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Micronutrients: Vitamins and Minerals

news-details Image Source Oct 26, 2020 10:43 IST · 7 min read

Nutrients are compounds in foods essential to life and health, providing us with energy, the building blocks for repair and growth and substances necessary to regulate chemical processes. There are six major nutrients - Carbohydrates (CHO), Lipids (fats), Proteins, Vitamins, Minerals, Water.

Nutrients can be divided into 2 categories: Macronutrients (Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats, Water), and Micronutrients (Vitamins and Minerals). Macronutrients are those nutrients that the body needs in large amounts. These provide the body with energy (calories). Micronutrients are those nutrients that the body needs in smaller amounts.

"Water" is also a macronutrient in the sense that the body needs it in large amounts, but unlike the other macronutrients, it does not contain carbon or yield energy.


A vitamin is an organic non-protein substance that is an essential micronutrient which an organism needs in small quantities for the proper functioning of its metabolism.

There are following 13 vitamins human body needs:

Vitamin Name
Vitamin A Retinol
Vitamin B1 Thiamine
Vitamin B2 Riboflavin
Vitamin B3 Niacin
Vitamin B5 Pantothenic acid
Vitamin B6 Pyridoxine
Vitamin B7 Biotin
Vitamin B9 folic acid or folate
Vitamin B12 Cobalamins
Vitamin C Ascorbic acid
Vitamin D Calciferols
Vitamin E Tocopherols and Tocotrienols
Vitamin K Phylloquinone and Menaquinones

Vitamins are classified into two groups depending upon their solubility in water or fat.

1) Fat soluble vitamins: Vitamin A, D, E and K are soluble in fat and oils but insoluble in water, they are stored in liver and adipose (fat storing) tissues.

2) Water soluble vitamins: B group vitamins and vitamin C are soluble in water, vitamins must be supplied regularly in diet because they are readily excreted in urine and cannot be stored (except vitamin B12) in our body.

Vitamins act as a catalyst in the generation of energy by utilizing carbohydrates and fats properly. Humans cannot live without vitamins and the human body cannot produce it on its own (except vitamin D and Vitamin B3).

Vitamin deficiency may cause some diseases and overdose also causes diseases. Here is a table that illustrates the type of vitamins, sources, and diseases due to their deficiency.

Name Solubility Food Sources Deficiency Diseases
Vitamin A Fat Green leafy vegetables, ripe yellow fruits, guava, milk, liver, nuts, tomatoes, oranges, carrots, broccoli, watermelon etc. Hyper-kerat (Keratin)-osis (thickening of skin's outer layer), nyctalopia (night blindness), and keratomalacia (cornea gets cloudy)
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Water Fresh fruits, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, corn, cashew nuts, wheat, milk, black beans, dates etc. Beriberi (loss of appetite, weakness, pain in the limbs, shortness of breath and swollen feet or legs)
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) Water Banana, dates, mushrooms, grapes, mangoes, peas, pumpkin, popcorn etc. Slow growth, sore eyes
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Water Meat, fish, eggs, milk products, cereals, mushroom, guava etc. Pellagra (4 D's: diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, even death)
Vitamin C Water Fresh fruits, black currant, broccoli, goat milk and chestnuts. Scurvy (anemia, spontaneous bleeding, pain in the limbs, loss of teeth)
Vitamin D Fat Fish, egg, liver, beef, cod, chicken breast etc. Rickets (softening and weakening of bones) and Osteomalacia (soft bones)
Vitamin E Fat Potatoes, pumpkin, guava, mango, milk, nuts, seeds etc. Heart problems, Haemolysis and sterility
Vitamin K Fat Tomatoes, broccoli, chestnuts, cashew nuts, beef, lamb, mangoes, grapes etc. Haemorrhage (a lot of bleeding inside the body)

Nutrient Minerals

Nutrient Minerals are those elements in foods that our bodies need to develop and function normally. Those essential for health include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, zinc, iodine, chromium, copper, fluoride, molybdenum, manganese, and selenium.

The five major minerals in the human body are calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and magnesium. All of the remaining elements in a human body are called trace elements.

Just like vitamins, minerals help your body grow, develop, and stay healthy. The body uses minerals to perform many different functions - from building strong bones to transmitting nerve impulses. Some minerals are even used to make hormones or maintain a normal heartbeat.

