Nutrition crash course: micronutrients and water

Learn all about vitamins, minerals, and water in this Part 2 of our Nutrition Crash Course.

Ellie Brewer

In our blog last week, we talked about the three energy-providing nutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. This week we are going to dive into a different aspect of nutrition and talk about the nutrients that do not provide us with any energy: micronutrients and water. 


Micronutrients are chemicals in food that don’t provide us energy, but that we need for a variety of different purposes. Micronutrients can be split into two categories: vitamins and minerals. 


  • What they are: Vitamins are molecules that are needed in small amounts in the body to perform several vital functions. There are two different types of vitamins: water soluble and fat soluble. Water soluble vitamins dissolve in water and are transported throughout the blood. They include the B vitamins (B1-7, B9, B12) and vitamin C. Fat soluble vitamins are digested and absorbed best when fats are eaten at the same time, and are vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat soluble vitamins can be stored in body fat for long periods of time, so it is important not to consume more than the recommended amounts to prevent toxicity that can occur with fat soluble vitamin overdoses. 

  • Why we need them: Vitamins serve many purposes throughout the body, most importantly as molecules that play a role in the breakdown and use of macronutrients. Think of them as keys that allow reactions to take place so that our bodies can digest and absorb protein, carbohydrates, and fats. 

  • What foods they are in: Water soluble vitamins are found in a variety of foods. For example, vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, while vitamin B12 is found primarily in animal foods. Fat soluble vitamins are also found in a variety of foods. Vitamin K is present in high amounts in leafy greens (like kale and spinach), while vitamin D is present in fortified milk and other fortified dairy products. Each vitamin has different sources and recommended intake amounts, and if you are interested in learning more, check out this page from Harvard Medical School, or feel free to reach out to Megan or myself to get more details.

  • What we should eat: When it comes to vitamins, the more food variety, the better. Have you heard people say you should eat the rainbow? This is great advice for ensuring you are eating enough vitamins. It’s best to include different types and colors of fruits and vegetables in your meals, in addition to eating a balanced diet that includes foods from each food group: grains, dairy or fortified dairy alternatives, protein, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. 


  • What they are: Minerals are inorganic molecules (meaning they do not contain carbon) that are used in small amounts for various functions throughout the body. The main minerals we are concerned with from a nutritional standpoint are calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, phosphorus, molybdenum, manganese, and selenium.

  • Why we need them: Similar to vitamins, each mineral has its own unique role in the body. Generally speaking, minerals are part of the structure of hair, teeth, and nails, help keep the fluids in our body balanced, transport different substances throughout our body, and play a role in digestion and absorption of macronutrients. 

  • What foods they are in: Each mineral is found in different quantities in a variety of foods. As with vitamins, eating a wide variety of whole foods in all of the food groups outlined by MyPlate will help ensure you are consuming enough minerals. If you are interested in a certain mineral, check out this handy chart from the Food and Drug Administration


Water is another nutrient we need to survive and function properly. Like micronutrients, water does not provide us with energy, but it serves several extremely important functions. Because of this, we need to make sure we are drinking enough water and keeping our body well hydrated. 

  • What it is: Water is an oxygen molecule combined with two hydrogen molecules, and it has several vital functions throughout our bodies. 

  • Why we need it: Water makes up 45-75% of a person’s weight, and with all the important roles it plays in our bodies, it makes sense why it is such a huge part of our bodies. Water transports nutrients throughout our bodies and removes waste products from our cells. It also acts as a building material, shock absorber, and a lubricant, and helps us digest macronutrients. It plays a role in regulating blood pressure and fluid balance, as well as keeping our body temperature in a healthy range. Especially as we lose water through sweat during our workouts, it is important to stay hydrated to ensure we have enough water to keep our body functioning properly. 

  • What foods it is in: The best source of water is … water! However, fruits and vegetables also have a high water content and can contribute to your overall fluid intake for the day. Water is also present in other drinks, but straight water is your best bet for staying hydrated because it does not contain calories, does not have caffeine, is inexpensive, and is available pretty much anywhere. 

  • How much we should drink: Everyone’s water needs are unique. How much you need depends on the climate you live in, how much you sweat, how much physical activity you engage in, how old you are, and several other factors. A generalized recommendation is to drink half your bodyweight in ounces. So if you weigh 140 lbs, you should drink at least 70 oz of water a day. If you sweat a lot, are spending time in a hot or humid environment, and/or notice your urine is a dark yellow, you should aim to drink more water. 

You made it through the nutrition crash course! Between last week’s blog on macronutrients and this blog, there was a lot of information shared, and I know it can seem daunting to try to take it all in and adjust your eating habits based on what you learned. Megan and I are here to help! If you have any questions or just want to learn more about something, we are happy to sit down with you and have a chat. We encourage you to keep on learning, and remember the easiest things to focus on are drinking water, eating more nutrient dense foods 80% of the time, and eating lots of fruits and vegetables.