Do you eat 3 cups of veggies and 2 cups of fruit every day? Do you make a point to eat green and orange/red veggies most days of the week? Do you eat foods daily that are good sources of magnesium, selenium, calcium, and zinc? Are you choosing to eat beef, chicken, milk, cheese, and eggs from animals mostly raised on pasture? Do you eat cold-water fatty fish at least once per week? Is your stress under control? Do you sleep well and wake up feeling rested almost every morning? Are you free of hormonal problems? Is your thyroid in good shape? Do you avoid getting sick when others seem to be sniffling all around you? Do you recover well from injuries or hard workouts? Are you a non-smoker? Do you have good digestion and regular bowel movements? Do you feel great most of the time?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, then great! You likely don't need to to increase your micronutrient intake. Also, can we talk? Because I'd love to know your secrets. For the rest of us, keep reading.
Micronutrients is the umbrella term for all those little chemicals and compounds our bodies need to make and store energy, move muscles, digest food, fight infections, detoxify and eliminate harmful substances, build tissue, and even think. Vitamins and minerals fall into this category. So do antioxidants. Macronutrients like fat, protein, and carbs are important too - and as the name implies, they are needed in larger amounts - but we'll save them for another discussion.
We are meant to get adequate micronutrients from our environment. But when you combine the nutritional value of the Standard American Diet (SAD) with the stresses of modern, mostly indoor, life (and, say, smoking or long term hormonal birth control pills or antacid use), a perfect storm arises that results in less than ideal micronutrient status. Even people who are overweight or obese are often micronutrient deficient.
This "less than ideal" status can manifest in different ways. If your low stomach acid content causes you to absorb less than enough vitamin B12, you could be tired more often than you think you should be, have unexplained memory loss, or you might even develop anemia. If, like almost half of Americans, your magnesium intake is lower than ideal, you should be aware that increasing magnesium intake may support the treatment and/or prevention of conditions like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and migraine headaches. Magnesium supplementation has also been shown to support management of restless leg syndrome and help with insomnia and constipation. It can also help you relax. If you regularly smoke cigarettes, you need extra antioxidants (especially vitamin C) and other micronutrients to help protect your body from free radical damage and detoxify the... extra toxins. The nutritional effects of regular marijuana use are not adequately studied, but anecdotal evidence suggests that regular pot smokers are not generally known to eat micronutrient rich diets.
The recommended daily allowances (RDA) of vitamins and minerals set by the government are amounts that seem to help prevent overt signs of deficiency in most people (like scurvy and beri beri). Many Americans aren't even getting the RDA. Even those who do get the RDA might not be meeting their body's individual needs - some people need more due to reasons such as above.
If you're intentional about it, you can "supplement" your diet with real food to help flood your body with micronutrients. As an example, to up your magnesium intake, put spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and dark chocolate in the rotation more often. To get more vitamin C, eat more bell peppers, oranges, kiwi, strawberries, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, and cabbage.
Instead of focusing on individual nutrients, however, the best way to improve your micronutrient intake is to improve your diet choices overall. Start by getting serious about upping your fruit and veggie game (more about that coming soon!). Remember that locally grown produce spends less time traveling and on store shelves, and is often more nutritious.
In part 2 of this series, I'll outline the basics of a micronutrient rich diet. Then, in part 3, I'll discuss use of appropriate supplements when food is not enough. If you have a friend who tells you that vitamin/mineral supplements are worthless because we all get what we need from food, have them follow these blog posts and join the conversation.
Want personalized help to figure out what micronutrients you're missing and how to get more? Go to the "Personalized Nutrition" tab in the "Work With Me" section at the top of the website to learn more about working with me.
Up your micronutrient intake with this delicious summer salad from nourisheveryday.com. Add boiled eggs, chicken, or grilled salmon to make it a meal.
Balsamic Strawberry Salad - recipe available here. Photo and recipe credit goes to Nourish Everyday.
The purpose of this blog is to address general nutrition concerns and serve as a platform to provide readers with a solid resource for frequently asked nutrition and wellness-related questions. It is also meant to convey the nutrition approach held by Black Hills Nutrition to the world.
This blog is unique because it's written by a registered dietitian nutritionist with more technical knowledge than your average food blogger. I love food bloggers, and I rely on them for new and fresh food ideas. They foster a community of food and nutrition lovers. But we also need content experts to separate cutting edge science from outdated ideas and hype. That's why I'm here!
The nutrition world is quickly changing. Recent advances in research and technology mean that we can now test individuals for genetic susceptibility to developing nutrient deficiencies. There are food allergy and sensitivity tests that go far beyond the traditional tests you'll get from an allergist. These tests can pick up sensitivities that are not "true" allergies but nonetheless can significantly affect one's quality of life. We're learning more about gut hyper-permeability and its relationship to autoimmune disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, intestinal bacterial dysbiosis, the gut-brain connection, and other topics that I've learned about in my professional continuing education.
I love food, and I know that my friends, family, and future clients want practical food advice to go along with all of this technical information. After all, nutrition information is useless unless we translate it into actual food eaten. Each post will include a resource to help make it easier to eat well and enjoy your food.
It's a wide world out there in nutrition, so make sure you follow my blog posts to keep yourself informed, be inspired, and learn a new thing or two. Expect a new blog post at least once a month. Be sure and like Black Hills Nutrition on Facebook to see a post about new blog posts!
Recipe: Tahini Sardini
Notes: This nutrient-packed recipe includes a great (low mercury) source of omega-3 fatty acids - sardines! Since we eat the whole fish, including the bones and skin, Sardines are one of the few foods that naturally contain both calcium and vitamin D . Mashing up the sardines and combining them with a flavorful sauce means this spread doesn't taste all that fishy. If you're not sure about sardines, make this recipe with one can tuna and one can sardines (instead of 3 cans sardines) to ease your way in. Serve this spread with your favorite crackers (I'm in love with Mary's Gone Crackers at the moment), cucumber slices, or over a bed of lettuce/cabbage/cooked zucchini. This is a stick-to-your-ribs lunch option that might help you feel less snacky later in the afternoon. Pack it in your lunch this week and let me know how it goes! This makes several servings.
Recipe adapted from: http://assets.thrivemarket.com/ebooks/thrive-market-cookbook-paleo.pdf
Recipe name credit: Darius Nabors
3 x 4.375 oz tins sardines, packed in water is best (packed in oil is ok too)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup tahini (sesame seed butter)
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
Drain sardines, then mash with a fork. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate for 30 minutes for a more firm texture. Store leftovers, covered, in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Lindsey Hays, RDN, LN
Lindsey Hays is licensed as a Nutritionist/Dietitian in the state of South Dakota. While she holds a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN or RD) credential which is nationally recognized by the Commission on Dietitian Registration, she is not licensed to practice as a nutritionist or dietitian in states other than South Dakota. She is a Certified Dietitian in the State of Washington. The information on blackhillsnutrition.com is not intended as medical advice. The content of this site is not intended to provide or replace medical advice, nor should it be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. Always consult a qualified healthcare professional before changing your diet or medications. For full disclaimer statement click here.