9 Facts About Micronutrients


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Micronutrients—also known as vitamins and minerals—are the itty-bitty heroes of the body’s everyday functioning.

While we don’t require them in as ample quantities as macronutrients such as carbs, protein, and fat, these smaller-quantity nutrients have important roles to play in our health. For instance, they help to boost immunity to preventing chronic disease. In fact, becoming deficient in them can lead to a host of diseases, such as scurvy, rickets, and osteoporosis.

There are a wide variety of micronutrients supplied through food and supplements, here are some facts you should know about them.

General Facts About Micronutrients

What you know and don't know about micronutrients can have an impact on how you choose to consume them. This section discusses some of the most prominent facts about micronutrients in general.

Most People Don't Need a Multivitamin for Good Health

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), most people can get all their necessary vitamins and minerals through a healthy eating pattern. Unless directed by your doctor, it’s likely you don’t need a daily multivitamin.

Additionally, research shows that multivitamin usage is not associated with reduced risk of heart disease or cancer, does not slow mental decline, and won’t prevent early death.

Micronutrients in the form of multivitamins are a big business. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, half of all American adults take a multivitamin or other dietary supplement regularly.

For some people, however, especially those with certain health conditions or nutrient deficiencies, a multivitamin can help fill in nutrient gaps.

Getting Your Micronutrients Through Food Is Best 

According to experts, it’s better to get micronutrients through food, not pills. Multivitamins can’t take the place of eating a variety of healthy foods.

Foods contain a matrix of nutrients, such as fiber and fats, that supplements simply can’t replicate. Unless your doctor advises otherwise, try focusing on increasing your intake of healthy, whole foods before reaching for a vitamin or mineral supplement.

What You See Isn't Always What You Get

It’s only natural to assume when purchasing a vitamin or mineral supplement that you’re getting what you paid for. Unfortunately, recent research has revealed that supplements don’t always contain what they claim.

In fact, a 2018 study found that many consumers are getting more than they bargain for with supplements. Of nearly 800 vitamin and mineral supplements, over 20% actually contained one or more undeclared pharmaceutical-grade ingredients.

Before beginning any micronutrient (or other) supplement, talk to your doctor and check the FDA’s database for recalls, market withdrawals, and safety alerts.

More Isn't Always Better

When it comes to vitamins and minerals, more isn’t necessarily better. Many micronutrients become toxic when ingested at high doses.

Others, such as water-soluble B and C vitamins, simply get excreted when you take in too much of them. It’s best not to go overboard and stick to the recommended vitamin and mineral consumption guidelines.

Facts About Specific Micronutrients

Aside from micronutrients and supplementation as a whole, there are some essential facts to know about individual micronutrients.

Calcium Is Plentiful in More Than Just Dairy

The old ads didn’t lie because milk really does "do a body good" with its high calcium content of 250 milligrams per 8-ounce glass. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), is 1,000 milligrams per day for most adults. So, 1 cup of milk knocks out 25% of your daily needs.

But it's important to note that dairy products aren’t the only foods that provide high doses of this important mineral.

Sardines are a surprising source of calcium at 400 milligrams (40% RDA) per 100-gram can, and leafy greens like collard greens supply a sizable amount at 15% of the RDA per cup.

Vegans can also find excellent drinkable sources of calcium in fortified non-dairy milks like almond and soy, which often contain comparable (or sometimes higher) amounts of calcium than cow’s milk.

Meat Isn't the Only Source of Dietary Iron

While red meat is certainly an iron powerhouse, it’s by no means the only vehicle for getting enough of this mineral in your diet. There are many other options you can consume to meet your daily iron needs.

For example, foods like seafood, beans, and vegetables are great sources of iron and can even help you fight off iron deficiency anemia and boost your immunity.

Potassium Is Available in Many Plant Foods

Potassium is important for regulating blood pressure, helping muscles contract, and transporting nutrients throughout the body.

Which foods are high in this micronutrient? If you’re like most people, when you think of potassium, you probably think of bananas.

But, ounce for ounce, a number of other foods outpace these tropical fruits for potassium content. Swiss chard, avocados, watermelon, and cannellini beans all offer as much or more potassium than banana per serving. 

Vitamin D Is Obtainable Through Some Foods

Did you know you can get vitamin D from food, too? We’ve all heard vitamin D referred to as the "sunshine" vitamin. Taking in some rays fills our vitamin D reserves to regulate calcium and phosphate levels, strengthening bones and preventing rickets.

However, dairy milk has been fortified with vitamin D since the 1920s. Meanwhile, salmon, mushrooms, egg yolks, and tuna are all natural sources of this nutrient. 

According to 2019 research, people aged 20 to 39 are at the greatest risk of vitamin D deficiency, but people of all ages need to get enough, both through sunshine and food.

Not All Sodium Is Bad

Sodium serves critical functions like maintaining cellular fluid balance and promoting proper muscle and nerve function.

However, nine out of 10 Americans consume too much sodium—so, in general, it’s smart to watch your salt intake. Like most nutrients, there’s a healthy middle ground for sodium consumption. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s best to keep your daily intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams.

A Word From Verywell

Micronutrients provide a vast array of health benefits, and by eating a varied diet, most people are able to meet their body’s daily needs. However, if you’re considering adding a vitamin or mineral supplement, always talk to your physician first.

9 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Vitamins and Minerals.

  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Is There Really Any Benefit to Multivitamins?

  3. Tucker J, Fischer T, Upjohn L, Mazzera D, Kumar M. Unapproved pharmaceutical ingredients included in dietary supplements associated with US Food and Drug Administration warnings. JAMA Netw Open. 2018;1(6):e183337. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.3337

  4. Calcium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health.

  5. USDA - Food Data Central. Sardines.

  6. USDA - Food Data Central. Collard Greens.

  7. Herrick K, Storandt R, Afful J, Pfeiffer C, Schleicher R, Gahche J, Potischman N. Vitamin D status in the United States, 2011–2014. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2019;110(1):150-7. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqz037

  8. American Heart Association. 9 out of 10 Americans Eat Too Much Sodium Infographic.

  9. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Sodium in Your Diet.

By Sarah Garone, NDTR
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a freelance health and wellness writer who runs a food blog.