Hi There! For the next 6 months I am going to talk about Micronutrients! Most of us know about proteins, fats and carbohydrates, but not about the underlying support network of micronutrients. This month is an overview, subsequent months I’ll take 1-2 micronutrients and discuss them in detail. This can be a bit dry, I’ll see if I can make it interesting for you!
Micronutrients are essential for your wellbeing and one of the major groups of nutrients your body needs. They include vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are necessary for energy production, immune function, blood clotting and many other functions. Meanwhile, minerals play an important role in growth, bone health, fluid balance and several other processes.
Micronutrient describes vitamins and minerals in general and they are called Micro because we need them in small amounts. Macronutrients describes fats, proteins and carbohydrates and since we need those in large amounts we call them macronutrients.
As a human you obtain vitamins and minerals from your foods because the body doesn’t produce most of them. Vitamins are organic compounds made by plants and animals which can be broken down by heat, acid or air. On the other hand, minerals are inorganic, exist in soil or water and cannot be broken down.
When you eat whole foods, you obtain the vitamins and minerals directly from plants; indirectly from the plants an animal ate, and the minerals consumed while grazing and drinking water. Humans can synthesize certain vitamins to some extent. For example, vitamin D is produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight; niacin can be synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan; and vitamin K and biotin are synthesized by bacteria living in the gut.
Macronutrients provide calories or energy in the form of ATP (AdenosineTriPhosphate) to run all metabolic reactions, which are jumpstarted by proteins called enzymes. But enzymes need cofactors to work, and that’s where vitamins and minerals come in: without them, the enzymatic reactions won’t work.
CRITICAL FUNCTIONS OF SELECTED MICRONUTRIENTS:
B vitamins are needed to extract energy from food
Vitamin B12 is required for proper nerve function and to make red blood cells
Vitamin A is needed for good vision, immunity, and healthy skin
Vitamin D is required to form bone, healthy immune function, and functions like a hormone throughout the body
Vitamin E is an antioxidant and helps protect cells from damage
Vitamin K is needed to form blood clots and to shuttle calcium into bone
Calcium is needed for muscle contraction and bone formation
Iron is required to transport oxygen throughout the body
Magnesium regulates muscle contraction and nerve transmission. It helps form teeth and bones and is needed in over 300 metabolic reactions.
Potassium is needed for muscle contraction, proper nerve conduction, and maintenance of fluid and electrolyte balance
There are approximately 30 vitamins and minerals we need to consume regularly. Many have multiple functions and work synergistically to run your metabolism to keep you alive and healthy.
HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?
Scientists at the Institute of Medicine have established amounts of micronutrients to consume daily, referred to as RDAs (Recommended Dietary Allowances) based on age, gender, and life stage. It is important to note that these recommended values aim to prevent deficiencies and their related diseases and conditions and are not necessarily optimal for optimal health or longevity.
As an Integrative Nurse Practitioner, I recommend you eat a well rounded diet based on your DNA, eat the rainbow everyday, eat whole, organic foods, locally grown if possible, and consume a wide variety of colorful and minimally processed foods from all major food groups. Experiment with your diet until you achieve what feels best for your body. This will maximize your nutrient intake while staying within your caloric needs to either maintain a healthy body weight or achieve one. There is no one perfect diet. The one that is perfect for you is usually DNA based, nutrient rich, within your budget, easy to follow, allows for travel and off days and has no guilt associated with it!
WEEKLY CONSUMPTION-MICRONUTRIENT RICH DIET FOR 2200 KCAL/DAY
According toThe National Association of Sports Medicine, here’s what you would eat if you consumed 2200 kcal/day. (I adjusted some because I firmly believe you need more vegetables in your diet than anything else. I removed the refined grains and dairy because you do NOT need those in your diet).
Most of you will not consume this many calories per day unless you are avidly working out. 1800 kcal/day is more typical and if you are over 50 and moderately active, you probably eat about 1300-1600 kcal a day. So, you could cut this amount by 1/3.
Start and end with Vegetables and STOP before you feel full!
3 cups vegetables a day distributed like this:
7 cups per week of dark-green vegetables
6 cups per week of red & orange vegetables
2-4 cups per week of legumes (beans, peas)
3 cups per week of starchy vegetables (potatoes, green peas, corn, plantains)
5 cups per week, of other vegetables (lettuce, mushrooms, cabbage, onions, radish, sprouts)
2 cups per day of fruit (1 medium apple, plum, peach, banana, pear… a cup of berries)
3.5 oz of whole grain (oats, quinoa, whole wheat (if no gluten issues), brown or wild rice)
6 oz of protein per day:
15 oz seafood per week
22 oz per week of animal protein if you are not vegetarian; poultry, egg, meat
6 oz nuts, seeds
29 grams of oils per week
Although overt deficiencies are rare, intakes of micronutrients are insufficient and below the RDA. Most Americans are nutrient deficient and don’t even know it.
The most under consumed nutrients are: calcium, magnesium, potassium, choline, fiber and Vitamins D, A, C, E.
WHEN YOU DON’T GET ENOUGH…
Since vitamins and minerals are required for numerous physiological processes in the body, chronic shortages will negatively impact various health and metabolism aspects.
There is evidence that micronutrient insufficiencies are linked to multiple age-related chronic diseases, including cancer, osteoporosis, and heart disease. (McCann, Ames, 2011) (Ames, 2018).
HOW CAN YOU GET ENOUGH?
Eat a balanced diet that matches your DNA needs.
Take a high quality, whole foods multivitamin daily.
Eat locally and organic whenever you can.
Eat your vegetables first, load them with fat!
Eat a variety of foods from all food groups.
Get lots of high quality sleep.
Manage your stress.
Next month I’ll talk about 1-2 specific micronutrients. If you want help figuring out your needs and getting your diet on track, please reach out to me. I have new ways of helping you achieve your optimal diet!
I’ve included a super cool PDF from The Linus Pauling Institute about micronutrients. Download it here.
See ya next month
I aspire to fully integrate the best of conventional, nutritional & functional medicine with cutting edge coaching and body-mind skills so you can achieve optimal wellbeing.
BS in Nursing | MS in Nursing | Functional Medicine Certified Health and Wellness Coach