When it comes to nutrition, it is common for many to only focus on the 3 macronutrients: fat, carbohydrates, and protein. What many do not know is that micronutrients are as important as macronutrients, and that incorporating a full range of micronutrients into your diet may be even easier than it sounds.
What are micronutrients and what do they do?
Micronutrients is a term used to describe vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are found in small amounts in food, and are needed in small amounts by the body. Some examples of this include vitamin C which is found in citrus fruits and bell peppers, by iodine found in seaweed and fresh fish, and by resveratrol, which can be found in grapes and berries.
Micronutrients play an important role in the body by supplying the body with nutrient needs, which is crucial for bodily functions such as DNA synthesis, the digestive processes, cell rejuvenation, hormone production and so much more.
Why is it important to be aware of micronutrient intake?
A lack of proper micronutrients will eventually lead to what is called nutrient deficiency, which can have bring devastating health consequences. One example of this can be seen by hypothyroidism caused by a lack of proper nourishment for the thyroid gland. The thyroid influences many bodily functions, some of which include metabolism, body temperature regulation and digestion. In order for the thyroid to work properly, and to produce and utilize thyroid hormones, it needs the proper amount of copper, iodine, and selenium. Without these micronutrients, they thyroid will suffer and the long term health effects can be serious. Many doctors and health experts believe that nutrient deficiency of any kind is one the leading cause of disease. Luckily, it doesn't take much effort to add a couple of micronutrient-dense foods to your diet to make sure that you cover all of your bases and protect your health.
How to increase micronutrient intake:
Dark leafy greens - adding dark, leafy greens to your meals can be one of the easiest ways to increase your daily intake of micronutrients. Spinach and kale can be added raw to a smoothie, or can be sautéd along with practically any warm, savory dish without distracting from the flavor of the meal. Having a salad full of leafy greens before dinner is a great way to increase micronutrient intake and even aid in digestion, as bitter greens help the body produce bile, which breaks down fat and facilitates the entire digestive process. Leafy greens are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, vitamin K and magnesium. Choose organic leafy greens, which have a higher likelihood of being harvested from mineral rich soil and may contain an array of beneficial trace minerals, such a boron, chromium and zinc.
Colorful vegtables - a good way to increase micronutrient intake is to try to eat as many colorful vegetables as possible. For example, bright orange sweet potatoes, and fresh green beans with red bell peppers would be excellent, nutrient dense sides in a meal. Making a stir fry with a large variety of vegetables, such as onion, bok choy, zucchini, red potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli and carrots insures that you are eating a variety of nutrient dense vegetables, and a mixed veggie omelet is also an easy way to consume many different types of vegetables at once.
Fruits (especially berries) - choosing to opt for fruit when you want to eat something sweet can be one of the best things that someone can do when it comes to nutrition. Fruit is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and every type of fruit has some kind of health benefit. Being low in sugar and rich in micronutrients, berries are the best choice when it comes to beneficial fruit. Fruit is delicious on its own, but fruit smoothies or homemade fruit sorbets are also a great way to truly replace traditional dessert with fruit. If you still want to eat traditional desserts but want a healthy twist, then having a smaller portion with added fruit may be a good choice. For example, a small amount of chocolate ice cream with a handful of frozen raspberries is a delicious compromise between a sugary treat and an healthier choice.
Talking to your own nutritionally informed doctor about any health risks or conditions that you may have and how you can manage disease progression may be a good choice. For instance, adding foods rich in Co-Q10 (found in spinach, cauliflower and broccoli) can be extremely beneficial for those who are at risk for heart disease.
Remember that adding micronutrients into your diet is not a difficult thing to do. You can start today by adding iron rich spinach into your morning eggs and by trading half of your dessert for antioxidant rich berries.