Micronutrients & Supplements


Recognize the multifaceted nutritional needs of your body that extend beyond its energy needs and begin identifying different beverages and foods that provide a variety of micronutrients that simultaneously address your need for adequate hydration. Additionally, develop a plan for responsible consumption of alcohol and determine whether dietary supplements are required to meet your RDA's for vitamins and minerals.

Learning Objectives

  1. Define vitamins as chemicals in food required for normal growth and health.
  2. Distinguish between water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins.
  3. Identify consumption of five or more servings of fruits and vegetables as a means of obtaining your daily vitamins.
  4. Describe diets strongly associated with low rates of chronic heart disease and cancer.
  5. List substances that occur naturally in foods that are not safe to eat.
  6. Provide an example of how a plant and an animal have been genetically modified.
  7. Define minerals as single atoms that cannot be created or destroyed by any ordinary means.
  8. Discuss the development of osteoporosis, its effects, and how it can be prevented.
  9. Identify food sources of calcium.
  10. Describe the health consequences of iron deficiency and iron overload.
  11. Identify food sources of iron, and list factors that improve or limit iron absorption.
  12. List the functions of sodium in the body.
  13. Discuss the development of hypertension, its relationship to sodium intake in salt-sensitive individuals, and other risk factors for hypertension.
  14. Describe treatments for hypertension, include the DASH diet approach.
  15. Identify three ways of reducing sodium intake.
  16. List sources of water and health benefits of adequate hydration.
  17. Differentiate among the different types of drinking water available, including public drinking water and bottled waters.
  18. Explain how one's need for water is affected by their environment, activity level, and state of health.
  19. Describe deficiency symptoms resulting from too little water and toxicity symptoms resulting from too much water.



There are six units in this section. I would highly recommend you read units 20, 21 and 23 together (vitamins, phytochemicals and minerals). The units within the text explaining the different sources of vitamins, phytochemicals and minerals and their potential deficiencies or toxicities are excellent. I would have grouped these units together, but I am sure the author had her reasons for organizing the units the way she did linking common health issues associated with excesses or deficiencies of specific nutrients.

Also covered in this unit are the controversial topics of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's), Dietary Supplements and Functional Foods. Dr. Oz did a show on GMO's recently, Genetically Modified Foods. The portion of the show that dealt with GMO's may be of interest to you as it does a nice job of explaining GMO's and the controversy associated with them. There are also several outstanding documentary films associated with this topic available to view. I would highly recommend Food Inc., a documentary about whole foods. Genetically Modified Food and the Future of Food are free to view documentaries available on the Internet-- just click the links provided to view them.

The micronutrients consist of non-energy yielding molecules (vitamins, water and phytochemicals) and elements (minerals) that must be consumed regularly to sustain life. To help you visualize these important nutrients and their food sources, take some time to review the infographics below.


Vitamins are divided into two categories: fat soluble and water soluble vitamins. One important aspect to remember about vitamins is that water soluble vitamins when taken in excess can be excreted; however, excesses of fat soluble vitamins may build up to toxic levels in the body and pose serious health consequences.

Additionally, in the ever evolving arena of nutrition research, it is now known that many vitamins are more readily absorbed when they are consumed in whole foods. Although the Vitamin C in a supplement or the Vitamin C added to an enriched or fortified food is identical to the Vitamin C found in an orange, from a molecular perspective researchers are now discovering that the way our bodies utilize Vitamin C is much different when it is consumed along with the myriad other nutrients found in whole foods like oranges.




Minerals are divided into two categories: major and trace minerals. Although major minerals would seem to be more important than trace minerals, this is not the case. Major simply implies that the major minerals are needed in larger quantities than the trace minerals.

Like the fat soluble vitamins, excess intake of minerals can lead to serious health consequences. Beware of supplements containing more than 100% of the RDA for any mineral. Also, like vitamin absorption, the minerals found in whole foods are more readily utilized by the body when the minerals are consumed in whole foods when compared to the minerals found in supplements, fortified and enriched foods.



