We need a variety of healthy wholefoods to be our healthiest and happiest. The reason for this is that they are packed full of micronutrients – the nutrients we need in small amounts.
You would know micronutrients better as vitamins and minerals. Vitamins can be water-soluble, such as vitamin C and all of the B vitamins, or they can be fat-soluble, like vitamin A, D, E and K. Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body, but water-soluble vitamins cannot.
One thing that many people believe is that you always need well over the RDI of nutrients to be healthy. While some may have benefits, others could make you sick with too much. For example, selenium can be toxic in high amounts, which is why supplements with selenium have to specify how many you can take to stay within safe limits.
It’s also important to remember that nutrients can be more bioavailable in some cases, and less in others. Minerals will generally compete with each other for absorption. Fat-soluble vitamins need fat to absorb. Vitamins and antioxidants can boost absorption of other nutrients in some cases.
One of the B vitamins, folate is relatively well-known as the nutrient you need to prevent neural tube defects during pregnancy. But folate also supports reproductive health, immune function and cardiovascular health.
Thankfully, folate is plentiful in a wholefood-based food plan. Dark green vegetables, poultry, meat, eggs, seafood, dairy, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes all contain folate. So to get plenty in, enjoy a variety of delicious foods!
It is one of the lesser known vitamins of the world, but vitamin A is a superstar nutrient. It plays many roles in the body, including supporting growth, vision and eye health, immune function and reproductive health.
Vitamin A is found in animal products such as liver, cheese, butter, eggs and oily fish. However, the body can produce its own vitamin A from carotenoids, found primarily in yellow and orange produce such as carrots and sweet potato.
Once upon a time, we thought vitamin D was only really needed for bone health. But now we know that it is needed for much more, including sex hormone production and immune function. Unfortunately, many of us are deficient in this vitamin.
The best way to get your dose of vitamin D is to get regular doses of sunshine (but don’t get burned!). However, if you want to boost it up with food, look to your eggs, fatty fish and cheese. You can also expose your mushrooms to sunlight to increase the vitamin D content.
Feeling a bit stressed? You’re probably churning through your magnesium stores, which is just one reason why we need a good dose. It’s needed in the body as an electrolyte, muscle relaxant, cofactor for brain chemicals and many more functions.
There are plenty of wholefood options for getting a good dose of magnesium. Dark chocolate is the tastiest, but make sure you consume it in moderation. For more magnesium, look to your green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes.
If you’re breathing in oxygen, you need iron. Iron is found the blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body, so your cells can access it. It’s also in your muscle cells for the same reason. Without enough iron, you will feel fatigued, weak, dizzy and short of breath.
Iron is plentiful in animal products such as lean meats. However, if you’re plant-based or vegetarian, you can still get iron from foods such as legumes, wholegrains, nuts and seeds.
Ready to learn more about the nutrients that make up a healthy food plan? Make sure you check out The Lifestyle Collective, where we cover all things food, lifestyle and wellbeing. Click here to learn more.