The Best Sources Of Micronutrients - What You Need To Be Eating

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Micronutrients make up an essential part of your diet. But what are they, what do they do for you and what are the best sources? Macronutrients are what you might know more about - favourites like carbohydrates, proteins and fats. This is what we learnt about at school and what makes up most of your meal plans and ideas.

Micronutrients (or essential nutrients) have been defined as substances that are found in food that cannot be synthesised at all in the human body, and are essential for life, growth and repair. You may be familiar with vitamin C and iron as a examples of micronutrients but you may be less familiar with selenium or copper and why you would need them. Basically micronutrients are vitamins and minerals and for quick reference here is a complete list of essential micronutrients:

Vitamins: A, B’s (there are a few like B6, B9, B12), C, D3, E and K.

Minerals: Boron, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Copper, Selenium, Iodine and Zinc.
 
best-sources-of-micronutrients

 

Micronutrients are important because they help in chemical pathways within your body, they help with manufacturing hormones, they help repair the body and also help with supporting your physical and mental health - they are literally essential.  Here is a great video that explains things well.

What Causes A Lack Of Micronutrients

The best sources of micronutrients comes from your diet and the type of food you eat but intensive agriculture and farming has depleted a lot of the micronutrients within the soil and they are no longer found in the same levels in your food as they once were. Different farming methods have also contributed to decreasing the amount of micronutrients in the soil as things like LED lights or growing in artificial conditions and inferior potting mix/compost affects a plants nutrition profile.

Lack of access to food, high stress levels and a processed diet will also reduce the amount of micronutrients you have in your body. In a very basic sense, if you were to only eat 2 minute noodles, you would notice a decline in your health as your vitamin and mineral intake is severely reduced. You would meet your carbohydrate intake requirement but the other essential micronutrients would be in deficit.

4 micronutrients and their sources

While you need a variety of micronutrients in your diet, we have focused on zinc, calcium, selenium and magnesium. These are the best micronutrients to focus on because of the many things you use them for and also due to how popular they are for supplementation. We wanted to expand on why you need these micronutrients and what they do so it makes it a little more helpful when you choose your food sources of micronutrients or your supplements. 


1 Zinc

Zinc is a metal and most adults hold between 1.2gm - 2.3gm of zinc in their tissues, with the highest concentration in the eye, prostate gland, bones and muscles. However it is also found in your liver and blood. It is mainly absorbed by your duodenum (the first part of your small intestine) and is excreted via your intestines, kidneys and skin. 

What Is Zinc Good For?

Zinc deficiency can lead to growth and healing issues, impaired wound healing, loss of taste, immune and behavioural issues. Zinc is essential for skin and hormone health as well. In respect to your immunity, the importance of zinc is well established. Zinc is crucial for the normal development of your cells, helping with both your innate and acquired immunity. When we are acutely sick, zinc becomes one of the first things to be redistributed in our bodies as a response. This decline and quick utilisation is often why zinc is recommended to support immunity.

The Best Sources Of Zinc

Zinc is found in many foods, but one thing you need to remember is that its bioavailability within these food sources differs. One of the best sources of this micronutrient is from animal products. This is because zinc in shellfish and seafood is more highly bioavailable than other sources from cereals and plants. Often cereal or grain products that can contain zinc also contain phytates that can impair zinc absorption. Things like oysters, red meat and cheese are often the best sources of this micronutrient

However, don’t discount vegetable based sources of zinc as they are still helpful! Some vegetable sources of this micronutrient include spinach, kale and mushrooms. Nettle is also a great source of zinc, you could fry some nettle instead of spinach or use our Daily Boost (which contains nettle).

Zinc can also be toxic (as with anything) at high dose. So when supplementing with zinc only do so for a set period of time, e.g. a month and then have a rest. Zinc powders and zinc drops are the best supplement sources of this micronutrient as you can absorb it more easily and do not have to break down a tablet. 

kale-best-sources-of-micronutrients


2 Calcium

Calcium is an essential mineral for your bones. Your skeleton contains 99% (approximately) of your body’s total calcium and you need enough calcium and vitamin D from the sun and your diet to maintain healthy growth, teeth and bones. Your skeleton obviously holds your structural framework but also protects your vital organs and also holds your calcium and phosphorus which you need for chemical pathways within your body. 

What Is Calcium Good For?

This micronutrient is also required for regulation of muscle contraction and also supports your nerve health, activation of enzymes, supporting blood and its clotting ability and required for hormone and neurotransmitter secretions. So very vital! Low calcium can be quite serious with some people suffering from seizures, spasms, and tingling and numbness. High calcium can lead to kidney stones. If you have too much or too little calcium our bones end up compensating by releasing minerals to buffer what is needed. 

The Best Sources Of Calcium

Dairy is probably the first thing people think of when they think of calcium. While it is one of the best sources of this micronutrient there are other great sources such as dark green leady vegetables, soy, salmon or tinned fish with bones included, sesame seeds and white beans. You can take calcium in a powder or in a mix with magnesium which can help with absorption.

dairy-sources-of-calcium


3 Selenium

Selenium is another mineral that is involved in a variety of processes in the body - as an antioxidant defence, thyroid metabolism, immune and reproduction function, and supports the digestive system. Did you know that to test selenium sometimes they use toenails? They do this as it shows a long term assessment of concentration and dietary intake…

What Is Selenium Good For?

You need selenium to help your immune system - it impacts both our innate and acquired immunity and it can help as defensive support from bacteria, viruses, and other infections. Lack of selenium can have an impact on cardiovascular health as selenium is cardioprotective. 

The Best Sources Of Selenium

Well known sources of this micronutrient are brazil nuts, mushrooms, broccoli and garlic. However the lack of selenium in our soils now makes it harder to absorb the amount we need. So sometimes supplementation might be a good alternative source of this micronutrient. There are selenium drops you can take and add into your diet if you feel need too.

garlic-source-of-selenium


4 Magnesium

Magnesium - we talk about this mineral a lot (especially in regards to sleep!). It is vital to so many interactions in your body. It is used quickly in your body and also we live in a modern society which by in large is more stressful than other times - which means we burn through our magnesium reserves more quickly. 

What Is Magnesium Good For?

Magnesium is found in your skeleton, muscles and body cells. It is everywhere. It is required for energy metabolism, supports enzymes, supports DNA replication and supports muscle and nerve cells.  It is predominantly absorbed by the small intestine and this absorption can vary widely with between 40-60% that can be absorbed from diet. If you have impaired digestion however it might be hard to absorb all the magnesium you need from your food.

The Best Sources Of Magnesium

Dietary sources of this micronutrient are dark green leafy vegetables, cereals, legumes. If you wish to supplement with magnesium (which a lot of us probably should) consider a powder. Or look for magnesium amino acid chelate for better absorption or citrate. You can also absorb magnesium through your skin so you could look at magnesium oils, sprays or Epsom salt baths as an alternative.

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