Everything You Need to Know About Micronutrients (Part 2)
By Alyssa Kessel, RDN, LD, Expert Dietitian
In my previous post on micronutrients, I broke down the two types of micronutrients (fat-soluble and water-soluble) and focused on how you can incorporate fat-soluble vitamins into your diet. In this post, I want to dive into the other form of micronutrients: water-soluble vitamins.
What are water-soluble vitamins?
As their name suggests, water-soluble vitamins are those that dissolve in water. As a result, they are carried to the body’s tissues but aren’t stored in them. Whatever the body doesn’t use is simply excreted in the urine. This makes toxicity from these vitamins is uncommon.
As micronutrients, these vitamins are important for your body in frequent, small doses. The best way to incorporate them into your diet is by eating a balanced diet and taking quality supplements if necessary.
What are the most common water-soluble vitamins?
The vitamins in this category include Vitamin C and 8 B vitamins. The 8 B Vitamins are known as the vitamin B-complex group. They function as coenzymes that help your body obtain energy from food.
What are the benefits of these vitamins?
Vitamin B1: Thiamin
Like the other B vitamins, thiamine serves as a coenzyme in the body. Thiamin plays an essential role in many metabolic processes, including:
- Conversion of carbohydrates into energy
- Promotion of normal appetite
- Nervous system function maintenance
The richest food sources of thiamin include liver, pork, legumes, nuts, sunflower seeds, and whole-grain breads and cereals.
Vitamin B2: Riboflavin
This vitamin works with other B-complex vitamins, and is needed for:
- Conversion of nutrients into energy
- Promotion of general growth
- Good vision
- Healthy skin
- Red cell production
Food sources include liver, eggs, almonds, dark green vegetables, legumes, whole and enriched grain products, and milk.
Vitamin B3: Niacin
Niacin is important for:
- Energy production
- Promotion of normal appetite and digestion
- Healthy skin and nerves
It is found in dairy products, poultry, fish, lean meats, nuts, legumes, and eggs.
Vitamin B5: Pantothenic Acid
Vitamin B5 plays a key role in a wide range of metabolic functions. You need it for:
- Energy production
- Hormone synthesis
- Metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates
This vitamin is found in a widespread of foods – in fact, most food contains it! The best sources include liver, mushrooms, root vegetables, sunflower seeds, and whole grains.
Vitamin B6: Pyridoxine
Vitamin B6 is crucial for:
- Protein metabolism
- Red blood cell formation
- Healthy nervous system
- Involvement in the body’s production of chemicals, such as insulin and hemoglobin
It is found in a variety of foods, such as fish, meat, beans, legumes, and vegetables.
Vitamin B7: Biotin
Like the rest of the B vitamins, biotin functions as a coenzyme. This vitamin helps:
- Release energy from carbohydrates
- Aid in the metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbs from food
Vitamin B7 is found in foods with good sources in organ meats, egg yolk, meat, legumes, mushrooms, cauliflower, and nuts.
Vitamin B9: Folic Acid and Folate
This vitamin plays an important role in:
- Cell growth and DNA formation
- Amino acid metabolism
- Formation of red blood cells
It is also essential during periods of rapid cell growth and division, such as pregnancy and infancy. Folate is found in dark green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, oranges, lemons, bananas, melons, and strawberries. The synthetic form is folic acid. It is an essential component of prenatal vitamins and fortified cereals and pastas.
Vitamin B12: Cobalamin
This is the only vitamin containing a metallic element, named cobalt. Vitamin B12 is needed for:
- The production of red blood cells
- Maintenance of the nervous system
It’s found in meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy products. Unfortunately, it’s not found in plant-based foods, so vegans are at risk for B12 deficiency.
Vitamin C is essential for many important body functions, and is one of the body’s most important antioxidants to protect itself from oxidative stress. Vitamin C is also needed for:
- Collagen synthesis (collagen is a connective tissue that holds muscles, bones, and other tissues together)
- Wound healing
- Bone and tooth growth
- Absorption and utilization of iron
- Improving immune system function
The highest sources of vitamin C are found in citrus fruits (grapefruit, oranges, kiwi), strawberries, peppers, and dark leafy greens.
What should I do next?
Creating a balanced diet is the most important step to keep your body functioning efficiently and healthfully. If you need help creating a meal plan that works for you, please call us at 513-791-9474 to schedule a weight loss consultation.
Stay tuned for my next post on minerals!
Missed my first post on fat-soluble vitamins? Click HERE to read it.