I get asked by my PT clients all the time about macro’s (macronutrients; carbohydrates, protein and fats) but we don’t really talk about the micronutrients, those all important vitamins, minerals and trace elements.
FACT: No matter how hard you train, you cannot out-train a bad diet. So yes, you should be aware of your energy balance (calories in and calories out) and how to best to build those calories in from the macronutrients but equal care and attention should be given to the micros.
Whilst micronutrients won’t define your body composition (how much body fat or build lean muscle you have) they have a huge impact on your overall health and wellbeing.
How can I consume more micronutrients?
If you eat a varied and balanced diet you can assume it’s sufficient in providing you with enough vitamins, minerals and trace elements. However, if you don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, or only eat the same ones all the time, theres a chance you will have a deficit against your daily minimum requirements. Supplements can be an easy fix but wherever possible it is best to do it via your diet. Not least because you can fill up on vegetables (and fruits as long as you are aware of your sugar intake) to help keep you within your calorie allowance and keep hunger at bay as they are nutrient dense and low in calories.
Fruits and Vegetables
We all know the advice is to consume 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day. As stated above you ideally want to try and get as much variety as possible. Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli are crazy choc full of worthy micro’s which is why you hear people rave about them.
But, what actually constitutes a portion? Here are some examples…
Fresh Fruit – approx 80 grams
2 small sized fruits = satsumas, plum, kiwi
1 medium sized fruit = apple, pear, banana, tomato
Half of a large fruit = grapefruit, avocado,
A slice of a larger fruit (i.e. a watermelon, pineapple)
Dried Fruit – apron 30 grams
30g / 1 heaped tablespoon (equivalent to 80 grams of fresh fruit)
Vegetables (Fresh or Frozen) – approx 80 grams
3 heaped tablespoons = peas, sweetcorn, red lentils, carrots
4 heaped tablespoons of cooked kale, spinach or spring greens
2 spears of broccoli
1 Sweet potato
A dessert bowl of salad
Why do I need variety?
These easiest way to get variety is by eating a colourful plate and making sure your meals are full of different colours.
The different coloured fruits and vegetables all have different benefits and here is a summary of some you might not be aware of.
Red foods –
Rich in Lycopene:
May protect cells, helping the prevention of heart disease
Help protect skin from sun damage
May help protect against certain cancers
Orange and Yellow foods –
Rich in Beta-Carotene:
Enhances Immune System
Converts to Vitamin A, which is essential for vision, immune function, skin and bones
Rich in Hesperitin:
May lower cardiovascular risk
Acts an anti-inflammatory
Rich in Beta-Cryptoxanthin:
May help protect against the development of rheumatoid arthritis
Green foods –
Rich in Lutien and Zeaxanthin:
Help protect eyes from damage and reduces risk of cataracts
Rich in Isothiocyanates:
Strong anti cancerous properties
Purple foods –
Rich in Anthocyanidin:
Provides protection against pain and inflammation
May support healthy blood pressure
Noted anti ageing effects
White foods –
Rich in Allicin;
Increases the body ability to fight infections
Strong antimicrobial anti fungal and antiviral properties