If you've ever sought after basic diet and nutrition support, whether through a trained professional or perusing the internet, magazines, self-help books - likely the main focus was on macros, calories, food groups, cooking, hydration, tips and tricks to keep you on track, etc. etc. All good and valuable, but I'm willing to bet there wasn't a tremendous focus on the tiny little powerhouses that are essential in allowing our body to carry-out its day-to-day operations: micronutrients.

Small but mighty, just because micronutrient requirements are counted in milligrams does not make them any less important than the macros (counted in grams). So what are they, where do they came from, are you getting enough, too much, and how do you know? Let's dive in!

Micronutrients refer to vitamins and minerals - and these nutrients are essential, which, just like the BCAAs we discussed earlier (here, in case you missed it!) means our body doesn't produce any or enough on it's own, so we HAVE to consume these bad boys daily in order to hit our minimum requirements. Again, lucky for us, a varied diet focused on whole foods and nutrient density typically will provide us with adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals, but there are some caveats we'd like to bring awareness to.

First of all, our soil is not what it used to be - especially when it comes to conventional farming practices that utilize chemicals, machines and technology in order to increase their yield. Depleted soil = nutrient depletion in our food. Yep, it may take even more of the fresh fruits & veggies than you think to hit your micronutrient requirements. This might get you thinking that you'd better reach for a fortified food to make up the difference - like many common breakfast cereals that add synthetic nutrients back in - but there is a bit of concern here when it comes to the bioavailability of these nutrients. That is, the ability for the nutrient to be absorbed and utilized within the body. Also notable, the macros in these types of foods don't often balance out, as they're typically highly processed, aka carb-bomb-sugar-crashers. This leaves us with the option to supplement deficient vitamins and minerals, which can be a great one, but we don't recommend going at this blind! Remember that not all supplements are created equal, and there IS such thing as an upper limit for many micronutrients - so it is possible to over-supplement on something, pushing yourself outside of your ideal range and experiencing adverse effects as a result. Not to mention, some vitamins and minerals have an antagonistic relationship with others - meaning over-supplementing with one can result in a new deficiency somewhere else (magensium/calcium, copper/zinc, Vitamin C/Vitamin B12, just to name a few). Working with your healthcare practitioner who can run the appropriate tests to determine where you might have deficiencies is often the best practice to help guide you. Supplements that are third party tested and transparent about their sourcing and process are also best. 

Now that that's out of the way, let's look at each of these mighty micros, what they do for us, and some examples of food sources for each. 

We'll start with the water-soluble vitamins, these are all your Vitamin B's and C! 

B1 (thiamine) - helps convert nutrients into energy 

Food Sources: whole grains, meat, fish

B2 (riboflavin) - necessary for energy production, cell function and fat metabolism

Food Sources: organ meats, eggs, milk

B3 (niacin) - drives the production of energy from food

Food Sources: meat, salmon, leafy greens, beans

B5 (pantothenic acid) - required for fatty acid synthesis

Food Sources: mushrooms, tuna, avocado

B6 (pyridoxine) - supports the body in releasing sugars from stored carbohydrates for energy and creates red blood cells

Food Sources: fish, milk, carrots, potatoes

B7 (biotin) - plays a role in the metabolism of fatty acids, amino acids and glucose

Food Sources: eggs, almonds, spinach, sweet potatoes

B9 (folate) - required for proper cell division

Food Sources: beef, liver, black-eyed peas, asparagus

B12 (cobalamin) - required for red blood cell formation and proper nervous system and brain function

Food Sources: clams, meat, fish

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) - required for neurotransmitter and collagen production

Food Sources: citrus fruits, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts

Fat-soluble Vitamins

- required for proper vision and organ function

Food Sources: liver, dairy, fish, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach

- proper immune function and helps with calcium absorption and bone repair

Food Sources: sunlight!, fish oil, milk

- supports immune function and acts as an antioxidant

Food Sources: sunflower seeds, wheat germ, almonds

- required for blood clotting and proper bone development

Food Sources: leafy greens, soybeans, pumpkin


Magnesium - facilitates up to 300 enzymatic reactions in the body - regulates heart contractions, relaxes smooth muscle & essential for protein synthesis.

Food Sources: buckwheat flour, whole wheat flour, almonds, cashews, brown rice, kidney beans

Calcium - major part in the structure of bone and teeth - facilitates movement of nutrients across cell membranes, initiates blood clotting process. 

Food Sources: Dairy, leafy greens, lamb, sardines, oatmeal

Potassium - maintains proper cellular fluid levels, essential for nerve conduction and heart function

Food Sources: avocado, apricots, potatoes, cantaloupe, parsnips

Phosphorous - essential part of ATP (adenosine Tri-Phosphate), the major energy compound in the body

Food Sources: Abundant in most food sources, especially meat, dairy and nuts

Trace Minerals

Zinc - helps produce stomach acid, critical for cell growth, necessary for prostate health, optimal immune system function

Food Sources: Oysters, beef, wheat germ, turkey, lima beans, potato, oats

Manganese - needed for connective tissue and bone development, used during bone remodeling e.g. after a fracture, important for healthy pancreatic function

Food Sources: pecans, peanuts, hazelnuts, whole grains, raisins, prunes, chard, mustard greens

Copper - needed to convert dopamine to norepinephrine, used for breakdown of estrogen in liver, anti-inflammatory, required for adrenal function

Food Sources: beef, rye, beans, brazil nuts, cashews, peas

Selenium - many uses in human metabolism, has been shown to inhibit certain types of cancer, necessary for sexual function

Food Sources: brazil nuts, seafood, chard, oats, molasses, sunflower seeds

Chromium - essential for blood sugar regulation, functions in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism

Food Sources: liver, seafood, whole grains, cheese, chicken

Molybdenum - primarily a cofactor for four essential enzymes, which are biological molecules that drive chemical reactions in the body

Food Sources: lentils, split peas, green peas, spinach, corn

Phew! That was a long list, but we hope you gathered some useful information along the way! As you can tell, the importance of a varied and whole foods focused diet is key in allowing our bodies to function optimally. If you're looking for a quick and simple way to get more micronutrients into your diet, download our 7 day veggie reset for some vegetable-only tasty recipes. You don't have to be a vegetarian to eat more greens, you can always whip up some chicken or other protein to go alongside these recipes, AND you can pop into the gym for a workout on us! 

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