I always emphasize that a nutritionally balanced diet is of the utmost importance for weight management, disease prevention, and overall good health. When most people think of such a diet, the first foodstuffs that generally come to mind are carbohydrates, fats and protein, which are collectively called macronutrients. Less thought of and rarely considered is the critical role of micronutrients.
Relative to macronutrients, micronutrients are needed by the body in very small amounts yet they are absolutely critical for optimal day-to-day functioning. While some micronutrients simply facilitate chemical and metabolic reactions in the body’s cells, tissues and organs, others are powerful antioxidants capable of neutralizing the damaging effects of free radicals.
Micronutrients are primarily comprised of vitamins and minerals, which can further be broken down into sub-classifications based on their individual functions. The four sub-classifications of micronutrients include: water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, macrominerals and microminerals.
Water-soluble vitamins are crucial for keeping your metabolism in check. Metabolism is essentially the amount of calories your body uses to fuel vital functions like breathing, blood pressure and brain activity. Through various chemical processes, water-soluble vitamins help the body unleash the calories stored in carbohydrates, fats and protein. These calories are then used to maintain a constant supply of energy for metabolism.
As implied by their name, water-soluble vitamins dissolve easily in water and are readily excreted from the body in urine. As such, they are incapable of being stored. These vitamins exist in many forms but nine are well recognized—Thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), vitamin B6, biotin (vitamin H), folate (vitamin B9), vitamin B12, and the antioxidant vitamin C.
Since the body doesn’t store water-soluble vitamins they must constantly be replenished through the diet. Most of them are widely present in a diverse range of plant- and animal-based foods but some (vitamin C) are best acquired from fresh vegetables and fruits. Since deficiencies in these vitamins are quite common, supplementing a well balanced diet with a general multivitamin can help ensure adequate daily intakes.