The Importance of Micronutrients: Part 1
Micronutrients are vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants that are good for your health. Many of you probably take take forms of micronutrients as vitamins such as Vitamin B, C, D, etc.
You hear a lot of talk about macronutrients especially with flexible dieting, but not so much about micronutrients. We count macros into our daily intake, but micros aren't included in that caloric intake because they don't give us direct energy. High varieties of micronutrients can be found in whole foods, which is why food quality is just as important as quantity.
The tricky thing with micronutrients and supplementation is that some people might require a different amount/dosage of something than someone else if there's a deficiency. Many life factors can also influence the requirements per individual. Just like everything else in life, there's no one size fits all amount. You need them in right amounts or things can get off balance causing dysfunction in the body.
- Vitamin A, C, D, E, K,
- B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), B12 (cobalamin)
Iron: Women still menstruating should include plenty of iron in their diet especially as an athlete. An excess of iron in men could be problematic as they are not losing it as much as women.
Plant based diets: Those with plant-based diets may need to supplement with extra iron since those nutrients from animal sources are not being received.
Athletes: Generally speaking, athletes need a wider array of micronutrients than a sedentary person because of the training intensity and/or volume while trying to either lose fat, gain muscle, or both.
Medications: Different medications can sometimes interfere with micronutrient absorption.
Disordered eating and restriction: Yo-yo dieters, restricted eating, and anyone that has experienced disordered eating might go through some micronutrient deficiencies especially if whole food groups are restricted, keeping them from getting quality micronutrients from those sources.
Vitamin Deficiency Symptoms
**most information retrieved from WebMD**
Vitamin A - dry eyes and skin
Vitamin B12 - anemia, fatigue, poor balance
Vitamin C - fatigue, loss of appetite, bruising
Vitamin D - fatigue or muscle weakness, foggy brain
Mineral Deficiency Symptoms
Calcium - Brittle nails, muscle cramps/spasms, foggy brain
Iron - can lead to anemia, fatigue, decreased performance, decreased immunity, lightheadedness, fatigue
Magnesium - Neurological: irritability, anxiety, lethargy, nausea, impaired vision. Metabolic: hyperglycemia, increased intracellular calcium. Muscular: weakness, muscle spasms, hyperactive reflexes, difficulty swallowing. Cardiovascular: irregular or rapid heartbeat.
Manganese - anemia, worsened PMS symptoms, impaired glucose sensitivity, poor immunity, etc.
Potassium - weakness, muscle cramping, tingling or numbness, nausea, bloating, constipation.
Sodium - gastrointestinal distress, cognitive impairment (headache, lethargy, etc), muscle weakness and cramping.
Sulfur - itchy skin or scalp, eczema, acne, indigestion.
Zinc - poor memory, bloating, impaired sleep, slow wound healing, weakened immune system, low libido.
Vitamins and minerals do really important things in our bodies and if we don't ingest them from food, there are issues. However if we are eating foods filled with vitamins and minerals but our body isn't absorbing it, there's larger issues.
Malabsorption Syndromes happen when our body can't properly absorb the micronutrients we eat. Diseases like Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, and pancreatitis are examples of that. Taking in micronutrients within our macronutrients is important to be healthy, but the absorption of those nutrients is even more important.
As you can see above, vitamins and minerals are very important for your health and deficiencies can cause issues if they are not taken care of quickly through eating a variety of whole foods and supplementation.
In Part 2, I will go over ways to include more micronutrient dense foods into your diet!