Next layer up the pyramid, Micronutrients!
In Part II, I talked about the importance of balancing macronutrients for improved nutrition and in Part I I covered why, before anything else, we need to balance our calorie intake & output to successfully help our bodies progress towards whatever goals we have.
Halfway up the pyramid are Micronutrients, which come after calories and macronutrients because they don’t hold any caloric value (whereas macronutrients make up calories) but before the other remaining layers because of their importance in helping the body create enzymes and hormones. “Micro” means small of course, so these nutrients are the smaller parts that foods are made up of yet are required for health, growth, development, and proper functioning. They are also “micro” because they are needed in very small amounts; where ‘macros’ are needed in 60-300 grams, ‘micros’ only need milligrams consumed.
Essentially, micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are required for health because they are an “organic compound”, meaning the body cannot create them itself so we must take them in from food sources. Minerals come in two categories; macrominerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and chloride) because we need larger amounts of them compared to trace-minerals (zinc, manganese, copper, selenium, chromium, fluoride) which we only need in smaller amounts.
Each different vitamin and mineral work together to create a balanced, healthy environment within our bodies. Micronutrients actually work best in tandem, which is why taking one isolated supplement will never be as effective as getting your micronutrients from real-food sources. For example, calcium and Vitamin D work best together because calcium gets better absorbed by the intestines when consumed with vitamin D, so you get the full benefit of the mineral. Other duos include sodium & potassium, Vitamin B12 & folate, zinc & copper, and Niacin & tryptophan (source).
Other nutrients that fall under the ‘micro’ category are Omega fatty acids (omega-3 and -6), flavonoids (vital for immune fuction), Coenzyme Q-10 (helps cells produce energy, especially in the heart muscle), and amino acids. Some amino acids are essential proteins – the body cannot create them itself so we need to provide them from foods. They include: Taurine, Lysine, Tryptophan, Proline, Arginine, Carnitine, and Cysetine. Animal proteins contain the majority of these essential proteins in perfect combinations for the highest digestion, absorption, and metabolism. You may also recognize these words from protein supplements because many do try to offer a full range of these amino acids, so check your labels!
Because all micronutrients work best in combinations, it’s best to get your sources from food. Nature & our bodies are pretty cool in the way that nature grows and creates these foods that have the perfect balance of micronutrients for our bodies to get the most benefit from. By eating a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and protein sources (meats, fish, eggs, dairy) you should be able to meet your micronutrient needs!
Here is a whole list of all the vitamins and minerals, what they do, where they’re found, and how much you should be getting each day if you want to be sure you’re eating a couple servings from the various columns!
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