What Are Micronutrients?
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
You might be an expert at calculating your macronutrients, especially if you’ve ever gone on a low-carb diet, or tried to put on a little extra muscle mass. If you’ve never focused on your micronutrient intake, we wouldn’t be surprised.
“Counting your micros” isn’t exactly something you hear your gym buddies talking about, and there’s a reason. Micronutrients are needed in smaller amounts than macronutrients, and it’s easier to calculate macronutrients when focusing on dietary issues like caloric intake or the ratio of carbs, fats, and proteins you’re intaking.
While micronutrients aren’t in the nutrition spotlight as much as macronutrients these days, we’d all do well to brush up on what they are, why our bodies need them, and how we can make sure we’re getting enough.
Macro vs. Micro-What’s the Difference?
Macronutrients form the basis of your diet. They consist of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. They make up the calories in the food you eat. If you go on a low-carb diet, for instance, you might be instructed to eat a lower percentage of calories from carbs than from fat and protein.
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that are much smaller, and needed in smaller amounts than macronutrients or macrominerals. They consist of two types of nutrients: vitamins and minerals.
- Vitamins. Vitamins are made by plants and animals and passed on to us when we consume them. Vitamins are organic, which means they can be broken down by heat, water, or air.
- Minerals. Minerals are inorganic and exist in soil and water. They can’t be broken down, and it's impossible for them to be “organic” because they weren’t created by a living thing.
Micronutrients are essential to your body. This means your body absolutely must have them to function properly, but (with a few exceptions) can’t make them on its own. Therefore, you must get micronutrients from your diet. Some micronutrients are fat-soluble vitamins, while others are water-soluble vitamins.
It’s critical that you get the proper doses of micronutrients, or your body can’t operate like it's supposed to.
Why Micronutrients Are Important
Because our bodies need them and can’t make them, it’s important we get these essential nutrients in our diets to maintain proper bodily function. There are 13 essential vitamins the body needs. They are vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins which are vitamins B12, B6, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, and folate.
There are numerous minerals that are essential for our health including calcium, potassium,magnesium, iron, and zinc. Most minerals are needed in small quantities, but the amount of each mineral you need changes as you age.
The vitamins and minerals in your food help your body by:
- Keeping organs functioning properly. Without enough of each micronutrient, you risk malnutrition and organ failure.
- Antioxidant protection. Oxidative stress damages cells and causes them to age faster than they would normally. Antioxidants act like a shield for your cells, protecting them from free radicals which could attack them and cause this type of damage. Many vitamins are natural sources of antioxidants, like vitamin C.
- Disease prevention and treatment. Numerous studies have concluded that micronutrients are not only essential for lowering your risk of developing certain diseases, they’re also key components of fighting and treating diseases.
- Immune support. We take zinc and vitamin C when we aren’t feeling well because both of these micronutrients help support a healthy, thriving immune system, which can get us back on the path to recovery from colds and other minor illnesses.
Your overall health depends on the adequate intake of quality micronutrients, and if you aren’t getting them from your diet, you’re likely to develop deficiencies.
What Happens When We Don’t Get Enough Micronutrients?
In the United States, as well as in most developed countries, it is very rare that someone is deficient in multiple micronutrients. However, certain diseases, or even dietary restrictions (like veganism) can place you at a higher risk for developing a particular micronutrient deficiency.
While it’s unlikely you’d become so malnourished you’d develop scurvy, the decline in your cells from not getting a high quality, micronutrient-rich diet will be evident in how you feel, how your body functions, and eventually, how it responds as you age.
Our bodies are made up of cells. The cell is the foundation of every tissue, organ, and system in your body. The micronutrients you consume are used by your cells to support their cellular functions.
When you don’t get enough micronutrients, your cells begin to decline. Cell walls begin to wear thin, and mitochondrial function declines. Organelles begin to lose their function. Some of this decline is age-related, but it happens faster if your cells are weak from an improper balance of micronutrients.
Short Term Illness
Not getting enough vitamins and minerals might not cause much damage at first. Perhaps you begin to get sick more frequently, catching every cold and suffering through every flu that the kids bring home.
