Micronutrients are not the first we think about when we talk about nutrition. It’s more about the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, which we call makronutrients. But despite having „micro“ in their name, micronutrients are not less important.
Micronutrients vs. Makronutrients
Micronutrients are essential dietary elements. They are not a source of calories, but the human body requires them in small quantities such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. Macronutrients our body needs as well but in much higher quantities, they provide the calories we need for the functioning of our body and brain (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats).
The known, the unknown and the „not yet identified“
While minerals, vitamins, and fiber are well known, phytochemicals might not be too familiar. They are parts of the plants we eat and developed to protect the plant from damaging environments. They are biologically active plant compounds. It is believed that there are about 4,000 different phytochemicals, many of them are not identified yet. Examples of phytonutrients are carotenoids, resveratrol, and phytosterols.
Which functions do micronutrients have?
They have various functions, but many of them appear to have protective benefits against disease and supporting function for our immune system.
Dr. Fuhrmann states that they add a secondary level of nutrition that “adds a complex layer of disease resistance and longevity benefits” .
Studies show that phytonutrients might reduce blood pressure, improve vision, decrease inflammation, decrease LDL-cholesterol, and prevent cell damage, just to name a few.
How can I start to eat more micronutrients?
Even if there is much more research needed to understand phytonutrients and their benefits better, we already know enough to have good reasons, adding colorful vegetables and fruits to our nutrition.
Vitamins and minerals are found in plant as well as animal sources. Phytonutrients, as the name suggest, we get from plant foods. One hint to choose the phytonutrient richest sources is the color of fruits and vegetables. Try to choose bright colors before pale. Each color has a unique profile of health benefits, that’s why „eating the rainbow“ is a very healthy advice.
Start to incorporate different colors and kinds of fruits and veggies, even the ones you never tried before. These days it is very simple to figure out how to prepare rare kinds of plants in order to create delicious meals!
Just walk the vegetable section of your local farmer market or supermarked and let the colors inspire your choices. How about beets, red onions, broccoli, cabbage, pumpkin, sweet potato, sea weed, spinach, arugula, dandelion, garlic, radishes, leeks, and zucchini? There are plenty of choices and many ways to prepare them: raw, steamed, baked or stir fried. I personally love nearly every kind of vegetable, when combined with thai curry, and coconut gravy! But I usually never say „no“ to a colorful salad packed with antioxidants, micronutrients and bright colors. 😉
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 John Mackey & Alona Pulde (2020): The whole foods diet. The Lifesaving Plan for Health and Longevity.