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What Are Micronutrients and Why Do You Need Them?

October 11, 2016

Micronutrients.jpgEven though it can sometimes seem like macronutrients—think protein, carbohydrates and fat—get most of the spotlight, micronutrients are equally as important for your health. While you don’t need nearly as much of them as you do macronutrients, a micronutrient deficiency can still cause significant health problems.

What are micronutrients? Why do you need them? And how can you make sure you’re getting enough? Let’s investigate.

What are micronutrients?

Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function, but can’t manufacture on its own. While there are nearly 30 different essential micronutrients, the ones you’re likely most familiar with are the ones we see on nutrition labels: Vitamins A, C and E, calcium, potassium, zinc, and magnesium.

Why does your body need micronutrients?

Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function, but can’t manufacture on its own. While there are nearly 30 different essential micronutrients, the ones you’re likely most familiar with are the ones we see on nutrition labels: Vitamins A, C and E, calcium, potassium, zinc, and magnesium.

Why does your body need micronutrients?

Micronutrients are an important part of keeping your body healthy and running the way it should. Not getting enough micronutrients can impact everything from bone growth, to brain function, to the health of your immune system. Low levels of some micronutrients are even linked to an increased risk of major health concerns, like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

While Americans are most likely to have diets lacking in potassium, iron deficiency is the most common micronutrient deficiency in the world. Iodine and vitamin A are especially important for children and pregnant woman; an iodine deficiency can cause brain damage and increases pregnancy risks, and a lack of vitamin A is the leading cause of blindness in children.

How can you make sure you’re getting enough micronutrients?

For most people, a well-rounded diet is the easiest and most effective way to make sure your body has the micronutrients it needs. While there are plenty of supplements on the market you can take—from daily multivitamins, to specific supplements for individual micronutrients—it’s best to get the bulk of your micronutrients from the foods you eat, if possible.

Luckily, there are many delicious options for eating a diet rich in micronutrients, and you’ll probably find you’re already eating many of the foods listed below. Here are some foods you can eat to easily boost the most common micronutrients needed in your diet:

  • Calcium: yogurt, milk, cheese, spinach, oatmeal
  • Potassium: sweet potatoes, white and lima beans, bananas, halibut and tuna
  • Magnesium: tofu, soybeans, brown rice, pumpkin, bran cereal, almonds, cashews
  • Vitamin A: sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, spinach, cantaloupe
  • Vitamin C: bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kiwi, oranges, pineapple
  • Vitamin E: sunflower seeds, almonds, peanut butter, spinach, tomato paste
  • Zinc: spinach, beef, shrimp, kidney beans, flax seeds

As you can see, one of the best ways to ensure your body has enough micronutrients is to “eat the rainbow.” By eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, you can meet almost all of your micronutrient needs.

Remember: Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated. Download our free guide to Eating Healthy on a Busy Schedule for more tips.

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