What Are Micro Nutrients?

Micro nutrients are vitamins and minerals that help your body deliver oxygen to your cells, produce sufficient energy, defend against attacks on your immune system, maintain fertility, and so much more.

Micro nutrient status is an often overlooked but crucial piece of the puzzle for optimizing health and well-being.

When you think of good nutrition, you may be focusing too much on getting enough of the energy-providing macro nutrients: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

While you obviously need to eat enough calories in order to live, good health requires so much more than just calories.

Even though micro nutrients are required in very small amounts compared to macro nutrients, they play vital roles for optimal body function, metabolism, and wellness.



Are You Getting Enough Micro nutrients in Your Diet?

Even with a well-planned diet, it can be difficult to get enough of the micro nutrients that you need from food alone.

We will explore the reasons why in more detail below.

 

1. Your micro nutrient needs are highly individualized and dynamic.

Depending on your age, your lifestyle, your medical history, and your individual dietary restrictions/needs, you may require more micro nutrients than you can reasonably get from food.

For example, a pregnant vegetarian woman may need to consume over 48 milligrams of iron per day just to meet her higher needs during pregnancy and to account for lower absorption of iron from plant foods compared to animal foods.

To put this into context, she would need to eat about 7.5 cups of lentils every day to meet her iron needs!

While fortified foods like breakfast cereal might help fill in some of these gaps, there are still plenty of other scenarios where it’s simply not feasible to rely on only food to meet your micro nutrient needs.

 

2. There are fewer micro nutrients available from food today than at previous times in human history.

We have traditionally gotten the micro nutrients we need through food.

Minerals are naturally occurring in the soil and therefore are pulled into plants. When we eat these plants or eat the animals that eat these plants, we are able to get these minerals directly from our food.

However, due to aggressive 21st-century farming practices, the soil that produce is grown in can be lacking in minerals and other needed nutrients.

Instead of cultivating the soil and naturally enriching it, most modern farmers simply pump chemicals into their fields so that they can grow crops as quickly as possible.

This produces fruits and vegetables, that, while they look good on the outside, are noticeably lower in nutrient content. Also, major changes in the way that animals are raised have resulted in lowering the nutrient composition of our meat, eggs, and dairy as well.

All of this means that much of the food you may buy today is likely not as nutritious as it was even just 50 years ago.


What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Micro Nutrients?

Back in the day, the consequences of micro nutrient deficiencies were much more obvious.

Children who didn’t get enough Vitamin D developed rickets, a condition resulting in weak bones and bowed legs.

Sailors who didn’t get enough vitamin C would succumb to scurvy on long trips at sea.

Given the increased awareness of the importance of micro nutrients and heavy food fortification and supplementation programs, the frequency of these nutrient-related diseases has plummeted in most developed countries.

However, what is on the rise is subclinical nutrient deficiencies.

This is a state where you may appear to be well nourished on the surface, but your nutrient levels can be lower than what’s optimal, typically shown through nutrient testing.

Or you may notice more subtle problems that can be nutrient related like fatigue, weakened immune systems, rough skin or more.

While subclinical deficiencies are likely not serious enough to put you in the hospital, they are not without consequences. In addition to poorer body functions, there are long term problems as well.

Some scientists are starting to believe that long term low intakes of micronutrients can actually increase the risk for poor health later in life.

The good news is if you’re reading this you probably care more than the average person about getting enough micro nutrients in your diet. In addition to consuming food sources such as organic fruits and vegetables, high-quality supplements can help fill in gaps you may have in your diet.

Here we will discuss the top 5 micro nutrients to pay close attention to in your diet.


Vitamin D

Vitamin D, along with calcium, is essential for bone health (read more about strengthening bones here).

Vitamin D also helps your body absorb calcium from food and supplements and thus helps maintain the appropriate balance of calcium in your bones.

A jack of all trades, vitamin D also plays a role in supporting your immune system, releasing insulin into your blood, and even maintaining normal blood pressure.

It is nearly impossible for most adults to get enough Vitamin D from diet or sun exposure alone. Furthermore, the 600 IU of vitamin D recommended each day for most adults may be too low for optimal health.