Phytochemicals are a relatively new category of nutrients. Currently, there are no DRI's, RDA's or AI's for phytochemicals. However, current research indicates there are thousands of different phytochemicals and although there are no known deficiency related diseases like those asociated with vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals may not only help with the aborption of vitamins and minerals, but also they may help protect us from cardiovscular disease and certain cancers.


Dietary Supplements

Individuals who do not regularly consume whole foods often opt to get their needed vitamins and minerals via supplementation. Additionally, there are a variety of prebiotics, probiotics, phytochemicals, and other nutritional supplements in the marketplace making a variety of claims to improve one's wellness.

Dietary supplements and functional foods are a multi billion dollar business. Many people are looking for a simple solution to the complex problem of making healthy choices in an attempt to avoid the consequences associated with making poor health choices. There is no "silver bullet" to correct a deficient diet. There are no magical elixirs to remove the consequences of poor choices and the effects of aging. Eating a diet rich in nutrient dense whole foods, avoiding processed foods and engaging in regular exercise are the keys to long term wellness. You can try and cheat the system by taking a multi-vitamin and mineral capsule or some other nutritional supplement to make up for the lack of nutrients in a poor diet, but as you will hopefully learn in this section there are an abundance of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that provide health benefits that are only available to the body when they are consumed as whole foods.

Please visit: The FTC's Consumer Information about Dietary Supplements and the FDA's Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know web sites for additional information related to dietary supplements.


It's been said that a human can survive without air for 3-5 minutes and without water for 3-5 days and without food for 30-50 days. Therefore adequate water consumption should be a focal point for every diet. Fortunately, almost every food, with the exception of my mother-in-law's roasts :), have water in them. In fact the water content in many fruits and vegetables make up more than 80% of their weight. Fruits high in water content include: melons (highest), blueberries, peaches, pineapples, plums and raspberries. Vegetables with high water content include: celery, cucumber, iceberg lettuce, tomato and zucchini. Drinking filtered or tap water, however, is still preferential to eating water laden foods especially for those who are watching their calories.

Deciding whether to drink tap, bottled or filtered water can be quite confusing.

Bottled and tap water come from essentially the same sources: lakes, springs and aquifers, to list a few. In fact, a significant fraction of the bottled water products on store shelves are tap water -- albeit filtered and treated with extra steps to improve taste. Bottled water isn't any safer or purer than what comes out of the tap," says Dr. Sarah Janssen, science fellow with the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco, which conducted an extensive analysis of bottled water back in 1999. "In fact, it's less well-regulated, and you're more likely to know what's in tap water" (http://articles.latimes.com/2008/oct/13/health/he-nutrition13).


The issues related to alcohol and its potential abuses is a concern especially for the adolescent and early adult crowd as binge drinking is a significant problem with this age group. The question of whether to drink or not to drink is an individual choice. Most researchers concur that if one does not currently consume alcohol, then they should not start consuming alcohol in an attempt to get the health benefits some researchers have found when alcohol is consumed in moderation. Watch Heart Healthy Benefits of Drinking Alcohol for a cardiologist's perspective on this issue.


Please be sure you participate in the journal activity designed for this section as you are being challenged to eat five servings of vegetables and fruits each day for a minimum of three days. Check out Fruits and Veggies Matter More web site for interesting tips on how to increase your fruit and vegetable servings.

As for me I find that blending is an excellent method of increasing my whole vegetable and fruit consumption. Blending is different than juicing as the blending process uses whole vegetables and fruits combining the fiber (skins and pulp) from the whole vegetables and fruits with their juice. Conversely, juicing extracts only the juice from vegetables and fruits.

See the Journal area of Blackboard for details. Of course you do not need to limit your consumption of five a day to three days. Hopefully, it will become a lifestyle change :-)

>>> Section 4: Physical Activity