Micronutrients are Essential to Your Health and Here is Why

Micronutrients are Essential to Your Health and Here is Why

Thinking of rock climbing, raising a family, going to France, building a home, moving up the corporate ladder, looking out onto beautiful city skyline, and taking care of our parents; we all have countless check marks to make on our bucket lists. With so much to do, so much to see, some will lay claim to doing anything to check these boxes off; even if that means losing a little time, money, and energy.

The goals are worth all the effort, but so often we forget the most critical part of achieving all of our goals, we pay no attention to the most impactful facet of our lives while we’re off chasing these big goals. We forget, that without our health -we won’t be going anywhere; without a functioning and thriving body, we won’t see anything but the inside of a doctor’s office our entire lives. Our health is a vital part of our plans, but so few in society really focus on that aspect of their lives.

To be educated and take action in keeping your body functioning, developing, and thriving, could be the difference between meeting all those goals on your bucket list and dreaming about them from a hospital bed. One aspect of our health, underrated itself, is the importance of micronutrients. You may not know much about them now, but learning about this piece of our body’s health puzzle is all part of keeping healthy.

We’ll start with the basics; what even is a micronutrient? Well, by definition a micronutrient is “a chemical or substance required in trace amounts for the normal growth and development of living organisms.” What that means to you, is that micronutrients are a small, but incredibly important, part of the body’s functionality and development. Our organs and bodily functions need these small amounts of micronutrients to work properly. The micronutrient is there to supplement our body’s natural happenings and functions.

Micronutrients come in two primary forms, vitamins and minerals. Their specific roles vary depending on the actual nutrient, but in general, they are responsible for activating enzymes, which the body simply cannot function without, and maintaining a balance of fluids in your body. Micronutrients are important to have in small, trace amounts in our bodies. These vitamins and minerals can be found in most fresh foods and can be attained easily and cheaply as well. However, these micronutrients, which are only to be absorbed in small amounts, are important not to be confused with macronutrients. Macronutrients are also crucial to the bodily functions of any, and every human being, this type of nutrition, however, is required in much larger volume than that of the micronutrient. Macronutrients are comprised of things like carbohydrates and proteins, while micronutrients are made up of a wide range of vitamins and minerals, like Vitamin A, B, C, D, and E and minerals like zinc, chromium, and iron.

As mentioned previously, these micronutrients can be found in most natural foods. It should be noted that if you cannot find these vitamins and minerals near you in the form of fresh foods, you can also get the benefits of micronutrients from synthesized and fortified foods created in a lab, however, finding these foods shouldn’t be too difficult. For instance, you can find vitamin A in sweet potatoes and carrots! The list below gives a brief accounting of where to find these very important micronutrients.

  • Vitamin A: Sweet Potato, carrots, spinach, kale, collard greens and turnip greens
  • Vitamin B: Eggs, Cheese, Beef, Lamb, Shellfish
  • Vitamin C: Guava, Yellow Bell Pepper, Kiwi, Broccoli, Strawberries, Oranges
  • Vitamin D: Tuna, Eggs, Mushrooms
  • Vitamin E: Nuts, Avocados, Pumpkin, Blackberries
  • Zinc: Seafood, Lamb, Chocolate, Beans
  • Iron: Chicken liver, Clams, Spinach, Sardines, Ham
  • Chromium: Corn, Whole Grains, Apple, Tomato
  • Magnesium: Lentils, Bananas, Dry Fruit, Dark Chocolate

These are just a few micronutrients; there are 40+ different micronutrients to account for in our bodies. Each of which helps in the process of making our body function properly in different ways. Not only are these micronutrients essential for our bodily functions, but they are also a source of additional benefits, many of which a majority of people aren’t even aware of. Some of these benefits could easily be a part of your life with a small change in diet and a better understanding of the role of micronutrients.

Again, many of these benefits aren’t even on the radar of many people out there. So you’re ahead of the game in educating yourself about your body’s needs and the importance of nutrition. After all, if we want to accomplish all the things on our bucket lists -we should first make sure that we’re healthy!

