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What are micronutrients?

Vitamins and minerals

Vitamins are an absolute necessity for vitality, strength  and performance. The human body only requires very small amounts of each vitamin, however many chemical activities that normally occur in the body cannot take place unless the correct vitamin is present. Some vitamins are attached to enzymes that only do their job if the vitamin is part of the enzyme’s structure.

Name a vitamin that forms part of an enzyme’s structure?

Vitamin B6 is part of an enzyme that is responsible for building new protein from amino acids.

Biotin(part of the vitamin B complex – vitamin B7 or vitamin H) is necessary for the enzyme that is responsible for breaking down fat.

Some vitamins are form part of the immune system and others are busy with the nervous and hormone systems.

Why must vitamins be supplied to the diet?

The human body is unable to make vitamins so they must be obtained through our diet.

What are the two types of vitamins?
Water -soluble

fat – soluble

Name the water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins?


  • vitamin B
  • vitamin C

These must be included in the diet everyday because the body cannot store them.


  • vitamin A
  • vitamin D
  • vitamin E
  • vitamin K

Do not have to be including in the diet daily. The body can store extra supplies of fat-soluble vitamins for future use.


Water-soluble vitamins are more sensitive and are easily lost in cooking, as they drain out of food into water.

Minerals must be obtained from the foods we eat, because they cannot be made in the body.

What are the role of minerals in the body?

  • Calcium and phosphorus (such as teeth and bones) form structure
  • allow muscles to contract
  • control the fluid balance in tissue

What are free radicals?

small chemicals produced by the body as a result of everyday lifestyle activities such as

  • digestion
  • breathing
  • walking
  • dancing

Free radicals are also produced when the human body is exposed to environmental elements or stress. Such as:

  • cigarette smoke
  • pollution
  • exhaust fumes

Once these substances are produced the body must react and inactivate them, as free radicals react and join other substances in the body and produce chemicals that are damaging to the body. Damage from large quantities of free radicals can result in:

  • cancer
  • heart disease
  • ageing
  • genetic abnormalities

In relationship to dancers, free radical damage can result in:

  • injury
  • muscle pain
  • fluid retention

How do we as dancers produce free radicals?

The body works harder during exercise, as it requires more oxygen and produces more heat, and muscles contract harder. So the more you exercise the more free radical you produce.


What are antioxidants?
antioxidants are  enzymes and nutrients that help the body inactivate free radicals  by changing the shape of the free radical and thus preventing it from being harmful. Many vitamins can be considered antioxidants, as they prevent damage from free radicals.

Enzymes that act as antioxidants contain minerals such as zinc, selenium and manganese incorporated into their structure.

Which foods are rich in antioxidants?

  • dark chocolate
  • pecans
  • blueberries
  • strawberries
  • artichokes
  • goji berries
  • raspberries
  • kale
  • red cabbage
  • beans
  • beetroot
  • spinach

Vitamins and Minerals important to the dancer

Vitamin C  is especially important as it is vital :

  • for growth and repair of tissues in all parts of the body
  •  to form collagen, an important protein used to make skin, scar tissue, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels.
  •  for the healing of wounds
  • for the repair and maintenance of cartilage, bones and teeth.

Daily requirement – 40mg per day

It also a powerful antioxidant and has the further role of helping the body absorb iron from food.

Which foods contain vitamin C?

All fruits and vegetables contain some vitamin C. However those containing the greatest amounts are:

  • Kiwifruit
  • Guavas
  • Peppers
  • citrus fruits
  • strawberries
  • papaya
  • tomatoes
  • broccoli
  • Kale
  • Snow peas
  • cantaloupe

Other sources include: mangos, sweet and white potatoes, Brussels sprouts , cauliflower, cabbage and berries.

Daily requirement – 40mg per day

How many vitamins make up Vitamin B or vitamin B complex?

It is made up of eight water soluble vitamins

What important role do they play in the body?

Important for the metabolism

Name the 8 B vitamins?

  • B1 – thiamine
  • B2 – riboflavin
  • B3  – niacin
  • B5 – pantothenic  acid
  • B6 – pyridoxine
  • B7 – biotin
  • B9 – folic acid
  • B12 – cyanocobalamin

The B vitamins work together to provide many health benefits to the dancer such as:

  • supporting and increasing the metabolism
  • breaking down carbohydrates, proteins and fats from food
  • maintaining healthy hair and skin
  • maintaining good muscle tone

Which foods contain vitamin B?

  • salmon
  • leafy greens – spinach, kale, romaine lettuce etc
  • potatoes
  • pulses – lentils, kidney beans, chick peas, roasted soya nuts etc
  • liver
  • eggs
  • milk
  • beef
  • shell fish
  • molasses
  • yeast extract
  • yogurt
  • poultry
  • fortified cereal

What function does vitamin A play?

