variety of cut up fruits and vegetables spread out

It’s no secret that good nutrition plays a vital role in our health, well-being, gym performance, and results.

A popular approach to ensure a healthy and balanced diet today is to follow the if it fits your macros (IIFYM) principle. The goal with it is to get enough proteins, carbs, and fats without going over a specific calorie number.

At first glance, IIFYM works great. But upon closer look, we see that there is more to healthy eating. Micronutrients also play an essential role in the equation, but few people stop to think about them.

What Are Micronutrients?
Micronutrient is a term that refers to any of the 25+ essential vitamins and minerals we need to consume. As their name suggests, micronutrients appear less significant because we need small amounts to remain healthy.

There are 13 essential vitamins and 15 minerals, which we need to get through food because the body cannot produce them on its own.

Vitamins and minerals have many overlapping functions inside the body, but this doesn’t mean we can substitute one for the other. For example, vitamin C and zinc are both essential for our immunity. But a deficiency in either could lead to poor immune function and an increased risk of getting sick.

What Benefits Do Micronutrients Offer?
Vitamins are organic compounds that play an essential role in growth, development, immunity, and more. Minerals are inorganic substances, which contribute to nerve signalling, optimal organ function, athletic performance, and more.

Getting adequate amounts of all micronutrients is excellent because it contributes to:

  • Well-being
  • Cognitive function
  • Energy levels
  • Disease prevention
  • Robust immunity
  • Optimal athletic performance

Micronutrients achieve these and many other effects by optimising how the body functions. In essence, vitamins and minerals provide the body with some of the building blocks it needs during the production of hormones, cells, antibodies, neurotransmitters, and more.

A micronutrient deficiency often starts as something innocent, and we might not even feel any adverse effects. But such deficiencies have a way of compounding and leading to significant issues down the road.

For example, a zinc or magnesium deficiency can lead to lower testosterone levels, which itself can lead to:

  • Muscle and strength loss
  • Fat gain
  • Loss of libido, motivation, and confidence
  • Decreased sperm quality

A calcium or vitamin D deficiency can lead to:

  • Loss of bone mass
  • Increased risk of fractures
  • Higher likelihood of developing osteoporosis later in life

These effects don’t occur all of a sudden, but over time, which is what makes nutrient deficiencies so tricky to spot and fix.

Should We Track Micronutrients?
Well, in a way, we should. Micronutrients are essential for our health, and we shouldn’t ignore them. The trouble is, there are far too many of them to keep track of each day. You can try tracking them, but you will probably start feeling overwhelmed at some point.

A better approach would be to make a conscious effort to consume a wide variety of whole and minimally processed foods. Such foods will provide your body with many of the nutrients you need for good health.

When presented with the choice of eating processed and whole food, try going for the latter option most of the time. That alone can be great.

If you have a food-tracking app like MyFitnessPal, you can also write down the foods you eat, and the app will do a decent job of calculating your micronutrients, too.

October 25, 2021 — Daniel Felstein

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