Counting macros is recognized by many as an important part of any fitness routine and with the growing interest in flexible dieting and IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros), many of us are familiar with the term. It is helpful to know how to properly manipulate your calories to support your goals, whether that is building muscle, maintaining your body weight and composition, or losing fat. Not familiar with macros? You can learn more here. But did you know that watching your micronutrient intake is equally, if not more important, for your overall health and wellbeing? Further to that point, many micronutrients are essential for the proper use of macronutrients within the body. If you’re not getting appropriate amounts of micros, your body may not be using your macros as efficiently, stunting your gains and progress.
You may already know what macros are but have never heard of micronutrients. So, let’s start simple.
What Exactly Are Micronutrients?
Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals which are crucial for proper functioning of the body and can aid in the prevention and treatment of various diseases and conditions.
Micronutrients are found in foods, are required in smaller quantities than macros, and do not contain calories.
The difference between vitamins and minerals is that vitamins contain carbon and minerals do not, so vitamins are considered organic.
Vitamins are broken down into water soluble and fat soluble. The water-soluble vitamins are: B complex vitamins, such as B12 and B6, and vitamin C. The fat-soluble vitamins are: vitamins A, D, E, and K. Each vitamin plays a different role in your health and wellbeing. While vitamin A is essential for eye health, vitamin D is important for the development and maintenance of bones and teeth. While vitamins B12 and B6 help the body to metabolize carbohydrates, fats and proteins, vitamin C aids in collagen production.
Each vitamin is needed in appropriate amounts for your body to function optimally.
Minerals labelled “essential” are considered to be essential to life. Each one is necessary for maintaining good health. These essential minerals are then further broken down into macro minerals and trace minerals. Macro minerals are needed in higher amounts and include, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur. Trace minerals are needed in smaller amounts each day and include, iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, fluoride, and selenium.
As most of us know, calcium helps build strong bones. But did you know that magnesium helps maintain proper muscle functioning? Or that zinc helps to maintain healthy bones, hair, nails and skin?
Each mineral has a unique function within the body. And each is equally important for optimum health.
How Much Do You Need?
The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council has calculated the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for both males and females at various ages. The RDA includes the recommended nutrient and calorie intake per day for the maintenance of good health.
You can find your daily recommendation for each nutrient here.
Now that you know what each micronutrient can do for you and how much your body needs, you’re probably wondering where you can find them all.
We’ve gathered a list of the best foods for each vitamin and mineral:
Tips for Getting Enough
It can seem daunting trying ensure you are getting appropriate amounts of every micronutrient. But fear not! We have compiled a list of our top tips for hitting your micronutrient recommendations.
- Incorporate nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables and legumes, into every meal. Whether you eat three large meals or six small meals per day, pack them full of goodness. Find ways to sneak veggies in, like turning your shake into a smoothie and adding fruits and vegetables, switch to homemade protein bars full of nuts and seeds. Bonus: More Veggies will leave you feeling fuller for longer, with less calories.
- Eat Fresh. Eat raw. Loss and damage of micronutrients can occur due to several factors, including exposure to high temperatures and light. Eat raw and fresh veggies when you can to ensure the highest micronutrient intake.
- Include whole foods (whole wheat, whole grain) in your diet. Whole grains are often a source of fibre and are typically low in fat. Whole grains will also typically contain more nutrients than the white versions. Opt for a piece of whole grain toast instead of white and reap the benefits of that extra bit of vitamin E.
Give your body what it really needs. Fuel up with micronutrient-rich foods and take note of the amazing benefits. Your body will thank you.