  • plays a crucial role in helping the body’s natural defenses fight against viruses and bacteria.
  • membranes that line the nose, mouth and digestive system rely on vitamin A to perform vital functions
  • important for good vision
  • can help skin conditions like acne, eczema and dry skin

Food sources – vitamin A

  • liver
  • eggs
  • oily fish
  • milk
  • yogurt

Your body can produce vitamin A from carotenoids found in plants These carotenoids include beta-carotene and alpha-carotene, which are collectively known as provitamin A. However, about 45% of people carry a genetic mutation that significantly reduces their ability to convert provitamin A into vitamin A). So depending on your genetics, the following vegetables might provide considerably less vitamin A than indicated.

  • sweet potato
  • squash
  • leafy greens – kale, collards, turnip greens etc
  • carrot
  • sweet red pepper
  • spinach

Daily requirement – 0.7mg for men and 0.6mg for women

Where is iron found in the body?

Iron is found in every cell in the body.

Why is iron important to the dancer?

Iron helps the body make red blood cells, which transport oxygen to the working muscles.

What happens to the body if it is deficient in Iron?

  • Lack of energy
  • shortness of breath
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • irritability (moodiness)
  • hair loss

Which foods contain iron?

  • shell fish  – particularly clams, mussels and oysters
  • leafy greens – spinach, curly kale
  • liver
  • pulse vegetables –  chick beans, lentils etc
  • nuts
  • whole grains
  • red meat
  • pumpkin seeds
  • quinoa
  • broccoli
  • tofu
  • dark chocolate


Is the most plentiful and important mineral found in the human body.

Where is the most calcium found in the body?

In the teeth and bones with the rest found in nerve cells, body tissues and blood.

What does calcium do?

  • helps muscles including the heart to contract and relax during exercise
  • reduces the risk of osteoporosis

Note: Osteoporosis is very common in dancers

Which foods contain calcium?

  • seeds  – poppy, sesame, celery and chia
  • cheese – hard cheese contains more calcium than soft cheese
  • yogurt
  • sardines
  • beans and lentils
  • almonds
  • leafy greens
  • rhubarb
  • edamame (young soya beans)
  • tofu
  • figs
  • milk


Zinc is present in every part of the body and has many important functions.

What function does zinc play in the body?

  • helps the body produce new enzymes and cells
  • helps metabolize carbohydrates,  fats and protein in the food we eat
  • helps maintain a healthy immune system
  • helps healing wounds

Note: Zinc deficiency in dancers is relatively common

Which foods contain zinc?

  • Red meat
  • shell fish
  • pulse vegetables – beans, lentils etc
  • seeds – particularly pumpkin seeds
  • nuts
  • dairy
  • eggs
  • whole grains
  • dark chocolate

Supplements – Do you need them and which ones are best?

If you have a varied and balanced diet and you include all the food groups then it is likely that you are receiving all the vitamins and minerals needed. However if you restrict your diet (calorie intake) and avoid certain foods then you risk missing out on important nutrients. Therefore you may benefit from taking a multi-vitamin supplement.

Other reasons for supplements include:

  • If you eat out often or eat on the run
  • you eat less than 1500 calories a day
  • you rely on processed foods
  • you are a vegan (you may lack B12)
  • you are anemic  (you may lack Iron)
  • you are pregnant (lack of folic acid)
  • you are a heavy smoker or drinker (both detrimental to you health)

Small Fact

Eating lots of processed food can rob your body of valuable vitamins and minerals. To break down and get rid of unwanted chemicals in the body that you have eaten, the body uses valuable vitamins and minerals which depletes you stores.

The correct balance of vitamins and minerals is the most important. An excess or deficiency in one vitamin could reduce the absorption of another. For example, a lack of vitamin C would reduce the absorption of iron.  Healthy bones need a careful balance of vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, manganese, fluoride, chloride, copper and boron. And although it is tempting to think that more is better, vitamins and minerals are only required in certain amounts. Taking more will not improve you performance nor will it increase the number of pirouettes you can do.


  • aim for five to eight potions of fruit and vegetables per day
  • choose fruits , vegetables and salads of different colours as each colour indicates a different antioxidant or vitamin. (dark green vegetables are rich in chlorophyll, tomatoes are rich in lycopene and carrots are rich in carotene)


chlorophyll –  the green pigment found in plants – it is a good source of vitamins such as A, C, E, K, and beta-carotene. It is rich in antioxidants, vital minerals such as magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, and essential fatty acids.

Lycopene –  is a plant nutrient with antioxidant properties. It’s the pigment that gives red and pink fruits, such as tomatoes, watermelons and pink grapefruit, their characteristic color. Lycopene has been linked to health benefits ranging from heart health to protection against sunburns and certain types of cancers.

Carotene – is an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A and plays a very important role in health. It’s responsible for the red, yellow, and orange coloration of some fruits and veggies.

Sources of information
Iadms.org. (2017). Resource Paper: Nutrition (2016) – International Association for Dance Medicine & Science

Mastin, Z. (2009). Nutrition for the dancer. Alton, Hampshire [England]: Dance Books

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition [accessed February 3rd 2019]

https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/other/health-benefits-of-chlorophyll.html [accessed February 3rd 2019)