Take your nutrition to the next level by understanding the importance of micronutrients in your diet.
The Calories In, Calories Out Mentality
People often start paying attention to their diet when they want to lose weight. Most New Year’s Resolution revolve around losing weight, eating better, getting into shape, etc.
In our efforts to get beach-ready and slim down, many people take a page from the world of strength training and bodybuilding, which focuses on cycles of gaining weight (bulking) and losing weight (cutting). This has led many people to adopt a calorie focused mentality in which in order to lose weight, one simply has to watch how many calories they are consuming and eat below their daily caloric needs.
While the workings of the body and metabolism are complex, it is generally true that eating less calories than you burn is a surefire way to lose weight…in the short-term.
However, what about the long-term? Many studies demonstrate that not only do dieters often regain the weight they lost, but they tend to gain even more than they had initially lost. This is due to following an unsustainable diet that is restrictive and only focused on calories or carbohydrates. A sustainable diet is one that focuses on the overall quality of the diet instead of restrictions. Long-term success is more likely when you focus on what you can ADD to your diet rather than what you need to restrict.
The Most Important Micronutrients
There are many vitamins and minerals that are essential for proper bodily functions. However, many of these vitamins and minerals do not require large doses in your diet to meet the necessary amounts. The vitamin and supplements industry would have you believe that a pill with 200% of your daily value for a vitamin is necessary, but truth be told it is far more important to get your vitamins from whole foods like fruits and vegetables rather than to taking supplements.
There are many essential micronutrients but they can be summed up into 4 distinct groups.
Fat-soluble vitamins are those which do not dissolve in water. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble. With the exception of D, vitamins A, E, and K are often found in vegetables such as leafy greens. Have you ever wondered why salad and dressing go hand in hand? Besides the fact that a good dressing can make a salad a very appetizing meal, the fat present in dressing allows your body to fully benefit from and better absorb the high vitamin levels in your vegetables.
Vitamin D is mostly found in foods that already contain some forms of fat such as salmon, eggs, cheese and tuna. You can also find a good amount of vitamin D in mushrooms that have been grown in sunlight. Remember to pair your mushrooms with a good dose of healthy fat such as avocado, olive oil or walnuts. Didn’t eat any of these foods today? Head outdoors and soak up some sun for 20 minutes for that daily dose of vitamin D!
Macrominerals and Microminerals/Trace Minerals
Macrominerals are the minerals which are required by the body in larger quantities than say, trace minerals which you only need a few micrograms (mcg) a day at most. Minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium are a few examples of macrominerals that your body needs on a daily basis. Macrominerals play many important roles such as fluid balance, muscle contraction and nerve transmission. Low potassium levels can typically cause muscle twitching, cramping, and abnormal heart rhythms. Need more potassium in your diet? Eat more sweet potato, avocado or beet greens!
Microminerals are trace minerals such as copper, iodine, iron, manganese, selenium, molybdenum, and zinc. You may have heard that eggs are one of the most powerful foods on the planet. Not only are they a fantastic source of protein, but a single egg yolk contains many of these trace minerals in abundance. Microminerals are essential for wound healing, oxygen delivery/balance, optimizing immune health and insulin regulation. A diet rich in eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes, leafy greens, fish, and whole grains will help prevent micromineral deficiencies.
Common Nutrient Deficiencies in the United States
While we stated that eating balanced meals is the best way to ensure that you get all of the nutrients you require, sometimes deficiencies do happen naturally based on eating preferences or genetics. Here are some common nutrient deficiencies in the US that many people are not even aware they have.
- Iron – Iron is an important mineral for carrying oxygen in the hemoglobin of red blood cells. Having well-oxygenated blood is crucial for your cell’s ability to create energy. One of the first symptoms of iron-deficiency is fatigue and overall less energy. Foods such as beef, liver, oysters, and red meat are great sources of heme iron. Plant-based sources of iron are called non-heme iron and can be found in spinach, broccoli, and legumes. Non-heme iron is harder to absorb than heme iron so make sure you pair non-heme iron foods with vitamin C foods such as strawberries, lemon juice, potatoes, or oranges.
- Vitamin D – This vitamin is crucial for bone health and immune function as well as the trigger for a host of other functions in the body which are crucial for mood, energy levels and quality of sleep. Vitamin D can be obtained most easily from mild to moderate (15-20 minutes) sun exposure, fatty fish such as tuna and salmon, and of course, supplementation if necessary.
- Vitamin A – Vitamin E is a critical antioxidant in the body that protects your cells from cancer-causing free-radicals. Like many antioxidants, vitamin E strengthens the immune system and aids in the blood clotting process. Foods that contain vitamin E in abundance are almonds, green vegetables, orange/yellow fruits and vegetables, and fortified cereals. For highly critical vitamins A, C, and E, they are mostly obtained from vegetables.
The Case for a Well-Rounded Diet
There are many more potential nutritional deficiencies than can be listed here, but the reason for the majority of them is simple—not eating enough healthy whole foods and fruits and vegetables. That is why Dr. Praeger’s focuses on creating healthy meals that are nutrient-dense and also taste great.
The heart of our food philosophy revolves around not having to count every little calorie and not having to worry about the quality of the food. We use whole ingredients and pack a lot of nutrition and flavor into our products to ensure that our food also has an adequate amount of micronutrients as well.
If you have any questions about our products, feel free to contact us today.