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You've heard of macros, but what about micros?

With ‘counting macros’ a popular method of weight management, you may have heard the term macronutrients thrown around. But, have you heard about micronutrients? Made up of vitamins, minerals and other compounds that assist our health, these are required in much smaller amounts than protein, carbohydrates and fats (macronutrients).

If you’re lacking micronutrients in your diet you may get sick, and body processes can break down. Your body is a finely tuned machine, and it’s essential that you provide it with the fuel it needs. That said, you can also overload your body with micronutrients and cause illness… it’s a fine balance!

In its simplest form, the best way to ensure that you’re covering all your micronutrient bases is to eat a wide range of whole, less-processed plant and animal foods. Colourful fruits and vegetables are a goldmine of micros, and building your diet around these will ensure good health.

In some cases supplementation may be required where a person is deficient, whether through dietary requirements or absorption issues. But that’s definitely an individual basis, so in this article we’ll focus on what vitamins are, and where you can find them.


Vitamins are organic compounds that we need to thrive. They assist in growth and repair of tissues, digestion, as well as immune system and energy processes within the body. A lot of the vitamins we need in our diets we can’t make ourselves, so we have to find them in food.

There are two types – fat soluble and water soluble.

Fat soluble vitamins are those that travel bound to dietary fat – so if you don’t get enough fat in your diet you may likely struggle to absorb these key vitamins. Once in the body they can live in fatty tissues, which means you don’t need to eat them everyday, and if overloaded they can accumulate and cause toxicity (but this is very difficult to achieve).

Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble vitamins.

Water soluble vitamins are those that are carried to the body’s tissues and absorbed in water. Because we’re constantly taking in and getting rid of water, we don’t store large amounts of these as with fat soluble vitamins. So, we need more of these vitamins more often.

B vitamins and vitamin C are water soluble vitamins.

Why food preparation is important

When looking at vitamin absorption, the way you prepare your food matters. Some micros are best absorbed when foods are eaten raw, some when foods are cooked, and others are best absorbed when paired with certain foods. It’s not important to know exactly which of these vitamins are best with which cooking method, but to understand that variety is key to a broad absorption of micronutrients.

- Some micros, such as the lycopene in tomatoes, are often better absorbed when cooked.

- In order to best absorb iron from leafy green vegetables, vitamin C is necessary – so using lemon juice over your kale will benefit your body.

- Chopping or crushing garlic, then allowing it to sit before cooking will release allicin, a powerful disease fighting chemical.

Again, this doesn’t mean that you only need to cook with these things in this way, but it reinforces the idea of variation and moderation within your diet. Eating the same things the same ways every day will limit the amounts and types of micronutrients that you’re absorbing, so change things up regularly!

What vitamin does what?

This list could be endless, but we’ve compiled a brief crash course in the vitamins that should be consumed within your diet, where they're found and what they do (loosely).

Vitamin A:

Where is it found?

- Red/orange/yellow fruit and vegetables such as capsicum, pumpkin, carrots and beets

- Dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale

- Animal liver

- Egg yolks

What does it do?

- Normal vision

- Immune function and wound healing

- Reproduction

What happens if I don’t get enough?

- Difficulty seeing in dim light

- Dry eyes

- Acne

B Group Vitamins:

We’ve summarised them here, because while they’re essential, it’s rare you’ll be deficient in them as they’re found in most foods, and fortified in a lot of common foods.

There are 8 B group vitamins that play a vital role in the body.

- thiamin (B1)

- riboflavin

- niacin

- pantothenic acid

- biotin

- vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

- folate (called folic acid when included in supplements)

- vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin)

These vitamins are necessary for energy production, through the processing of carbohydrates, protein and dietary fat, among other purposes.

Vitamin C:

Where is it found?

- Colourful fruits and vegetables

- Organ meats

What does it do?

- Antioxidant properties

- Improving iron absorption

- Building collagen

What happens if I don’t get enough?

- Bruising, and poor wound healing

- Poor dental health

Vitamin D:

Where is it found?

- Fish

- Egg yolks

- Mushrooms

- Fortified dairy products

- Sunshine!

What does it do?

- Immune system function

- Cell function

- Regulating glucose tolerance

What happens if I don’t get enough?

- In children – rickets, deformed bones and soft teeth

- In adults – low bone density and tooth decay

Vitamin E:

Where is it found?

- Nuts and seeds

- Dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale

- Avocado

What does it do?

- Antioxidant properties

- Cell signalling

- Expression of immune and inflammatory cells

What happens if I don’t get enough?

- Muscle weakness

- Damage to red blood cells

- Acne

- Impaired vision

Vitamin K:

Where is it found?

- Leafy greens such as kale and spinach

- Cheese

- Cruciferous greens like brussel sprouts and broccoli

- Beef

- Dairy

- Asparagus

What does it do?

- Blood clotting

- Amino acid metabolism

What happens if I don’t get enough?

- Tendency to bleed or haemorrhage, and bruising

- Anemia

As you can see, if you aim to create meals full of colour, texture and variety and you're bound to have no issues with vitamin intake. Micronutrient intake doesn't need to be complex. Focus on quality nutrition and the rest will fall into place!


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