Nutrition 101: Micros (Vitamins)
Micronutrients, or micros, are all the components of a healthy diet that are not macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fats) or fiber. Micros fall into two general categories: vitamins and minerals. Both are critical for a healthy diet and promote cellular and organ function. Micros are so termed because you need far less of them than macros. Macro requirements are measured in grams per day, whereas micros are measured in micrograms per day.
Vitamins are secondary metabolites provided by animal and plant foods. Vitamins are designated by letters A through E. These are among the most popular dietary supplements available on the market. However, it is best to get your vitamin requirements from food. Many supplements do not provide bio-available vitamins, or vitamins that your body can actually use. This means that these supplements do not actually serve their intended purpose. Indeed, supplements such as vitamins are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. Many supplements also provide very high levels of vitamins, which can be harmful: when it comes to vitamins, more is not necessarily better.
Promotes vision, cell growth, and immune function. There are two varieties of vitamin A: retinoids, which come from animal products, and beta carotene, which comes from plant products. Retinoids are found in eggs, whole milk and liver. Beta carotene is found in plants, including carrots, spinach, kale and grapefruit. Beta carotene is a precursor to retinol, which means that the body can convert beta-carotene to retinol. Studies have shown that a diet consistently high in beta carotene can prevent cognitive decline. Both retinol and beta carotene are toxic at high levels, which result from supplement intake.
Encompasses several vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7. Vitamin B is important for metabolism, and help to form red blood cells. Vitamin B can be found in animal products, beans, and leafy vegetables.
Promotes immune function. It is the vitamin Emergen-C gets its name from. Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C.
Important for skin and mood. Vitamin D is sometimes called the sunshine vitamin, because our bodies can get Vitamin D from sunlight. It can also be found in dairy products. Vitamin D helps the body use calcium.
Slows down the process that damages cells. Vitamin E promotes healthy skin, nails and hair, and is used to treat diabetes and complications from diabetes. Vitamin E extracts can be purchased for topical applications for the skin, and has been shown to improve the appearance of scars and stretch marks. Vitamin E can be obtained through a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Robert Lutz, L.Ac., LMT, Diplomate of Oriental Medicine
Healing Center for Body, Mind & Spirit
380 Park Avenue Huntington, NY 11743