8-18 mcg of iron every day. People who don’t get enough iron put themselves at risk for anemia and other health conditions.

Two different types of iron can be found in our food – heme iron and nonheme iron. Heme iron comes from animal sources, while nonheme iron is found in plant-based and fortified foods.

Related Terms

Protein Macronutrients

Learn more about Micronutrients:

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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