| Food & Diet

The War On Micronutrients | The Battle You Never Knew You Were Fighting

By Tyler Woodward

From the day you're born to the day you die you're told you need vitamins and minerals. What are these magical substances, do you really need them, and what happens when you go without them? 

Key Takeaways:

In today's society, everyone thinks they've solved the nutritional puzzle. Keto, carnivore, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, atkins, the list goes on... Everyone believes they have cracked the diet code. There is so much controversy within the world of diet and nutrition that it now more closely resembles a religion than a science.  With all this nutritional noise it's often easier to just tune out and let the diet fads flow in one ear and out the other. We've been led so far astray that most people don't even know that there is an inherent goal to a healthy diet. This lack of knowledge of what a healthy diet really is is the root cause of more health ailments and diseases than you can even imagine. So here you go...

The Two Principles Of A Healthy Diet:

  1. Consuming Enough Food/Energy - Calories
  2. Consuming Enough Micronutrients - Vitamins, Minerals, Amino Acids & Electrolytes

What Happens When You Eat Too Much?

Overeating

When you consume too many calories by eating in a caloric surplus, eating more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you do this consistently over time, you will eventually become overweight and possibly obese.

Read More: How To Lose Weight By Eating More

What Happens When You Eat Too Little?

Eat too little

When you eat in a caloric deficit by consuming fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight. If you consistently eat in a calorie deficit over time, you will consistently lose weight becoming extremely weak and feeble. If you do this for a long period of time, you will literally starve yourself to death. 

When you eat too much or too little, this results in visible physical changes in your body that are likely noticeable to you and the outside world. According to the CDC in the US 73.6% of adults 20 and older are overweight and 42.5% are obese

The Deficiency Paradox

When you are deficient in essential micronutrients the consequences can be just as bad, but are not usually visible on the surface or to the outside world.

You see, our body requires a small amount of micronutrients daily (hence the name “micronutrients’) in order to function properly. If you don’t consume micronutrients at the same rate your body uses them, eventually you will become deficient in them.

Here’s the real ball-buster though. It is estimated that over 90% of adults are deficient in at least one micronutrient. Micronutrient deficiencies directly contribute to a decreased metabolism, meaning you burn fewer calories. So unless you start eating less, you’re going to start gaining weight.  

But don’t believe me, here are a few shocking statistics:

Read More: What Does It Mean To Be Healthy

How Do Micronutrient Deficiencies Cause Weight Gain?

How Do Micronutrients Cause Weight Gain

It might be easier to think about the body like a car. Without enough gas, at first, your car might slow down a bit. Then a bit more. Eventually, the engine will kick and it will sputter to a halting stop. The same thing happens in your body.

When you become deficient in a micronutrient, your body has two options:

  • Compensate - When we run out of certain micronutrients, your body can pull the micronutrient from elsewhere in the body in order to prioritize more essential functions. This may sound like a good thing, but it’s really just the better of two evils which I’ll explain in a second.
  • Decreased Metabolism - If our body is not able to pull the micronutrient from elsewhere in the body, it is forced to lower our metabolism. This means that you have less energy to function, grow, heal, and recover. 
  • Key Takeaway: The more deficient you are in key micronutrients the less your body is capable of functioning. 

    What Are Micronutrients?:

    What are micronutrients

    Micronutrients are substances that we need to consume through our diet  in order to function properly. As we discussed before, there are 4 types of Micronutrients:

    1. Vitamins - Organic compounds (contain carbon) that our body needs to develop and function normally.

    • Fat-Soluble Vitamins - Vitamins only found in fatty tissue (fat). Because fat-soluble vitamins are stored in fat, they can be much more difficult to “excrete” or remove from the body which can result in a mineral toxicity if consumed in excess.
      • Vitamins A, K, & E
    • Water-Soluble Vitamins - Vitamins that can be found in liquids like water, blood, or urine
      • Vitamins C, B-vitamins (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9 [aka Folate], 12),

