Micronutrients refer to essential nutrients that humans require in small amounts. They include vitamins and minerals. The exact amount of micronutrients people require will vary between the different types.

Suitable nutrition is essential for supporting good health. People can separate essential nutrients into two groups: macronutrients and micronutrients.

Macronutrients are the nutrients humans require in the largest amounts. These include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Micronutrients describe nutrients that people need in smaller amounts, such as vitamins and minerals.

Micronutrients play a vital role in supporting health. People may wish to consume a suitable amount of these vitamins and minerals through a healthful diet and supplements.

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Micronutrients describe vitamins and minerals that the body requires in very small amounts. Although the body only needs small quantities, micronutrients are vital for supporting health.

It is important that a person’s diet includes appropriate amounts of micronutrients through both food and supplements. People who consume too little or too much micronutrients may experience health problems.

To help consume a suitable amount, health experts provide guidelines for how much micronutrients to consume. They may use terms such as “recommended dietary allowance (RDA)” and “adequate intake (AI)” to help describe micronutrient requirements.

Just as micronutrients refer to nutrients that people require in smaller amounts, macronutrients describe nutrients that people need in larger quantities.

In general, macronutrients refer to the following:

Usually, people will measure the amount of macronutrients they need in grams (g) and the quantity of micronutrients in either milligrams (mg), micrograms (mcg), or international units (IU).

Read on to learn more about micronutrients vs. macronutrients.

People can split micronutrients into vitamins and minerals. They can then further classify them into the following groups:

Water-soluble vitamins

Water-soluble vitamins refer to those that must dissolve in water before the body can absorb them. As such, the body cannot store these types of minerals. The body excretes any water-soluble vitamins it does not use through urine.

Examples of water-soluble vitamins include:

  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine): Vitamin B1 helps convert nutrients into energy.
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): Vitamin B2 is necessary for energy production, cell function, and fat metabolism.
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin): Vitamin B3 helps drive the production of energy from food.
  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): Vitamin B5 is necessary for the synthesis of fatty acids.
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): Vitamin B6 helps release sugar from carbohydrates that the body stores for energy and to create red blood cells.
  • Vitamin B7 (biotin): Vitamin B7 helps metabolize fatty acids, amino acids, and glucose.
  • Vitamin B9 (folate): Vitamin B9 is essential for proper cell division.
  • Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): Vitamin B12 is necessary for red blood cell formation, as well as nervous system and brain function.
  • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid): The body requires vitamin C to produce neurotransmitters and collagen.

The recommended amounts of water-soluble vitamins are as follows:

NutrientSourcesRecommend amount (daily RDA or AI for adults)
Vitamin B1whole grains, fish, meat1.1–1.2 mg
Vitamin B2organ meats, milk, eggs1.1–1.3 mg
Vitamin B3meat, salmon, brown rice, fortified cereals14–16 mg
Vitamin B5 meat, fish, mushrooms, lentils5 mg
Vitamin B6 fish, milk, potatoes, carrots1.3–1.7 mg
Vitamin B7eggs, sweet potatoes, spinach, almonds30 mcg
Vitamin B9 beef, liver, spinach, asparagus,400 mcg
Vitamin B12 meat, milk, nutritional yeast2.4 mcg
Vitamin C citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes75–90 mg

Fat-soluble vitamins

As the name suggests, fat-soluble vitamins dissolve in fat instead of water. It is advisable to combine a source of fat when eating foods rich in fat-soluble vitamins. As these vitamins dissolve in fat, the body can store them in the liver and fatty tissues.

Examples of fat-soluble vitamins include:

  • Vitamin A: Some people may refer to vitamin A as retinoids or carotene. This vitamin is necessary for organ function and vision.
  • Vitamin D: Also known as calciferol, vitamin D plays a vital role in immune function and helps with calcium absorption and bone growth.
  • Vitamin E: Also known as alpha-tocopherol, vitamin E assists with immune function and acts as an antioxidant.
  • Vitamin K: Vitamin K is essential for proper blood clotting and bone development. Different forms of vitamin K include phylloquinone, menaquinone, and menadione.