Those at particularly high risk for vitamin D deficiency including exclusively breastfed infants (whose mothers may be vitamin D deficient), people who live in temperate (i.e. not tropical) climates, and people who routinely cover their skin when outdoors.

A high-quality vitamin D supplement can go a long way toward improving vitamin D levels and may have other important health benefits as well.


Vitamin E

About 90% of US adults do not get enough Vitamin E from their diets. Its most important role in the body is as a component of a powerful antioxidant that protects the fats in cell membranes from damage caused by oxidants.

A potential consequence of poor vitamin E intake is oxidative stress. This occurs when the body becomes overwhelmed by attacks of free radicals on body tissues. Oxidative stress can interfere with normal body functions.

Some of the best sources of vitamin E are sunflower seeds, almonds, olive oil, and avocados.

Vitamin E and other antioxidants found in a high-quality multivitamin supplement can help support protection for your cells from free radical damage.



Iron

Iron is a component of multiple proteins in the body involved in the production of energy, the transportation of oxygen to cells, and even immune function.

Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world and comes with a lot of negative consequences.

For children, these can include alterations in cognitive and behavioral development. Fatigue, poor athletic performance, and a weakened immune system may afflict adults with iron deficiency.

The best sources of well-absorbed iron come from animal products and include red meats and organ meats, seafood, poultry, and eggs. Vegetarian sources include legumes, leafy greens, tofu, and whole grains but the iron in these foods is not as well absorbed.

Women and adolescent girls with heavy menstrual cycles, those who engage in intense exercise on a regular basis, pregnant women, toddlers, and those with GI diseases may be at higher risk for iron deficiency.

It’s good to be cautious with excessive iron supplementation as high levels may actually be harmful. If you have reason to suspect you or your child has anemia, always ask your health care provider to confirm it with a blood test before starting a supplement.



Calcium

Calcium is a micro nutrient you probably hear a lot about, and for good reason. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and is essential for healthy bones.

Along with bone health, calcium also plays a role in muscle contraction and cell signaling, blood pressure regulation, and maintenance of healthy body weight.

Calcium intakes during youth are critical for establishing peak bone mass. Higher bone mass can protect against osteoporosis later in life.

In the US average intakes of calcium are falling as more and more people are replacing cow’s milk with other beverages lower in calcium.

While there is some controversy about how much calcium you need for optimal health, supplements may be helpful for those who do not eat calcium-rich foods. These might include vegans or those who are unable or prefer not to consume dairy products.

Aside from dairy, fortified foods like calcium-set tofu and orange juice are good sources of calcium. Low oxalate leafy greens like kale and bok choy are also great sources.

Experts recommend no more than 1200 mg a day from food and supplements combined, so if you regularly consume dairy products, you may not need to take an additional supplement.



Magnesium

Magnesium plays essential roles in hundreds of reactions in your body.

Required for functions including energy production, muscle relaxation, and production of fats and proteins, poor magnesium intake or status can negatively impact multiple body functions.

Almost half the US population is not getting enough magnesium from diet alone.

People who are likely to be magnesium deficient are those recovering from G.I. surgery or conditions and those who may excrete excessive amounts of magnesium in urine like individuals with diabetes or those using diuretics, laxatives, or antacids for long periods of time.

Another group at risk for magnesium deficiency may be those who don’t consume grains. Many of the best magnesium sources are whole grains. Other sources include seeds, nuts, avocados, spinach, seafood, and lima beans.

Magnesium supplementation has been shown to help with muscle relaxation, sleep, and muscle soreness.

 

Final Thoughts

A high-quality vitamin and mineral supplement can help fill in gaps left the diet.

Food is the preferred source of most micro nutrients, but there are times when a supplement is more feasible and required to meet additional nutrient needs.

Due to the risk of potential medication interactions, nutrient excesses, or other potential issues, it’s always a good idea to speak with your health care provider about any supplements you are taking or thinking about starting.

Compared to many other formulations, Utzy Natural's supplements contain forms of micro nutrients that are highly bioavailable due to careful inclusion of minerals in highly absorbable chelated forms.

Chelated minerals are different from other mineral formulations because they don’t need any specific environment to be absorbed and they don’t need to be consumed with food.

Utzy believes in the efficiency of chelated minerals and has a well-reviewed multi-mineral supplement called Essentially-U.