Micronutrients are one of the major groups of nutrients your body needs. They include vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are necessary for energy production, immune function, blood clotting and other functions. Meanwhile, minerals play an important role in growth, bone health, fluid balance and several other processes


There are 7 essential plant nutrient elements defined as micronutrients [boron (B), zinc (Zn), manganese (Mn), iron (Fe), copper (Cu), molybdenum (Mo), chlorine (Cl)]. They constitute in total less than 1% of the dry weight of most plants.


Micronutrients are one of the major groups of nutrients your body needs. They include vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins are necessary for energy production, immune function, blood clotting and other functions. Meanwhile, minerals play an important role in growth, bone health, fluid balance and several other processes.

This article provides a detailed overview of micronutrients, their functions and implications of excess consumption or deficiency.

The term micronutrients is used to describe vitamins and minerals in general.

Macronutrients, on the other hand, include proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

Your body needs smaller amounts of micronutrients relative to macronutrients. That’s why they’re labeled “micro.”

Humans must obtain micronutrients from food since your body cannot produce vitamins and minerals — for the most part. That’s why they’re also referred to as essential nutrients.

Vitamins are organic compounds made by plants and animals which can be broken down by heat, acid or air. On the other hand, minerals are inorganic, exist in soil or water and cannot be broken down.

When you eat, you consume the vitamins that plants and animals created or the minerals they absorbed.

The micronutrient content of each food is different, so it’s best to eat a variety of foods to get enough vitamins and minerals.

An adequate intake of all micronutrients is necessary for optimal health, as each vitamin and mineral has a specific role in your body.

Vitamins and minerals are vital for growth, immune function, brain development and many other important functions .

Depending on their function, certain micronutrients also play a role in preventing and fighting disease.

Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. They’re critical for several important functions in your body and must be consumed from food.


Types and Functions of Micronutrients

Vitamins and minerals can be divided into four categories: water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, macrominerals and trace minerals.

Regardless of type, vitamins and minerals are absorbed in similar ways in your body and interact in many processes.

Water-Soluble Vitamins

Most vitamins dissolve in water and are therefore known as water-soluble. They’re not easily stored in your body and get flushed out with urine when consumed in excess.

While each water-soluble vitamin has a unique role, their functions are related.

For example, most B vitamins act as coenzymes that help trigger important chemical reactions. A lot of these reactions are necessary for energy production.

The water-soluble vitamins — with some of their functions — are:

  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine): Helps convert nutrients into energy.

  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): Necessary for energy production, cell function and fat metabolism.

  • Vitamin B3 (niacin): Drives the production of energy from food.

  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): Necessary for fatty acid synthesis.

  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): Helps your body release sugar from stored carbohydrates for energy and create red blood cells.

  • Vitamin B7 (biotin): Plays a role in the metabolism of fatty acids, amino acids and glucose .

  • Vitamin B9 (folate): Important for proper cell division.

  • Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): Necessary for red blood cell formation and proper nervous system and brain function .

  • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid): Required for the creation of neurotransmitters and collagen, the main protein in your skin.

As you can see, water-soluble vitamins play an important role in producing energy but also have several other functions.

Since these vitamins are not stored in your body, it’s important to get enough of them from food.

Sources and Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) or Adequate Intakes (AIs) of water-soluble vitamins are 



RDA or AI (adults > 19 years)

Vitamin B1 (thiamine)

Whole grains, meat, fish

1.1–1.2 mg

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

Organ meats, eggs, milk

1.1–1.3 mg

Vitamin B3 (niacin)

Meat, salmon, leafy greens, beans

14–16 mg

Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)

Organ meats, mushrooms, tuna, avocado

5 mg

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

Fish, milk, carrots, potatoes

1.3 mg

Vitamin B7 (biotin)

Eggs, almonds, spinach, sweet potatoes

30 mcg

Vitamin B9 (folate)

Beef, liver, black-eyed peas, spinach, asparagus

400 mg

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)

Clams, fish, meat

2.4 mcg

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

Citrus fruits, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts

75–90 mg


Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins do not dissolve in water.

They’re best absorbed when consumed alongside a source of fat. After consumption, fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your liver and fatty tissues for future use.

The names and functions of fat-soluble vitamins are:

  • Vitamin A: Necessary for proper vision and organ function.

  • Vitamin D: Promotes proper immune function and assists in calcium absorption and bone growth.

  • Vitamin E: Assists immune function and acts as an antioxidant that protects cells from damage.

  • Vitamin K: Required for blood clotting and proper bone development.

Sources and recommended intakes of fat-soluble vitamins are :




RDA or AI (adults > 19 years)

Vitamin A

Retinol (liver, dairy, fish), carotenoids (sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach)

700–900 mcg

Vitamin D

Sunlight, fish oil, milk

600–800 IU

Vitamin E

Sunflower seeds, wheat germ, almonds

15 mg

Vitamin K

Leafy greens, soybeans, pumpkin

90–120 mcg




Macrominerals are needed in larger amounts than trace minerals in order to perform their specific roles in your body.

The macrominerals and some of their functions are:

  • Calcium: Necessary for proper structure and function of bones and teeth. Assists in muscle function and blood vessel contraction.

  • Phosphorus: Part of bone and cell membrane structure.

  • Magnesium: Assists with over 300 enzyme reactions, including regulation of blood pressure.

  • Sodium: Electrolyte that aids fluid balance and maintenance of blood pressure.

  • Chloride: Often found in combination with sodium. Helps maintain fluid balance and is used to make digestive juices.

  • Potassium: Electrolyte that maintains fluid status in cells and helps with nerve transmission and muscle function (26).

  • Sulfur: Part of every living tissue and contained in the amino acids methionine and cysteine


Sources and recommended intakes of the macrominerals are :




RDA or AI (adults > 19 years)


Milk products, leafy greens, broccoli

2,000–2,500 mg


Salmon, yogurt, turkey

700 mg


Almonds, cashews, black beans

310–420 mg


Salt, processed foods, canned soup

2,300 mg


Seaweed, salt, celery

1,800–2,300 mg


Lentils, acorn squash, bananas

4,700 mg


Garlic, onions, Brussels sprouts, eggs, mineral water

None established



Trace Minerals

Trace minerals are needed in smaller amounts than macrominerals but still enable important functions in your body.

The trace minerals and some of their functions are:

  • Iron: Helps provide oxygen to muscles and assists in the creation of certain hormones.

  • Manganese: Assists in carbohydrate, amino acid and cholesterol metabolism.

  • Copper: Required for connective tissue formation, as well as normal brain and nervous system function.

  • Zinc: Necessary for normal growth, immune function and wound healing .

  • Iodine: Assists in thyroid regulation.

  • Fluoride: Necessary for the development of bones and teeth.

  • Selenium: Important for thyroid health, reproduction and defense against oxidative damage 

Sources and recommended intakes of trace minerals are :



RDA or AI (adults > 19 years)


Oysters, white beans, spinach

8–18 mg


Pineapple, pecans, peanuts

1.8–2.3 mg


Liver, crabs, cashews

900 mcg


Oysters, crab, chickpeas

8–11 mg


Seaweed, cod, yogurt

150 mcg


Fruit juice, water, crab

3–4 mg


Brazil nuts, sardines, ham

55 mcg


Micronutrients can be divided into four groups — water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, macrominerals and trace minerals. The functions, food sources and recommended intakes of each vitamin and mineral vary.