When you grab a new food at the store and look at a nutrition label, where do your eyes first land? Do you quickly check the calories or grams of carbs, protein, and fat per serving? You’re not alone. Many people pick foods based on their macronutrient content (carbs, protein, and fat) without thinking much about the vitamins and minerals they provide.
Micronutrients often get less attention because they make up a smaller part of our diet than macronutrients. We think about them less because they don’t affect our weight as macros do.
Although they may seem less important, vitamins and minerals are just as crucial as the calories we consume. They play vital roles in our body’s structure. For example, calcium makes our bones strong, and Vitamin C helps collagen. Micronutrients also affect how our bodies work:
- Sodium, potassium, and calcium help control hydration and muscle contractions.
- Vitamin K helps blood clot if we get a cut.
- Vitamin E, an antioxidant, protects healthy cells from harm.
Even though we need less of them than macronutrients, vitamins and minerals are still crucial for our health.
You don’t need to know every detail about vitamins and minerals to grasp their importance. There are many details, and research changes often. This infographic aims to show some major functions of these micronutrients and the foods you can find them in. Instead of a long list, we want to share tips on getting the most micronutrients from your food.
A Guide to Vital Vitamins and Minerals for Good Health
HOW TO GET THE MOST FROM MICRONUTRIENTS
EAT FOODS FROM EVERY GROUP
Protein, dairy, grains, fruits, and veggies have vitamins and minerals. No one food or group has everything. At meals, choose 3-4 food groups, and add any you miss in snacks. For example, if you have cereal with milk and an egg for breakfast, grab a piece of fruit later.
ENJOY A VARIETY OF COLORS
Micronutrients give color to food, often linked to vitamins and minerals. Eating a rainbow of fruits and veggies ensures you get a variety of micronutrients.
PICK FRESH NOT FROZEN WHEN POSSIBLE
Food processing, light, and air can harm vitamins and minerals. Here are some tips:
- Limit processed and fast food. They’re usually low in vitamins and minerals and high in unhealthy elements like fat, salt, sugar, and calories.
- Don’t let farmer’s market finds sit too long — even in the fridge’s crisper.
- Stock up on frozen produce. They’re usually picked when fresh and processed quickly, keeping nutrients.
KNOW SOME KITCHEN BASICS
Some vitamins and minerals can be lost during cooking, while others are better with specific foods. Here’s what to do:
- Eat some produce raw and avoid overcooking the rest.
- When cooking, steaming, roasting, or sautéing is better for preserving vitamins and minerals than boiling.
- Pair iron-rich plant foods like lentils and spinach with lemon juice or citrus dressing to improve iron absorption.
- For vitamins A, D, E, and K, eat them with healthy fats like oil and vinegar dressing. Low-fat milk is better than fat-free.
CHOOSE WHOLE FOODS OVER SUPPLEMENTS
Vitamin and mineral supplements help with deficiencies and some conditions but are unnecessary for most of us. You can get a wide range of micronutrients from a healthy, balanced diet.
When deciding what to eat, remember it’s not just about calories, carbs, protein, and fat. You can lack micronutrients even if you consume enough calories and macronutrients. A diet rich in vitamins and minerals is essential for good health, and the best way is to eat a variety of colorful foods from different groups.