When it comes to nutrition, active individuals place a big emphasis on macronutrients — protein, carbs, healthy fats,. Of course, our bodies need these nutrients in large amounts, but the emphasis on macros makes it easy to forget equally important but lesser-known micronutrients. Familiarizing yourself with examples of micronutrients and understanding how to incorporate them into your diet is crucial for your overall health.
Although we only require small amounts of micronutrients — sometimes in units as small as micrograms — they have a significant impact on our health and athletic performance. From vitamins and minerals to electrolytes and antioxidants, our bodies deploy micronutrients to every system to reduce muscle soreness, improve cognitive function, prolong endurance, and much more.
Read on to explore some of the best examples of micronutrients to focus on for health and performance!
Examples of Micronutrients to Bolster Your Diet & Performance
Without a doubt, vitamin D plays a crucial role in both general health and athletic performance, influencing calcium absorption, bone health, and even hormonal regulation. Vitamin D-deficient individuals — which includes more than 40% of American adults — often suffer from fatigue, impaired wound healing, and bone loss.
Fortunately, getting more vitamin D from your diet and lifestyle is fairly simple. Whole eggs, mushrooms, oily fish, and fortified milks, cereals, and juices all contain ample amounts of vitamin D. Furthermore, our bodies can naturally produce vitamin D from sun exposure. In fact, studies show that just 13 minutes of midday sun exposure three times per week can provide your body with most of its vitamin D requirements.
Iron is another one of the most important examples of micronutrients in active people and a key player in the oxygen delivery system. Iron deficiency means reduced endurance, decreased work capacity, and an impaired immune system. With women and endurance athletes at even higher risk for deficiency, consuming enough iron should be a priority. Animal proteins, leafy greens, beans, tomatoes, watermelon, and strawberries are all iron-rich foods.
Electrolytes & Antioxidants
Without electrolytes, our muscles can’t function properly. During high-intensity exercise, we lose an average of 500 milligrams of sodium per pound of sweat. When we lose too much sodium, our muscles cramp. Consuming sports drinks that contain sodium before or during activity helps prevent cramps, and mildly salty foods — like a bagel — can replenish sodium and prevent cramps later on.
Although a banana will do little to relieve a muscle cramp — according to NFL dietitian Jordan Mazur — it will provide you with additional potassium. Another of our many examples of micronutrients, potassium regulates muscle contraction, fluid balance, and nerve signaling. As reported by the CDC, only about one in 10 Americans meets their daily potassium goal. To meet yours, try eating potassium-rich foods like avocados, white beans, and sweet potatoes.
Like potassium, the role of antioxidants should not be minimized — especially for active people. Benefits include reducing soreness and relieving inflammation — antioxidants are often used by elite athletes to recover quickly between games or events. Examples of these micronutrients are blueberries, tart cherry juice, dark chocolate, goji berries, elderberries, cranberries, and green tea!
Up-&-Coming Micros Supported by Emerging Research
The field of nutrition changes constantly, and new examples of micronutrients and their benefits emerge all the time! For starters, a strong base of evidence supports the use of omega-3 fatty acids to improve cardiovascular health, reduce inflammation, boost cognitive function, and even offer some protection against concussions! Further, new research suggests that omega-3s may have even more benefits.
A 2019 study suggests that omega-3s can enhance muscle health and significantly reduce the amount of muscle lost from disuse. Such benefits could protect your gains while recovering from an injury or during some time off from training.
For all the benefits they offer, omega-3 fatty acids are ridiculously easy to consume. Cold-water, oily fish tend to be the best way to get high-quality omega-3s. That being said, fortified milks, flaxseed, seaweed, walnuts, chia, and soybean oil also provide sources of vegetarian omegas.
Similarly, dietary nitrates — definitely not the ones in hotdogs, though — have a growing body of evidence to support their benefits to health and athletic performance. In sports, nitrates usually come in the form of concentrated beetroot juice where they have been shown to improve cardiovascular and muscular endurance.
For general health, on the other hand, dietary nitrates appear to improve blood pressure and cardiovascular health. According to Nutrition Today, you can find this micronutrient in leafy greens — mostly arugula and spinach — green beans, sweet potatoes, cabbage, leeks, celery, and zucchini.
We’ve only covered a handful of the countless examples of micronutrients that promote health and athletic performance. Attempting to track and manage all of them would be a nutritional nightmare, so finding foods that pack in a variety of micros is a strategy that many health-savvy people employ.
Fortunately, nutrient-dense ModBalls are overflowing with 85 health-boosting, high-energy superfoods. In fact, a few examples of micronutrients packed into each energy ball include beet, guava, cinnamon, tart cherry, cocoa, and more!
Together, these superfoods prolong strength, sustain endurance, elevate strength, increase metabolism, and sharpen focus. They do this all while modifying your chemistry to boost your health and performance naturally!
Micronutrients to Enhance Your Health & Happiness
Without a doubt, the best way to get plenty of healthy micronutrients is to eat a broad diet with lots of variety. Incorporating different proteins, carbs, and fats as well as colorful fruits and veggies ensures you consume an assortment of micros.
However, modifying your nutrition isn’t something to be done on a whim. Before making any changes to your diet — no matter how small or large — be sure to consult with a registered dietitian or medical doctor.
Looking to boost your health and learn about more examples of micronutrients?
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