The recommended amounts of fat-soluble vitamins are as follows:

NutrientSourcesRDA or AI for adults
Vitamin Aorgan meats, dairy, fatty fish, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes700–900 mcg
Vitamin Dfatty fish, egg, milk, sunlight600–800 IU
Vitamin Eseeds, nuts, green vegetables15 mg
Vitamin Kcollard greens, spinach, soybeans90–120 mcg


Minerals refer to inorganic elements that the body requires for many different functions. Macrominerals describe minerals that the body needs in larger amounts. Examples of macrominerals include:

  • Calcium: Calcium is necessary for bone and teeth health. This mineral also assists in muscle function and blood vessel contraction.
  • Chloride: Chloride helps maintain fluid balance and aids in producing digestive juices.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium plays important roles in various enzyme reactions.
  • Phosphorus: Phosphorus assists with bone and cell membrane structure.
  • Potassium: Potassium maintains the fluid status in cells. This electrolyte also helps with nerve transmission and muscle function.
  • Sodium: Sodium also plays a role in fluid balance and helps maintain blood pressure.
  • Sulfur: Sulfur helps build and fix DNA and protect cells from damage.

The recommended amounts of macrominerals are as follows:

NutrientSourcesRDA or AI for adults
Calciumdairy, tofu, leafy greens1,000–1,200 mg
Chloridetable salt, seaweed, tomatoes1,800–2,300 mg
Magnesiumalmonds, spinach, cashews310–420 mg
Phosphorusmeats, seafood, seeds, nuts700 mg
Potassiumapricots, lentils, prunes4,700 mg
Sodiumsalt, processed foods, canned soup2,300 mg
Sulfurgarlic, onions, Brussels sprouts, eggs, mineral waterNone established


Also known as trace minerals, these are minerals a person requires in lower quantities than macrominerals. Examples of microminerals include:

  • Copper: Copper plays a role in connective tissue formation, as well as brain and nervous system function.
  • Fluoride: Fluoride is necessary for bone and teeth development.
  • Iodine: Iodine helps regulate the thyroid.
  • Iron: Iron is necessary to provide oxygen to muscles. It also assists in the creation of certain hormones.
  • Manganese: Manganese is a trace mineral that helps metabolize carbohydrates, amino acids, and cholesterol.
  • Selenium: Selenium is also essential for thyroid health. It supports reproduction and helps prevent oxidative damage.
  • Zinc: Zinc is necessary for immune function, wound healing, and growth.

The recommended amounts of microminerals are as follows:

NutrientSourcesRDA or AI for adults
Copperoysters, beans, potatoes900 mcg
Fluoridedrinking water, fruit juices, soft drinks3–4 mg
Iodineseaweed, cod, eggs150 mcg
Iron clams, oats, white beans8–18 mg
Manganesepineapple, beans, pecans1.8–2.3 mg
Seleniumbrazil nuts, fish, brown rice55 mcg
Zincbeans, meats, fish, nuts8–11 mg

As the name implies, people only require a small amount of micronutrients. However, micronutrients play an essential role in healthy development, disease prevention, and general well-being. For example, micronutrients perform a range of functions, such as the production of hormones, enzymes, and other important substances.

Micronutrient deficiencies can have severe consequences and can result in dangerous health conditions.

People who do not consume enough micronutrients may develop micronutrient malnutrition. This may lead to several health problems, such as poor growth, intellectual impairment, reproductive problems, and degenerative diseases.

Evidence suggests that globally, iron, folate, zinc, iodine, and vitamin A are among the most occurring micronutrient deficiencies.

Just as deficiencies might cause health problems, consuming too many micronutrients may also cause health issues. However, toxicities are much less common than deficiencies. They could occur from a person consuming too many supplements or eating produce from soil containing too many nutrients.

An excessive intake of micronutrients may cause a variety of adverse health effects. These can include hormonal problems, a higher risk of cancers, and major organ failure.

Micronutrients describe vitamins and minerals that people require in small amounts. Along with macronutrients, these vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that people need to support good health.

Health guidelines can provide information on the amount of micronutrients that people require. It is important for people to consume a suitable amount of micronutrients, as eating too much or too little can result in health problems.