We all know the key nutrients around which a healthy diet should be built. They are, of course, carbohydrates, protein and fat – and together they provide the fuel needed for humans to physically function.
Most people are familiar with these macronutrients and what they do. Thus, it’s well understood that protein helps us build and maintain muscle while carbohydrates are an excellent source of energy. Fats are equally important, and are in fact the most energy-dense of all three.
But what about micronutrients?
The Essential Micronutrients
Ah, yes, what about the micronutrients – the vitamins, minerals and fatty acids which constitute proper nutrition?
These natural components of foods perform specific roles in the body and are essential in varying quantities, with several showing significant protective effects against a number of serious diseases.
You may consider your diet healthy because proteins, carbs and fats are in the ‘proper’ ratios. But do you consume enough of these four essential nutrients?
1) Vitamin D
If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you’ll be something of an expert when it comes to vitamin D. We like to bang the drum about this vital vitamin – which is actually a hormone – because many people remain deficient.
For this reason, Public Health England last year recommended we all take a daily supplement throughout autumn and winter, when we cannot rely on the sun to give us what we need.
As for dietary sources of vitamin D, there are precious few. It’s most readily available in egg yolk, though some breakfast cereals are fortified with it, as is infant formula milk. Oily fish like salmon and sardines also contain reasonable traces.
Vitamin D has many functions in the body. Not only does it contribute to the normal absorption of calcium and phosphorus, but it helps keep our normal blood calcium levels in the healthy range.
Mainly, though, vitamin D known for helping us maintain normal bones, muscles and teeth. According to the Vitamin D Council, we should aim for 5,000 i.u. of vitamin D per day, much more than the 400 i.u. suggested in UK guidelines.
For what it’s worth, we defer to the Vitamin D Council on this one; oh, and vitamin D supplement side effects have been grossly overstated.
Magnesium is another one we’re fond of talking about. It is, after all, a mineral essential to almost all cells.
Magnesium is crucial to the production and storage of ATP, the main source of energy in cells (hence Mg-ATP), and it contributes towards the proper functioning of the nervous system.
At present, the recommended daily allowance of magnesium is 300mg. As with vitamin D, many experts claim this level is too low: Dr. Carolyn Dean goes so far as to say it’s “just enough to ward off outright deficiency.” We’re inclined to agree.
In any case, you can get mg easier than vit D by eating plenty of leafy green vegetables, pumpkin seeds, mackerel, brown rice, bananas…
Although it’s possible to hit or exceed your daily value by making smart dietary choices, the magnesium content in food has dramatically depleted in the last century owing to an increased use of herbicides blocking the uptake of natural minerals.
For this reason, you should go organic whenever possible. Using a supplement which contains concentrated magnesium is another good idea. Transdermal magnesium is especially well absorbed.
Magnesium is a safe mineral which does not build up in the body, so there’s little danger of taking too much. Not taking enough, on the other hand, can trigger a host of symptoms.
3) Vitamin C
Our bodies don’t store vitamin C, and as such we must make a concerted effort to get enough from food.
Popular sources include citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, sweet potato and kale: uncooked foods contain the highest vit C and the recommended UK value is 40mg per day.
Vitamin C (or Ascorbic Acid) has no less than 15 accepted health benefits listed in the EU Register on Nutrition. A potent antioxidant, it helps with iron absorption (itself required for normal cognitive function and the formation of red blood cells), immunity, nervous system performance, collagen synthesis and healthy psychological function.
It is one of the most well-known vitamins for cold prevention and also provides support for joints.
Chronic vitamin C deficiency is uncommon in the UK, but if you don’t eat much fruit and veg, or you suffer from frequent colds, you could definitely benefit from a boost. Studies have shown that taking 200mg of vitamin C each day can reduce the length of a cold by 8% in adults and 13% in children.
And the NHS admits that taking 1,000mg of supplemental vitamin C is “unlikely to cause any harm.”
According to Mark Moyad, MD, of the University of Michigan, higher blood levels of vitamin C may actually be “the ideal nutrition marker for overall health.”
He suggests getting 500mg per day, in addition to five servings of fruit and vegetables.
Looking for a quality supplemental source? Our Super Natural C from Vibrant Health provides 266mg of all-natural vitamin C from organic and wild-crafted fruit. Perfect for topping up your levels.
4) Omega-3 Fatty Acids
It’s no secret that the typical western diet disrupts the balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in our cells. This is a major cause for concern, since omega-6s are pro-inflammatory while omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties. Where once the ratio was 1:1, it’s now thought to be 10:1 or worse.
Omega-3s have benefits for serious depression, joint pain reduction, blood pressure maintenance, triglyceride levels, improved exercise recovery and heart health.
Indeed, according to the results of a recent meta-analysis, consumption of omega-3 supplements may “reduce the risk of cardiac death by an average of 8%”. This is based on pooled data from over 70,000 people, in a joint study by Midwest Biomedical Research and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Study author Dr Kevin Maki pointed out that results aligned with American Heart Association guidance, suggesting EPA and DHA omega-3s are reasonable for secondary prevention of CHD and sudden cardiac death. The cardiovascular benefits of omega-3s are not only just coming to light; they started being reported in the early 1970s.
Omega-3 food sources include fatty fish (hence fish oils), caviar, flaxseeds, walnuts and grass-fed dairy products. Supplements are also a solid option, especially when pregnant or nursing.
Independent ratings body Labdoor ranks UnoCardio 1000 #1 (of 53 tested) for quality. The fish oil supplement contains a high concentration of omega-3 (minimum 95%) from EPA and DHA, as well as 1,000 i.u. of vitamin D. Its fish oil content derives from non-endangered, small species fish – an important consideration since larger fish are more liable to contain toxins.
QuattroCardio is another fine choice; made by the same company who produce UnoCardio 1000, it contains 93% omega-3, 1,000 i.u. of vitamin D, 90mcg of vitamin K2 and 100mg of Coenzyme Q10. It is undoubtedly among the world’s best natural cardiovascular supplements.
You can check your omega-3 levels easily using a Test Kit . Remember, a score of 8-11% is recommended if you want to maintain optimum health.
Well, there you have it: four highly valuable nutrients no diet should be without. If you’re getting enough, you’ll be in the upper percentile when it comes to general health.
While we’ve got you here, you might want to check out our article “Dietary Changes We’ve Failed to Make in the Past Decade“. Not because we assume you are a glutton for punishment, merely to demonstrate how many key nutrients many of us fail to obtain from our daily diet!
If you’re keen to avoid the pitfalls of poor nutrition, do your best to eat seven or more portions of vegetables and fruit per day, along with plenty of fibre and healthy protein sources. You should also focus on achieving proper hydration, as this is one of the key nutrients of the body.
Magnesium is a safe mineral which does not build up in the body, so there’s little danger of taking too much.