1) Calcium

Calcium is needed for muscle contraction, nerve function, teeth, heart and digestive system health, builds bone, help blood clot, supports synthesis and function of blood cells. Almost all calcium is stored in bones and teeth, where it supports their structure and hardness.

Sources: Blackberries, dates, carrots, dairy products (milk), eggs, pomegranate, almonds, wheat, soybeans, green leafy vegetables etc.

2) Phosphorus

Phosphorus is a component of bones, teeth, DNA, and RNA, phosphorus is also a component of cell membrane structure and of the body's key energy source.

The kidneys, bones, and intestines regulate phosphorus, when kidney function declines, as in chronic kidney failure, the body cannot excrete phosphate efficiently, extra phosphorus causes body changes that pull calcium out of your bones, making them weak.

Sources: Red meat, dairy foods, fish, poultry, bread, rice, oats etc.

3) Potassium

Potassium helps in muscles contraction, nerve signals, regulate fluid and mineral balance in and out of body cells, and helps maintain normal blood pressure by limiting the effect of sodium. Potassium also may reduce the risk of recurrent kidney stones and bone loss as we age.

Sources: Sweet potato, tomato, potato, beans, lentils, dairy products, seafood, banana, prune, carrot, orange etc.

4) Sodium

Sodium helps in the regulation of blood pressure and blood volume, it also helps in the proper functioning of nerves and muscles, fluid balancing and kidney functioning.

Individuals who sweat excessively, such as endurance athletes and construction workers, may need to consume sodium at levels higher than the recommendations to replace the sodium lost through sweat.

Sources: Table salt (sodium chloride, the main source), sea vegetables, milk, and spinach etc.

5) Magnesium

Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps to maintain normal nerve and muscle function, supports a healthy immune system, keeps the heartbeat steady, and helps bones remain strong. It also helps adjust blood glucose levels. It aids in the production of energy and protein.

Sources: Spinach, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, peanut butter, avocado etc.

6) Iodine

Iodine is used by the thyroid gland to make thyroid hormone that control many functions in the body including growth and development. Because your body does not produce iodine, it needs to be supplied in the diet.

With iodine deficiency listed as the leading cause of mental retardation around the world, iodine is an important component for healthy brain development.

Sources: Seaweed, grains, eggs, iodized salt etc.

7) Iron

Its main purpose is to carry oxygen in the hemoglobin of red blood cells throughout the body so cells can produce energy. Iron also helps remove carbon dioxide.

When the body's iron stores become so low that not enough normal red blood cells can be made to carry oxygen efficiently, a condition known as iron deficiency anemia develops.

Sources: Meat, seafood, nuts, beans, dark chocolate etc.

8) Zinc

Zinc is found in cells throughout the body. It helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses and wound healing. The body also needs zinc to make proteins and DNA, the genetic material in all cells.

Sources: Oysters, red meat, poultry, nuts, whole grains, dairy products etc.

9) Copper

Together with iron, it enables the body to form red blood cells. It helps maintain healthy bones, blood vessels, nerves, and immune function, and it contributes to iron absorption. Sufficient copper in the diet may help prevent cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, too.

Sources: Liver, seafood, oysters, nuts, seeds; some: whole grains, legumes etc.

Related Questions
  1. Which of the following is not correctly matched ?

    A) Vitramin B6 - Rice Bran

    B) Vitamin B2 - Cod-liver oil

    C) Vitamin E - Wheat Germ Oil

    D) Vitamin K - Alfalafa

    Show answer

    UPPSC 2019

  2. Given below are two statements, one labelled as Assertion (A) and the other as Reason (R).

    Assertion (A): Most of the vitamins are not synthesised in human body.
    Reason (R): Human organ synthesise only essential micronutrients.

    Select the correct answer form the code given below.

    A) Both (A) & (R) are true & (R) is correct explanation of (A)

    B) Both (A) & (R) are true, but (R) is not correct explanation of (A)

    C) (A) is true, but (R) is false.

    D) A) is false, but (R) is true.

    Show answer

    UPPSC 2019

  3. Which of the following vitamin is responsible for coagulation of blood in human being ?

    A) Vitamin K

    B) Vitamin E

    C) Vitamin A

    D) Vitamin C

    Show answer

    UPPSC 2020

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