What Are They, Why Should I Care, and Where Do I Find Them?
If you know anything about my nutritional philosophy to achieving weight loss, it’s that QUANTITY has to be prioritized over QUALITY. It goes back to my blog post on Energy Balance – calories in vs. calories out.
While it is that simple, every single person on this Earth is different – from lifestyle, to food preferences, to biological make-up – which means each requires a different nutritional approach to fueling their body. To give someone a nutritional prescription that wholeheartedly eliminates foods that person may enjoy and respond favorably to, or to give one that doesn’t address food amounts whatsoever, is doing them a disservice. As you can see, just focusing on the quality or just focusing on the quantity, are both poor approaches. It shouldn’t be a quantity vs. quality argument, as a well-rounded nutritional prescription HAS to take both into consideration.
Last week, I covered macronutrients (the quantity piece), so today I wanted to dive into micronutrients (the quality piece)
Micronutrients are nutrients that our bodies need in smaller amounts, as compared to macros, and include vitamins, minerals, trace elements, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. Like macros, they are also found in the foods & drinks we consume, as well as in supplement form, but they aren’t a major source of calories.
They are ESSENTIAL to our overall health and wellness, and have a multitude of functions – enzyme, hormone, and protein production; metabolism regulation; healthy bone density; and more. Deficiencies in given micronutrients can lead to just as many problems as the benefits provided through adequate intake, both physically and cognitively.
Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential for optimal physiological functioning of the body. There are two types of vitamins: Fat Soluble and Water Soluble.
A vitamin that dissolves in fats and oils, and is ultimately stored in the body’s fatty tissue. There are four fat soluble vitamins:
- Vitamin A: important for normal vision, the immune system, and reproduction
- Vitamin D: absorb calcium and promote bone growth
- Vitamin E: acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals
- Vitamin K: necessary for responding to injuries – regulates normal blood clotting; helpful for bone health
A vitamin that dissolves in water that is carried to the body’s tissues, but not stored within the body. Because of this, they must be taken in daily. There are nine water soluble vitamins:
- Vitamin B1: metabolize food for energy and maintain proper heart and nerve function
- Vitamin B2: needed in order to break down proteins into amino acids, fats, and carbohydrates in the form of glucose; helps convert nutrients from food into usable bodily energy that helps to maintain a healthy metabolism
- Vitamin B3: helps maintain function in the digestive system, skin and nervous system
- Vitamin B6: helps support adrenal function; help calms and maintain a healthy nervous system
- Vitamin B12: helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy; helps make DNA
- Vitamin B9: important for the production and maintenance of new cells
- Vitamin B5: necessary for making blood cells; helps you convert the food you eat into energy
- Vitamin B7: helps support adrenal function; helps calm and maintain a healthy nervous system
- Vitamin C: helps the body form and maintain connective tissue, including bones, blood vessels, and skin
Now that you’re more aware of what micronutrients are, you’re probably curious as to how you can improve your micronutrient intake.
1. Eat REAL food
Think Paleo. Try to eat nutrient-dense foods that are as close to their most natural state of how they exist in the environment, as possible. When it comes to meat, try to choose ‘grass fed’ or ‘wild caught’, as even eating animals that have been fed a diet full of processed foods and contaminants will affect you.
The word is ‘supplement’ not ‘substitute’. While they can be utilized as an addition to the food and drink you consume, they should not be relied on as an alternative. Taking a daily multivitamin can be a great insurance policy for if there are certain micronutrient deficiencies in your normal diet.
While macronutrients and energy balance still reign as the King of weight loss, micronutrients should be considered the Queen. They may not get the recognition or prestige that the King does, but I think we’re all well aware who wears the pants in the relationship and is really pulling the strings behind the scenes ; ) Don’t neglect your MICROS!