Micronutrients: Overfed & Undernourished

Today we have easier access to calorie-dense foods than ever before. Unfortunately, those foods are overprocessed and depleted of key micronutrients.

As a result, nearly 1 in 3 Americans has a micronutrient deficiency, according to the CDC.

With that in mind, what are micronutrients anyway? How much do you need? And how can you make sure you get enough?

micronutrients

What Are Micronutrients?

The two types of micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. And each serves a different function in your body.

Vitamins support your metabolism, immune system, and tissue growth. While minerals produce healthy bones and muscles.

Micronutrients Examples:

  • Vitamins
    A, B complex, C, D, E, and K
  • Minerals
    Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Chromium, Iron, Selenium, and Zinc

Macronutrients vs Micronutrients

The prefix micro refers to things measured on an extremely small scale. Likewise, micronutrients are nutrients that your body needs in very small amounts.

To illustrate, you’re probably familiar with macronutrients (i.e. protein, carbs, and fat). And that we measure macros in grams (g).

By comparison, we measure micronutrients in milligrams (mg) or micrograms (mcg). To put it differently, that’s 1,000 and 1,000,000 times smaller than grams respectively.

Since numbers that small are hard to imagine, it helps to have a visual comparison.

micronutrients scale

Relative scale of macro vs micronutrients

In practical terms, macronutrients are like the main dish. While micronutrients are like the seasoning. Even so, their smaller size does not make them less important. As we all know the seasoning can make or break the meal!

How Much Do You Need?

The DV (Daily Value) is the percentage you see on food and supplement labels. For the purpose of indicating the amount of a vitamin or mineral that you need each day.

It’s important to realize that the DV is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Moreover, it is the amount needed to prevent disease or health issues that result from a lack of nutrition.

Therefore, if you’re an active person looking to optimize health and performance it may not be enough. Especially if you need to eat more than 2,000 calories a day.

Even with the bar set low, 31% of Americans still have a deficiency. Notably in vitamins B6, D, and C according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

individual micronutrients deficiency

Data from NHANES 2003–2006 representative of the U.S. population, aged ≥9 years. Based on biochemical indicators of nutrient deficiency.

Certainly, this information is cause for concern. So how do you make sure you get enough?

How to Get More Micronutrients

1. Eat more green vegetables

Specifically, leafy greens – the most nutrient dense vegetables. Such as spinach, Brussels sprouts, and kale. As well as broccoli and asparagus.

2. Include healthy fats

Salmon, for example, is a great source of nutrients. Not only is it high in omega-3 fatty acids, but it also has ample vitamins and minerals. Additional sources of nutrient-packed fats include almonds, olive oil, and avocados.

3. Add a vitamin and mineral supplement

In the past, we got all the micronutrients we needed from the foods we ate. Today, those foods contain fewer micronutrients than a few decades ago. Namely due to changes in farming practices which create nutrient-deprived foods.

Thus, the best insurance policy against nutrient deficiency is a good supplement. Which is why I use a natural multivitamin.

In summary, a healthy diet and a good multivitamin are a solid start to getting enough micronutrients. But you can benefit from more than just “enough” if you’re active and looking to improve performance.

For that reason, you should consider supplementing key nutrients as part of your overall nutrition plan.

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About the Author:

Jeremy Fox author profile

Jeremy Fox  –  Founder of Nutritioneering, Engineer, CPT, Bodybuilder, Coach