    Note* - When the B-vitamin was originally discovered it was originally believed to be one part, but was later found to consist of multiple components. Certain pieces of the vitamin that were discovered were found to be non-essential and were removed from the B-vitamin complex (like B4), hence the skipping of numbers

    2. Minerals - (Also referred to as trace minerals or trace metals) - Inorganic Elements (meaning they don't contain the element carbon) found naturally on the earth and in foods that our body requires in small amounts to function properly

    • Include: Iron (Fe), Copper (Cu), Chromium (Cr), Zinc (Zn), Manganese (Mn), Iodine (I), Selenium (Se), Molybdenum (Mo)

    3. Electrolytes - Positively charged minerals present in relatively large amounts in the body

    • Include: Sodium (Na), Potassium (K), Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), & Phosphorus (P)

    4. Amino Acids -

    • The Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) - Amino Acids that our body is not capable of producing, so we must consume them in our die
      • There are 9 Essential Amino Acids
    • Nonessential Amino Acids (NEAAs) - Amino Acids that our body can produce if supplied with the necessary “fuel” (enough EAAs)
      • There are 11 Non-Essential Amino Acids

    Fun Fact - Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin” is actually not a Vitamin, but a hormone. Our body produces vitamin D when receptors on our skin absorb UVB light from the sun and begin a process which converts cholesterol into Vitamin D.  The reason that Vitamin D is considered a hormone is because it must be activated by our liver or kidneys after it is formed. Vitamin D regulates our calcium metabolism and is essential for maintaining strong/dense bones. We can consume vitamin D in our diet from eating animal products (and getting their “leftover” hormones), but to get enough of it, we need to get ample sunlight or take a vitamin D supplement.

    Why Do You Need Micronutrients?:

    Why do you need micronutrients

    Micronutrients generally play two important roles in the body:

    1. Ingredients - You can’t bake a cake without flour. Micronutrients like iron, iodine, and many amino acids are necessary to produce tons of biological compounds. 
      1. Without iron, you can’t make hemoglobin, the main protein in Red-Blood cells
      2. Without iodine, you can’t make thyroid hormone, which directly regulates your metabolism
    2. Cofactors - Cofactors are defined as molecules that  “complement” chemical reactions. They may not be directly involved in the reaction, but help assist in either building a molecule or breaking  one down. This is like a parent walking their child across the street to school. The child may not have needed their help, but he also may not have made it across the street otherwise. In some cases there are essential cofactors in which a reaction cannot not take place without them. 

    How Do I Consume Enough Micronutrients?:

    How Do I Consume Enough Micronutrients

    This again comes down to two parts:

    1. Avoid foods which deplete you of micronutrients
    2. Consume a diverse diet rich with micronutrient dense foods

    Anti-nutrients are compounds found in foods that deplete your body of micronutrients. They do this primarily in two ways:

    1. They’re Negative - Electrolytes are positively-charged minerals.  In order to work or function in our body, they must maintain this negative charge. Many antinutrients are negatively charged and therefore strongly react with the positively charged minerals. This does three things:

    1. Cancels out the positive charge of the minerals - Rendering the minerals useless in our body
    2. Binds to the minerals - “Opposites attract”, this interferes with our body’s ability to absorb the minerals during digestion
    3. Depletes our mineral stores - If the negatively charged antinutrients aren’t already bound to positively charged molecule, they can pull out minerals from our digestive tract depleting our mineral stores
      • These antinutrients include - Phytic acid & goitrogens 
      2. They’re Sticky - During the digestive process, food flows through our stomach, pancreas, and liver into our intestines, where the nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream. In order to enter the bloodstream, the nutrients need to attach to the walls of the small intestine to be “excreted” out. Some antinutrients act like gum to a shoe and stick to the walls of our intestines. This prevents nutrients in that area of the intestines from being absorbed. This also results in inflammation as our body tries to “scrape off the gum”. 
        • These include lectins and gluten

        Antinutrients are most commonly found and in the highest quantities of nuts, seeds, cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens. Which from an evolutionary standpoint makes a lot of sense…

        All organisms on this planet evolved together in the survival of the fittest fashion, since plants are unable to move, they needed some way of defending themselves in order to be able to survive long enough to reproduce.