Of the several benefits that micronutrients offer, skin health and protection is one of the underrated benefits out there. We all love summer time and the feeling of sunbathing, but that can be pretty rough on your skin; in fact, a lot of what we do today in modern society can be tough on our skin. From the air quality to the lack of attention put on our dermal health, we need micronutrients to keep our skin healthy. It may not be common knowledge, but actually, the main ingredient in sunscreen is a micronutrient (para-aminobenzoic acid/PABA). By increasing your micronutrient levels and keeping them in the proper balance, you can fight off wrinkles and other aging effects such as sunspots. Protecting your skin is important; it is your body’s first line of defense.

We talk a lot about the body’s absolute necessity for having enough micronutrients. These vitamins and minerals all have important jobs in our bodies; enzymes to activate, bodily functions and developmental schedules to maintain, but we haven’t talked much about what happens when these nutritional standards aren’t met. Well, our body doesn’t function at an optimal level. What that means for you, is that you get sick. In some cases, very sick. Depriving your body of the nutrients that it requires can lead to all types of vulnerabilities in our body, leaving us susceptible to disease and even cancers. 

Physical health is, of course, extremely important, but that doesn’t mean that we should ignore our mental health. As discussed previously, if our micronutrient levels are deficient, it could lead to sickness, disease and sometimes even death. However, your micronutrient levels don’t need to be that bad for it to have an effect on your everyday life. Micronutrients play a big role in our brain functionality, so that means that if you’re not getting the proper amount of vitamins and minerals into your system, your brain can become dull and not as active. This could have a negative impact on your job, your relationships, and your general ability to function and enjoy your day to day life.

Another underrated faction of the body’s health is the area of digestive health. We often seem to think that this area of the body just “does its thing” and doesn’t need any maintenance or attention paid to it, or worse we know that this area is important but don’t take action due to the “inappropriateness” of the subject. There’s nothing unspeakable about digestive health; it’s important, and it needs to be a part of your concern when talking about overall health. Micronutrients, of course, play a big role in your digestive systems by activating important enzymes and helping our digestive tract to perform more optimally.

As stated before, there are many places to find micronutrients all around you. You may be thinking, “Well if a micronutrient plays a role in every system of my body how am I supposed to eat all these different foods to keep my body afloat?!” No need to worry, nature is convenient and has done us all a great favor by creating a lot of overlap in the nutrition of our foods. There are multiple micronutrients in many foods, which takes a lot of the guesswork out for all of us who are just trying to keep our bodies healthy and happy. Some of the best sources of micronutrients in food are leafy greens, colorful vegetables, such as peppers, avocados, and nuts. So you have lots of choice in finding your favorite sources of vitamins and minerals, no excuse to have your body depleted.

No matter what’s on your bucket list, it will probably be 100x more enjoyable if you have the experience in a healthy and happy state of mind and body. In order to give yourself that healthy feeling, you must give your body the fuel that it needs to work like the highly oiled machine that it has the potential to be. Fill your diet with colorful veggies and lots of greens, take a look at the nutritional value of the foods that you’re eating, they play a big role in how you feel and by extension, how others around you will feel. Keep your body happy and make sure you are getting enough micronutrients into your diet, it’s never too late to start giving your health the attention you deserve.

Heather Bauer

Heather Bauer is a nationally recognized nutrition expert, author, and entrepreneur.

She brings her fresh and inspiring approach to diet to prime time spots on Good Morning America, CNN, CBS, The Talk, Access Hollywood Live and The Tyra Banks Show. And she's featured in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and People Magazine. 

Heather is the author of two best-selling nutrition and diet books, The Wall Street Diet and Bread is the Devil, and has regular columns on The Huffington Post and USNews where she writes about the latest trends.

She is the founder of Bestowed, the leading product discovery platform for health-conscious consumers, and has an active nutrition counseling practice in NYC, which she founded in 2001.

Heather is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a New York State Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist (CDN). She graduated from The University of Wisconsin with honors and is a member of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and the New York State Dietetic Association (NYSDA).