EVOLVE NUTRITION Foundation WEEK 6:
This week is a little dense, as in nutrient dense (ha ha ha). Nutrient dense foods are high in nutrients and low in energy. Energy dense foods are high in energy, low in nutrients. Nutrients include vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants.
So what are micronutrients?
Micronutrients are non-caloric compounds in your food that include vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. You need these nutrients in smaller amounts than macronutrients (carbs, fats, proteins). Vitamins are naturally occuring in food, there are two categories: water soluble and fat soluble.
Water soluble: Transported and dissolved in water
B1 (thiamin): Energy metabolism, turning the food you eat into energy for your cells
B2 (riboflavin): Energy metabolism, cellular function and metabolism of fats, drugs and steroids
B3 (niacin): Energy metabolism, produces fatty acids and cholestol, assists in DNA repair and stress response
B5 (panthothenic acid): Energy metabolism (coenzyme A/CoA), essential for fatty acid synthesis and breakdown
B6 (pyridoxine): Neurological development and function, makes hormones (serotonin, norepinephrine)
B9 (folic acid): Synthesis and repair of DNA and RNA, formation of red blood cells, neurological health,
B12 (cobalamin): Assists in making DNA, formation of red blood cells, neurological function, energy production, synthesis of fatty acids, absorption and activation of folic acid
Vitamin H (biotin): Energy metabolism and protein synthesis
Vitamin C: Antioxidant, growth and repair of tissues (skin, tendons, blood vessels, ligaments). Also important for the absorption of iron.
Fat soluble: Transported and dissolved in fat/lipids. These nutrients must be eaten with fat or else they cannot be absorbed.
Vitamin A (retinols): Antioxidant, maintenance of soft tissue, eyes, bones, skin
Vitamin D (calciferol, 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D): A hormone that promotes bone growth and absorption of calcium, immunity, muscle function. Vitamin D can be obtained from the diet or made by your body when your skin is exposed to sunlight. You need about 5-10 minutes per day of exposure. Exposing your forearms without sun protection is usually adequate. If you have a history of skin cancer, make sure that you are consuming vitamin D rich foods or possibly supplementing. It is very common to be deficient in vitamin D.
Vitamin E (tocopherol): Antioxidant, immunity, preservation of red blood cells
Vitamin K: Essential in blood clotting, bone mineralization
Minerals: “Macro minerals” are characterized by normal levels in your body along with the amount that is needed each day. “Micro minerals” or “trace minerals” are also essential to function but in much smaller quantities.
Calcium: Cell Signaling, bone formation, blood clotting, nerve function, muscle contraction,
Phosphorus: Growth and repair bones, cells, tissue
Magnesium: Cofactor is over 300 systems in the body, Immunity, nerve cell function, blood glucose control, cardiovascular health, bone development, synthesis of DNA and RNA
Sodium: Blood pressure control, blood volume, muscle and nerve function
Iron: Oxygen carrying component of your blood
Zinc: Immunity, cell division and growth, wound healing, carbohydrate metabolism
Copper: Immunity, maintenance of bone, connective tissue, brain and heart development
Chromium: Metabolism of fats and carbohydrates, insulin and blood glucose control
Fluoride: Hardening of bones and teeth
Iodine: Thyroid function, production of thyroid hormones, energy metabolism
Selenium: Reproductive health, thyroid hormone, DNA synthesis, antioxidant
Manganese: Formation of connective tissue, bones, reproductive hormones, energy metabolism brain and nerve function
Molybdenum: Enzyme that facilitates the breakdown of amino acids
This is a quick reference chart to help you identify the best sources for each nutrient as well as how much you generally need per day.
Note that everyone is different and genetics play a large role in how we absorb, transport and utilize these nutrients. As an athlete, you may need more of some nutrients than others, if you are pregnant or lactating you will also require different amounts. Aging and lifestyle choices such as drinking and smoking will alter how you metabolize nutrients, and you may require higher amounts. Also note, that if you eliminate an entire food group such as dairy, meat, gluten, etc. you are at higher risk of developing deficiencies.
If you have further questions about this, or feel as though you may not be getting enough, talk to Abby.
Eat the rainbow
No. We aren't talking Skittles.
Did you know that each color of a fruit or vegetable represents a different nutrient? HOW COOL IS THAT?! A handy way to know that you are getting adequate vitamins and minerals is by consuming a varied diet rich in vegetables and fruit that also vary in color.
