- Health & Wellness
The Benefits of Micronutrients
Your diet plays a major role in how well you function on a daily basis, and proper nutrition is essential for keeping your body in working order. Whether you are just doing chores around the house or are gearing up for a big marathon, your body needs energy to perform everyday tasks. The energy provided by food is involved in everything from walking, washing the dishes, and weightlifting, in addition to basic life functions like breathing and digesting.
The nutrients you take in through your diet are a vital energy source, but that’s not their only purpose on a physiological level. Most nutrients can be broken down into two basic categories, micros, which are essentially vitamins and minerals, and macros, which are carbs, proteins and fats, and both behave differently and serve different purposes within the body when consumed.
For example, when you eat proteins such as meat, poultry, or dairy products, they are broken down through digestion into their amino acid building blocks and put to work in several different ways. Protein, one example of a macronutrient, is involved in the synthesis of bone, cartilage, muscle, and skin, and is an important part of processes including growth, repair, and hormone regulation.
While protein and the other macronutrients are widely considered to be the basic cornerstones of a healthy diet, micronutrients are a critical part of maintaining overall health and promoting optimal functioning.
What are Micronutrients?
Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals that the body needs to work properly. Aside from vitamin D, the body is unable to manufacture any of the required micronutrients itself. As a result, they need to be consumed through diet. While only small amounts of any given micronutrient are needed, without them, there can be significant effects.
Micronutrients have wide-ranging functions, including supporting the immune system, producing energy, helping blood clot, and promoting growth. Micronutrient deficiencies can result in serious health conditions, including scurvy, anemia, osteoporosis, heart disease, and malnutrition. There are around 30 vitamins and minerals that are considered essential to overall health. They are referred to as “essential micronutrients” and include:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin D
How are Micronutrients Different From Macronutrients?
Macronutrients and micronutrients both provide the body with necessary nutrition, but they have different roles in the body. The three types of macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fats. While the body only needs small amounts of micronutrients, it requires large amounts of macronutrients. The main role of macronutrients is to act as an energy supply. They supply the body with energy as calories.
Micronutrients, on the other hand, are not an energy source. Instead, they play a vital role in many different chemical reactions in the body and support the function of several key systems. For example, micronutrients are involved in new cell growth, digesting food and obtaining energy from it, and supporting optimal cognitive function.
What are the Benefits of Micronutrients?
There are four different kinds of micronutrients required by the body: macrominerals, water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, and trace elements. Each individual micronutrient is involved in very specific processes in the body. That’s why it’s important to meet the minimum daily requirements recommended for each of the essential micronutrients. Here are three micronutrients and their particular benefits for overall health:
Calcium is an example of a macromineral that is critically involved in several important physiological processes. In the nervous system, calcium helps neurons send and receive signals so that the brain can communicate with the rest of the body. Calcium is also essential for cardiovascular and endocrine function.
It supports the flow of blood through blood vessels and hormone release. In addition, calcium regulates muscle contraction and promotes muscle growth. The National Institutes of Health currently recommends adults ages 19 and older to consume 1,000 mg of calcium a day, with the caveat that women over age 50 increase consumption to 1,200 mg per day.
Sodium is another type of macromineral that has similar roles to calcium in the nervous and musculoskeletal systems. Sodium aids in the conduction of neuronal signaling, which are the connections between neurons in the brain, and both muscle contraction and relaxation.
Sodium is also essential for maintaining an optimal balance of fluid in the body, and ensuring that the right levels of water and minerals are kept in check. Additionally, sodium plays a key role in regulating blood pressure. It is typically recommended to consume below 2.3 g of sodium per day.
Magnesium is a third example of an important macromineral. Magnesium supports more than 300 kinds of enzyme reactions in the body. Enzymes are a specific type of protein that are necessary for key chemical reactions like digestion and waste removal.
Since magnesium helps these reactions occur, it is beneficial for many different processes that are key to overall functioning, such as managing nerve function, maintaining blood pressure, regulating blood sugar levels, synthesizing DNA, bone, and proteins. While the recommended daily allowance of magnesium will differ by age and gender, for men between 19-51, the recommended allowance is 400-420 mg per day, and for women of the same age it is 310-320 mg.
Track Micronutrients with WHOOP
Keeping track of all of the micronutrients in your diet can be a daunting task. Fortunately, WHOOP makes tracking micronutrients simple. Your WHOOP Journal can auto-log data from nutrition apps you’re already using through Apple Health for iOS members so that all of your health information is in one convenient place.
You can see how your intake of specific micronutrients like calcium, sodium, and magnesium impacts your daily Recovery score. In addition, you can also track your macronutrient consumption in the WHOOP Journal.
Log your diet with WHOOP to get a comprehensive picture of how your nutrition is impacting your overall health and daily performance.