12 Mar Eating the Rainbow
Unfortunately, we’re still in the midst of cold and flu season and to top it off, you have probably heard about the coronavirus. All that to say, doing everything for your immune health and prevention – such as regular exercise and healthy eating to optimally fuel your body – is at an all time high. For this reason, we’d like to tell you all about micronutrients.
These little gems provide a whole host of health benefits and they make “eating the rainbow” of fruits and veggies (not Skittles), of utmost importance (namely because our body doesn’t make them on its own, so we have to eat them to reap the benefits). Fun fact, did you know that even though “food groups” are old news in dietary recommendations, foods (particularly fruits and veggies) can still be “grouped” by pigment/color to give you a general gist of vitamin sources and their health benefits? Nutrition is so simple, isn’t it?!
We have chosen three different articles that highlight practical and helpful information for all of us. Excerpts from the first two are included in this blog post.
Harvard Health articles: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-larger-role-of-micronutrients
Personally, I love charts and handouts to sum things up for me. If you do too, this is your handout. Created by the Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/sites/lpi.oregonstate.edu/files/pdf/mic/micronutrients_for_health.pdf
Notice the pigment/color theme in the “Common Dietary Sources” column.
Micronutrients. What are they? According to Harvard Health:
“Nearly 30 vitamins and minerals that your body cannot manufacture in sufficient amounts on its own are called “essential micronutrients.”
Different kinds of micros
Micronutrients can be divided into four categories: water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, microminerals, and trace minerals. Here is a closer look at each type and what it offers.
- Water-soluble vitamins. These vitamins, which dissolve in water, include the B vitamins and vitamin C. Other than vitamin B12, most are not stored in the body and any amounts not used get flushed out in the urine. That means they must be replenished regularly. Their main job is to produce energy, but they also help prevent cell damage from metabolic stress and are needed to create red blood cells. Good food sources: Whole grains, eggs, leafy greens (such as spinach), fish, lean meat, citrus fruits, and bell peppers.
- Fat-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins dissolve in fat, but not water, and can be stored in your liver and fatty tissue for future use. These include vitamins A, D, E, and K. They help protect vision, strengthen the immune system, support blood clotting, and provide antioxidants to fight inflammation. Good food sources: Leafy greens, almonds, sweet potatoes, milk, and soybeans.
- Microminerals. Microminerals are common minerals like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. They are necessary for many bodily functions, such as maintaining muscle and bone strength and controlling blood pressure. Good food sources: Milk products, leafy greens, black beans, lentils, bananas, and fish (such as salmon).
- Trace minerals. These include iron, manganese, copper, zinc, and selenium. They are needed in smaller amounts than microminerals and help with feeding oxygen to muscles, supporting nervous system function, healing wounds, and defending cells against damage from stress. Good food sources: Oysters, spinach, pecans, peanuts, and cashews.
Are you getting enough micronutrients?
So how can you make sure you’re fulfilling your nutrient needs? Unfortunately, a welter of conflicting studies has led to general confusion—and all too many studies lead to new marketing claims that may or may not be upheld by later research. In fact, the best way to get vitamins and minerals is from a well-rounded diet, with plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and lean sources of protein, along with healthy fats, such as nuts and olive oil. “You should ideally try to meet your vitamin and mineral needs through your diet rather than supplements,” says Dr. Howard D. Sesso, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Medical Editor of the Special Health Report Making Sense of Vitamins and Minerals: Choosing the foods and nutrients you need to stay healthy.
Choosing foods to boost your immune system
Five micronutrients—vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, and zinc—play roles in maintaining immune function, and supplements containing them are often sold as immune boosters in doses that greatly exceed the recommended daily allowance. However, there is no evidence that such supplements have more benefits than merely following a healthy diet. Rather than popping pills to get these micronutrients, you’re wiser to use various foods to boost your immune system.