        Many plants evolved to produce sweet, delicious fruit which are vessels that contain the plant's seeds. Fruits are designed to be eaten by animals, so we spread their seeds for them (either by dropping the core/seeds or pooping them out). Other plants evolved ways of making themselves less nutritious to their predators via high antinutrient content.

        Now, there are some animals that “out” evolved these plants and are capable of breaking down certain antinutrients,  like phytic acid, but sadly we are not one of them. It’s also worth noting that there are ways to cook these foods in order to break down most of their anti-nutrients. Typically by strategically soaking, fermenting, or overcooking them depending on the plant and antinutrient they contain. 

        Pro-Tip -Sourdough bread (fermented bread) is phenomenal and gets rid of most of the gluten and phytic acid found in wheat.

        The second-half of the equation comes down to consuming a diverse diet of micronutrient dense foods. In short, I recommend consuming lots of fruits, roots (anything carrots, rice, potatoes, ect.,) and meat. Make sure not to skimp out on organ meats though, as they are actually some of the most micronutrient dense foods on the planet. 

        If you're interestested in learning more about how to eat for optimal health, to fix your health ailments and increase your energy levels then make sure to check out our Thermo Diet Program on UMZUfit. And before you call me a hypocrite, realize that the Thermo Diet is just a name for a dietary approach to achieving optimal health. It's a way of eating designed to maximize your body's energy production or THERMOgenesis. It's a way of eating to be metabolically healthy by consuming adequate energy and micronutrients to properly fuel your body. Thermo is really just a nickname for a balanced diet.The Thermo Diet

        To give you a better idea of how to consume adequate quantities of each micronutrient, I’ll go through each of them and provide a food-source that is densely packed with them and cover their function in the body. But to make it more fun, I’ll also talk about what happens if you become severely deficient in each micronutrient. 

