Nutrition Basics: Part 2: Micronutrients
Let us continue the series of nutrition basics as a way to celebrate National Nutrition Month, and today cover micronutrients! If you missed the first post about macronutrients, it can be found here: Nutrition Basics: Part 1: Macronutrients.
Micronutrients aka vitamins and minerals as you may hear them referred to more commonly. Comparatively speaking to macronutrients, our bodies require lesser (hence “micro”) amounts of these nutrients for roles and functioning. However, the fact that the body needs these in smaller amounts does not discount the fact that micronutrients are essential for many things such as normal growth and development, disease prevention/immunity, and general well being. Micronutrient deficiencies can cause serious and life-threatening conditions as well as lesser but still serious symptoms such as lack of energy, mental fogginess, and changes in hair/skin/nails just to name a few.
Micronutrients can be classified into four categories, and we will start today with water-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins, which includes vitamin C and members of the B vitamin family are vitamins that can dissolve in water. What this means is that any intake in excess of what is needed is eliminated via urine (vitamin B12 is an outlier to this), and not stored in the body or tissues; this also means that water-soluble vitamins must be taken in daily from food, beverages, and/or supplements in order to be replenished.
Some roles of the B vitamin family include allowing energy to be released from carbohydrate and fat intake (two macronutrients if you recall from part 1!), breaking down amino acids, and enabling oxygen and energy-containing nutrients to be transported throughout the body.
Food sources of B vitamins:
Fortified foods such as breakfast cereals
Vitamin C plays a vital part in healthy immune function to help to control infections and aid in wound healing. It is considered an antioxidant, which can help to neutralize harmful free radicals. Vitamin C has a role in collagen creation, which you can find in multiple parts and systems of the body, as well as helps to create many hormones and chemical messengers in the brain and nerves.
Food sources of C vitamins:
Citrus fruits and citrus juice
Remember, as referenced in part 1, you want to be sure you are consuming an adequate quantity of food first, macronutrients second, and then you can take a more fine tuned look at your micronutrient consumption. To reiterate again from part 1: any diet or plan that requires you to cut out any major food groups for non-medical reasons should raise a major red flag! For most individuals, eating a varied diet allows for adequate amounts of micronutrient consumption (of course barring any chronic medical conditions, medication use that affects this, etc). As always, following an Intuitive Eating approach through the lens of gentle nutrition can help with this feeling attuned to your body’s wants and needs and not what anybody else recommends or suggests.