Here is a quick breakdown:
- Purple: Heart healthy, decreases blood prssure
Green: Liver health, assists in your bodies natural detoxing process
Yellow: Eyes, can help protect against macular degeneration
Organic vs Conventional?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions I get. When it comes to maximizing your nutrient intake, quality matters.
You are only as strong as your food. If you do not give yourself the proper building blocks then you cannot maintain your health, activity and sustain life. Likewise, your food is the same. Your food is only as good as the soil it’s grown in and the way in which it was cultivated. Organic farmers have a strict set of regulations that they need to adhere to. One of them is crop rotation. Certain vegetables take more of certain nutrients out of the soil than others. Organic farmers must rotate their crops to prevent nutrient depletion and helps promote biodiversity. They also do not use toxic or synthetic fertilizers, GMOs, antibiotics, synthetic growth hormones, artificial preservatives, flavors or colors, which call all potentially degrade nutrient density.
Conventional farming utilizes synthetic chemicals and other materials to manage weeds and pests. Crop rotation is often not mandated, which can reduce the nutrients in the soil. While the true impact of GMO’s is unclear, there is also a debate now about how genetically modified plants affect our health. Keep in mind, as our population continues to grow, conventional farming is a necessity to produce the amount of food needed to support life. We are very privileged to be get a choice in produce.
Besides just organic vs. conventional, there are a few other factors to consider as well to maximize the nutrients in your food:
Season: The time of year and season play a huge role in the nutrient density of your food. Fruits and vegetables that are in-season will have more nutrients and flavor
Buy local: Many small farms cannot afford the USDA Organic label, as it is a very expensive certifying process. Luckily, many local farmers follow the same regulations under a program called “ “Certified Naturally Grown.” If you are able to go to your local farmer’s market, talk to your farmer about their farming practices and get to know them. They are a fantastic resource to better understand your food and find the most in season produce. They can also tell you how to choose the best produce.
If it’s not in-season, consider buying frozen. Frozen fruits and vegetables are usually flash-frozen soon after harvest and maintain most of their nutrients. “Fresh” produce that is shipped around the world to be sold in another region’s off-season is usually picked before fully ripening and then consumed a relatively long time after harvest, which can decrease nutrient density.
Local and organic foods are more sustainable and better for the environment due to regulations that monitor n watering practices to keep our aquifers clean and free of chemicals. However, they do come at a higher price. If buying everything organic isn’t in your budget, you can use this simple rule of thumb:
If you are eating the skin, try to buy it organic
If you are peeling it, buying conventional is OK
You can also look at these “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists. The Dirty Dozen are the 12 foods mostly likely to contain high pesticides if not bought organic, and the Clean 15 are the fifteen most likely to be free from or low in pesticides even if purchased conventionally.
Try to find a balance in your life, budget and look at what really matters. But, the most important thing is to EAT VEGETABLES! So, if right now your diet mainly consists of processed foods (frozen dinner, chips, soda, fast food… you get the picture), then conventionally grown foods are going to be a HUGE step-up for your nutrition. Don’t let the decision to buy organic, local, or conventional get in the way of eating vegetables and fruits in the first place. [Side note: Organic “junk food” such as fruit snacks, chips, cookies, are still junk food!]
So I will leave you with this...
Your habit this week rEVOLVEs around maximizing your micronutrient intake. The best way to do this, of course, is by eating a lot of vegetables!
Your goal for the week is to eat vegetables of some type at 80% of your eating occasions. What does this mean? If you eat 5 times per day (3 main meals and two snacks), then you should have vegetables at at least four of those occasions. Eat less than 5 times per day? Be sure to get your veggies in every time you eat! In case you forgot, let's touch back to the Daily Plate, remember that half of your plate should be vegetables?
This is the point in this nutrition course where the rubber hits the road. We laid a solid foundation in the first few weeks, and we’ve progressively introduced more challenging habits. Eating mainly complex carbs and vegetables at almost every meal can be a big shift for many people, but is so essential to overall good health.
We find that breakfast is often the hardest time to get vegetables. Here are a few ideas:
Concerned or confused about nutrition? Not sure if your current nutritional habits are helping you meet your goals? Feel free to pop in Abby's office, schedule an appointment, or shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org