If macro-nutrients are the bricks, cinder blocks, and studs of our health, then micro-nutrients are the screws and nails, the glue and mortar that holds it all together. They are not needed in necessarily the same quantity as macro-nutrients, but they are still vital to our ability to function.
What are micro-nutrients?
Have you ever looked at a food label (I believe everyone should be reading their food labels, but that’s another issue) and there are some items on there that seem a bit strange? Copper. Selenium. Magnesium. There are a lot of metals, minerals, and vitamins that can appear on a food label, and it really makes you wonder what we need it for?
Now, I am not going to go over every single micro-nutrient in detail, but I will talk about some categories of micro-nutrients and why they are important.
If anyone has seen I Love Lucy, you’ll remember the Vitameatavegamin that she tries to advertise. It is one of the ones that always has me laughing. It is the idea that something as simple as a spoonful of one thing or a pill can make all your health problems go away. In fact, most of us grew up with some sort of vitamins that we usually took with our breakfast (Mine was Flintstones for the longest time). The term vitamin has become synonymous with a small tablet to give you the extras that your body needs because they aren’t found in the food you are eating. But vitamins are more than that. If you do not have vitamins in your diet, you will start to have health issues due to a deficiency.
The most common deficiency 100 years ago was scurvy. Sailors were out at see for months at a time, and their diet did not have vitamin C at all, which is gotten from fresh meat, organ meat, and some fruits and vegetables. Scurvy can be debilitating, and if left untreated, can result in death. Finally, it was discovered that citrus fruit could help. Of course, today’s modern sailor would simply be given a Vitamin C supplement to take.
While, with a busy schedule and food that can be nutrient deficient before it ever gets to your plate, it is important to realize that most vitamins can be taken in a pill form, but may not be absorbed correctly or in the right amount. Certain vitamins are only absorbed with other co-factors present, such as fat or certain trace minerals. If possible, it is better to get your vitamins in actual whole foods. Also, be aware of how the food was grown, as large-scale, factory farms may overtax soil, resulting in the food having less nutritional value. I have found the local farmers market to be the prime location to get nutritious fruits and veggies without breaking the bank.
Like vitamins, minerals are needed in small quantities. But, their ability to help our bodies function can not be overstated. Minerals like iron, potassium, and magnesium are common in our vocabulary because they are prevalent on the backs of food packaging. We are also generally aware of issues like anemia that come from a lack of iron. The most important point to realize?Minerals cannot be created by any living organism. They exist in soil or as a salt (from the soil). Plants pull the minerals from the soil. Then we either eat the plants or eat the animals that ate the plants. That is the major way we get minerals in our diet. As the larger farms continue to overwork soil to produce quantity instead of quality foods, the minerals in the soil get less and less. That is a big reason why a lot of our foods, from milk to bread to salt, have been fortified with minerals. The normal process of getting these important elements into our bodies just isn’t cutting it.
One way that I have found to add minerals to my diet is to get a trace mineral solution to add to my water. It generally isn’t too overpowering if you increase the amount slowly. I recommend Liqumins ConcenTrace Trace Mineral Drops* for this. While it does supplement your diet, I feel better about how it is processed as well as how it is absorbed in your body.
To sum up, these little nuts and bolts hold everything together, in terms of nutrition. If you are missing these vitamins and minerals, it can have serious, life-threatening consequences. The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University has done lots of research on micro-nutrients. Be aware that their material can get a bit heavy, but it is well worth a quick scan. They also list the individual vitamins and minerals, what each one does, and what a deficiency can cause. Friday, I will post how to put all this information to use with some recipes and apps that can help you on the path to better nutrition.
Have any questions? Feel free to leave a comment below.
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