Next, you may begin to develop more acute symptoms. Your yearly blood panel comes back showing markers for insulin resistance and unhealthy cholesterol. You may even begin to gain weight, experience fatigue or weakness, or have an increase in your blood pressure numbers.
These markers can all be indicative of a poor, unbalanced diet.
Long Term Disease
The long term effects of a poor diet and lack of certain vitamins and minerals can be devastating to your health. You may begin to experience age-related illnesses, like diabetes and heart disease. You may begin to experience a decline in cognitive function, or develop poor bone health.
The good news is, you can protect yourself and lower your risk of developing these types of ailments simply by placing a larger emphasis on your diet.
What You Can Do
No one wants to age faster than they should, and most of us wouldn’t willingly sign up for illnesses that require medications, doctor’s visits, and altering our lifestyles. However, if we aren’t actively taking care to reduce our risk of developing these types of illnesses, we may as well be actively pursuing them.
Here are three actions you can take to protect yourself against illness and increase your micronutrient intake.
1. Eat a Balanced Diet
It starts with your diet. Eating a more balanced diet and including more fruits and vegetables on your plate will increase your daily intake of micronutrients and help protect you from developing a dietary deficiency.
Opt for fresh fruits and vegetables when you can, which are packed with fiber, too. Fiber is essential in helping keep us full, helping regulate our blood sugar, and keeping our colon healthy. Foods like whole grains, beans and legumes, almonds or cashews, eggs, bananas, and spinach are rich in key nutrients.
2. Get a Yearly Blood Panel
Getting a yearly blood panel is a smart way to make sure you aren’t deficient in any essential vitamins and minerals. The caveat is that regular labwork usually includes a CBC, chem, and lipid panel, which don’t directly measure vitamin and mineral levels; that said, when your primary care provider does order this regular testing, you can ask about nutrient deficiency testing, too. If you are deficient, an extra vial during your regularing blood testing will be able to let you know. If a deficiency is discovered, consider increasing your dietary intake of the foods that contain the particular vitamin or mineral you need.
If dietary changes don’t help, a multivitamin or supplement can help fill in the gap. However, it’s always best to try to get the missing pieces from your diet when possible.
3. Support Your Cellular Health With Pentadecanoic Acid
Your cells are where your health begins (and arguably where it ends). Cellular health is important, and taking a simple supplement like pentadecanoic acid can help keep your cells strong.
Pentadecanoic acid, also known as C15:0, is an odd-chain, saturated fatty acid that is the first essential fatty acid to have been discovered in over ninety years.
Found primarily in whole fat dairy products, it’s unlikely you’re getting enough of it in your diet, and increasing your milk fat intake would mean consuming unhealthy, even chain saturated fats, sugars, and calories. That’s why a supplement is a smart idea.
C15:0 supports your cells in three ways:
Cell membrane support. Your thinning, flimsy cell membranes get support from C15:0. This sturdy fatty acid deep dives into your cell walls, fortifying them and keeping them strong.
Mitochondrial support. Sluggish mitochondria get a kickstart when you take C15:0, which has been proven to increase mitochondrial function by 45%.
Cell signaling support. In addition to giving your cells the support they need to remain strong, C15:0 also helps regulate metabolism, mood, sleep, and appetite. By activating special receptors called PPARs that control these functions, C15:0 helps restore homeostasis.
The problem is, if you can’t increase your whole fat dairy intake, how do you get C15:0 in your diet? Fatty15 to the rescue.
Fatty15: Your New Favorite Supplement
Fatty15 is the first and only supplement that contains just one ingredient, FA15™, the pure, vegan-friendly version of C15:0. Just one capsule a day helps support your cells and gives you the chance to reverse cellular aging.
We know the popular focus is on macros, but don’t forget about the little guys. A micronutrient rich diet and fatty15 are a great combination that helps you stay youthful, feel healthier, and develop a solid foundation for total wellness.
Antioxidant micronutrients in the prevention of age-related diseases|PubMed
Total, dietary, and supplemental calcium intake and mortality from all-causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: A meta-analysis of observational studies|PubMed
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
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