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The Significance of Micro-nutrients in Your Diet

By: Shantea Johnson MS, MPH, CHES, CPT, PN1

In the world of nutrition, we often encounter a barrage of conflicting information. Some emphasize the importance of protein and animal products, while others focus on maintaining a caloric balance. Amidst this, one crucial aspect tends to be overlooked: micro-nutrients. Today, we will delve into the subject of micro-nutrients to understand what they are, their functions in the body, and the best dietary sources to obtain them.

Differentiating Between Macro-nutrients and Micro nutrients

To grasp the dissimilarity between macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients, let's start with their names. Macro-nutrients are the primary nutrients required by our bodies in larger quantities, namely protein, fats, and carbohydrates. These nutrients provide calories and are essential for maintaining a healthy body weight and supporting physiological functions.

On the other hand, micro-nutrients, while not contributing significantly to caloric intake, are equally crucial due to their involvement in various essential processes throughout the body. Micro-nutrients include phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These nutrients are essential for the production of enzymes and hormones that play a vital role in overall health and well-being.

Recognizing the Impact of Micro-nutrient Deficiencies

Despite the small amounts needed by the body, the absence of micro-nutrients can quickly lead to a range of undesirable side effects. For instance, a deficiency in magnesium can result in poor sleep, sugar cravings, muscle cramps, and difficulty concentrating on tasks at hand. Vitamins and minerals play a significant role in human nutrition, supporting healthy growth in children and promoting well-being in adults. Fortunately, micro-nutrient deficiencies can typically be easily diagnosed and effectively treated through the use of supplements and nutrient-rich foods.

Common Micro-nutrient Deficiencies

Micro-nutrient deficiencies are quite common, particularly due to the prevalence of nutrient-poor diets. Here are some of the most commonly observed micro-nutrient deficiencies in humans:

  1. Vitamin B12

  2. Iron

  3. Iodine

  4. Magnesium

  5. Vitamin D

While some deficiencies are easily diagnosed and carry minimal risks, others can cause severe discomfort and potential long-term damage. For example, B12 deficiencies, often observed in vegans and vegetarians, can lead to anemia, memory issues, mood swings, irregular heart function, and even neurological problems. Optimizing Micro-nutrient Intake through Food Choices Unless severe deficiencies are present, micro-nutrient supplements are not typically necessary, as most deficiencies can be addressed by making slight adjustments to dietary habits. By incorporating the following nutrient-dense foods into your regular meals, you can maintain a balanced inner chemistry and avoid deficiencies:

  1. Fatty fish - rich in Omega-3s and vitamin D.

  2. Citrus fruits - abundant in vitamin C and folic acid.

  3. Carrots - provide vitamin A.

  4. Eggs - a source of vitamin B and iron.

  5. Avocados - contain vitamins B2, B5, B6, and healthy fats.

  6. Kiwis - supply vitamins A, C, E, K, folate, and choline.

By including these foods in your diet, you can ensure adequate micro-nutrient intake and support optimal bodily functions. If diversifying your food sources is not preferable, you may consider incorporating micro-nutrient supplements into your routine.

The Key Takeaway

An ideal nutrition plan involves striking a balance between macro-nutrients, micro-nutrients, and overall calorie intake. While micro-nutrients do not contribute to caloric value, they play critical roles in numerous bodily functions. Neglecting these nutrients can lead to impaired functioning. Therefore, it is vital to prioritize sufficient intake of micro-nutrients through a well-rounded diet. Remember, micro-nutrients are an integral part of your nutritional needs, and their inclusion will contribute to your overall health and well-being.

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