Micronutrients 101

The topic of todays newsletter is Micronutrients, we already cover the basics of macronutrients and now it’s time to learn more about these essential nutrients that most people fall short when it comes to getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals every day for optimal health and performance.

For example, if we don’t get enough iron, our ability to absorb oxygen will decrease and so will your performance.

Essential vitamins, macro-minerals and trace minerals are called micronutrients because we only need tiny amounts of them. A little goes a long way, but active people who exercise regularly need more than the average guy or gal. And when we don’t get the amount of micronutrients we need, we not only hinder muscle growth and development, but we also put ourselves at risk for serious diseases.

Let’s start by spliting micronutrients under 3 categories: essential vitamins, macro minerals, trace minerals. Each one of them playing a different role in the body.

The word vitamin usually brings to mind a pill or liquid supplement. But vitamins are actually the elements in fresh, raw foods that we need to regulate metabolism and get the most energy and vitality from our food. We can’t survive without vitamins, and our bodies can’t make all of them or enough of them to keep us healthy, so we have to get most of our essential vitamins from food.

For example, sunlight can help our bodies to produce vitamin D, but there’s nothing we can do to trigger our bodies to make vitamin C, so we have to eat citrus fruits, berries and green vegetables to get it.

We need relatively large amounts of the elements called macro-minerals. They are important for nerve signalling, muscular contraction, tissue structure and function and bone structure. Because of the extra stress that active people put on muscle, tissue and bone, and because we lose electrolytes when we sweat, it’s very important for us to maintain optimal levels of macro-minerals.

Trace minerals are minerals that our bodies need in relatively small amounts. In some cases, we get them when we consume another micronutrient. For example, we get cobalt when we take B12. The effects of many trace minerals are widespread throughout the body and, despite their small concentrations, have very big impacts.

So now that we have covered the basics about micronutrients you’re certainly wondering how you’re going to devise a meal plan that hits all of the RDIs. Well, let’s start with the obvious: Eat more vegetables!

Okay, I know that’s not very specific, so let’s apply the Pareto principle: What are the 20 percent of foods that will fill 80 percent of our nutritional needs? First, let’s cover the deficiencies the average person is most likely to have. According to a 2014 study, at least 40 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamins A, C, D and E, magnesium calcium and potassium.

With the exception of vitamin D, all these vitamins and minerals can be found in significant amounts in leafy green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli), brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, and nuts. On top of that just add some (controlled) exposure to sunlight and you are going top be fully covered in your micronutrient intake.

Todays task is very basic, take note of all the recommend foods from above and check if they are part of your regular diet. Another thing, are you getting enough sunlight in your skin for your body to produce vitamin D?

See you next week!