        • Vitamin A
          • Involved in Immune function, vision, cell growth & communication
          • Beef liver, lamb liver, liver sausage, poultry liver, dairy products
          • Night blindness & xerophthalmia - (drying out of the eyes & tear ducts) 
        • B-Vitamin Complex
          • Necessary to facilitate hundreds of biological reactions
          • Liver and organ meats, eggs, milk, beef, shellfish
          • Beriberi (two types)  - Decreases muscle & joint 
          • Pellagra - Causes dementia, diarrhea & dermatitis
        • Vitamin C
          • Involved in the formation of collagen (what makes up our joints) and protein formation
          • Citrus fruits and juices
          • Scurvy - Fatigue, inflammation of the gums and weak connective tissue (joints)
        • Vitamin E
          • A major antioxidant that protects the body from free radicals and oxidative stress
          • Avocados, squash, kiwis, olive oil & shrimp
          • Muscle Weakness, Deterioration in vision
        • Vitamin K
          • Plays a role in blood clotting, bone metabolism and regulating calcium levels
          • Beef liver, pork chops, chicken, kiwi, hard & soft cheeses
          • Excessive bleeding due to inability to clot blood
          • Calcium
          • Used to build and maintain bones and teeth, involved in clotting blood and a necessary electrolyte in nerve function
          • Dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese), bone broth or collagen proteins
          • Development of Osteoporosis (weakening bones)
        • Copper
          • Necessary to absorb iron. Also helps to form red blood cells, maintain healthy bones, blood vessels and nerves
          • Liver, oysters, shiitake mushrooms, lobster, dark chocolate
          • Vitiligo Disease - Loss of color in skin resulting in skin blotches
        • Chromium
          • Helps cells to absorb glucose from the blood
          • Mussels, grapes, meat
          • Diabetes-like condition
        • Iodine
          • Necessary to produce thyroid hormone (T3 & T4)  
          • Dairy products, iodized salt, shrimp, eggs & prunes
          • Goitre - enlarged thyroid gland,
          • Stunted Growth & Abnormal development
        • Iron
          • Necessary to form the protein hemoglobin in our red blood cells
          • Shellfish, beef liver and other organ meats, beef, poultry, dark chocolate
          • Anemia
        • Magnesium
          • Necessary for over 300 biological reactions. Aids in the production of energy and protein, keeps the heartbeat steady
          • Dark Chocolate, avocados, bananas, fish, beef, poultry, white potato with skin, raisins, milk & yogurt
          • Irritability, muscle weakness, confusion, growth failure
        • Manganese
          • Helps form connective tissue, bones, blood clotting factors & sex hormones. Also plays a role in energy metabolism
          • Mussels, oysters, clams, pineapple, potatoes, coffee, tea, and spices (like black pepper)
          • Bone demineralization, poor growth in children, hair and skin depigmentation
        • Molybdenum
          • Acts as a cofactor in many reactions, necessary to breakdown alcohol among other toxins
          • Milk, cheese, organ meats
          • Unknown - Deficiencies are very rare to occur 
        • Phosphorus (P)
          • Plays an important role in the formation of bones & teeth. Required for cellular growth and repair
          • Milk, chicken, scallops, shellfish beef, chocolate
          • Fatigue, low appetite, muscle weakness
        • Potassium (K)
          • Necessary to maintain a regular heartbeat and nerve function.
          • Bananas, potatoes, citrus fruits and juices, mean and poultry
          • Muscle cramps or spasms, weakness & fatigue, heart palpitations
        • Selenium (Se)
          • Facilitates the formation of antioxidant enzyme proteins
          • Organ meats, pork, beef, poultry, eggs, mushrooms, dairy
          • Moderate deficiency plays a role in myodegenerative diseases  (osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, alzheimer’s)
        • Sodium (Na)
          • Helps maintain and regulate water and charge balance in the cell, required for nerve function
          • Salt, shrimp, dairy products, broths, pork, tomatoes, beef and poultry
          • Addison's disease - Severe Weakness
        • Zinc (Zn)
          • Involved in cell growth and division, wound healing, and the immune system
          • Oysters and other shellfish, red meat, poultry
          • Growth failure, delayed puberty, lowered immunity
        • EAA
          • Used as precursors to build hundreds of biological compounds including enzymes, hormones, and other structures
          • Red meat, pork, poultry, shellfish, potatoes
          • Too many to count

        Conclusion:

        My goal in writing this article, as always, is to provide you with logically-based principles that you can use to form your own conclusions regarding any information you may come across within this subject. I really hope you found this article interesting and if you have anything to add to this article, or any comments or criticism, feel free to reach out to me on our facebook groups (The Thermo Diet Community Group, The UMZU Community Group) or on Instagram @tylerwoodward_fit. Also, please feel free to share this article with anyone that might be interested.

        Thanks for reading!

        Until next time… be good

        ~Tyler Woodward
        B.S. Physiology and Neurobiology

        References:

        Brown, Amy. (2016). An overview of Herb and dietary supplement efficacy, safety and government regulations in the United States with suggested improvements. Part 1 of 5 series. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 107. 10.1016/j.fct.2016.11.001. 

        Admin. “Deficiency Diseases - Vitamin & Mineral Deficiency Diseases.” BYJUS, BYJU'S, 31 Aug. 2020, byjus.com/biology/deficiency-diseases/.

        Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Diet and Health. “Vitamins, Minerals, And Chronic Diseases.” Eat for Life: The Food and Nutrition Board's Guide to Reducing Your Risk of Chronic Disease., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 1992, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK235010/.

        “What Are the 27 Essential Vitamins and Minerals?” Huel, huel.com/pages/information-on-vitamin-and-minerals-in-huel-deficiencies-and-toxicity.