What are micronutrients?

Your body is a complex machine that requires many types of fuel to function smoothly. Micronutrients are one of these essential fuels. Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals our bodies need to operate properly and achieve optimal health. Apart from vitamin D, which we can produce with exposure to sunlight, our body is unable to produce individual micronutrients. Therefore, we must obtain them from our diet or through supplements. The amount and type of micronutrients found in food varies, which is why consuming a wide variety of nutritious foods is essential to ensure adequate intake.

There are approximately thirty micronutrients we need to consume regularly. Iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, iodine, folate, and zinc are examples of the micronutrients that are essential to our health.

Why are micronutrients important for our health?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), micronutrients are essential for a number of bodily functions, including production of enzymes, hormones, and other substances needed for growth and development. Modest deficiencies can reduce energy, mental clarity, and impair our immune functioning. Chronic and more severe deficiencies are associated with health conditions such as malnutrition, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis.

How do I know if I’m getting enough micronutrients?

The best way to get micronutrients is through a well-balanced diet. This includes a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. Micronutrient deficiencies are less common in the United States because of our access to a plentiful and inexpensive food supply, as well as the process of fortifying many food products with key nutrients.

Some people who are at risk of certain nutrient deficiencies may benefit from taking supplements. These individuals should discuss their concerns and levels with a healthcare provider before beginning any supplement plan.

While less common than deficiencies, toxicity of certain micronutrients can negatively affect health. Toxicity usually develops because of excessive supplementation. It’s rare to develop a toxicity of micronutrients from food sources or illness.

In closing, a well-balanced diet provides a healthy balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and nutrients that fuel and protect each of us daily. We encourage you to work on fueling your body with foods that will allow you to function at your best. For more information on micronutrients and a healthy diet, check out the resources below.

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