As we enter a new year and a new decade, once again our focus turns to new year’s resolutions, goal setting and the like. We have previously covered these themes in our blogs, so this month I am going to give you some more information to help you achieve any goals around healthy eating. We have already talked about the main building blocks in our nutrition (Macro-nutrients – Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats) and so this month we are going to turn our attention to micro-nutrients.
The first clue is in their name; these nutrients are only required in much smaller amounts than macro-nutrients which are our initial emphasis when creating a balanced diet. However, they are still very important to have in these smaller amounts, and not including them can have severe consequences to our health and wellbeing. Micro-nutrients include minerals, such as fluoride, selenium, sodium, iodine, copper and zinc, and vitamins, such as vitamin C, A, D, E and K, as well as the B-complex vitamins. These are vital to the proper functioning of all your body’s systems.
It isn’t hard to get enough vitamins and minerals in your diet, if you eat a wide range of foods including plenty of nuts, whole grains and green leafy vegetables. You may have heard people talking about “eating the rainbow”; by eating a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables, like red cherries, purple grapes, yellow bananas and orange carrots, you will naturally get the array of micro-nutrients that you need.
This is because certain colours of food indicate an abundance of specific nutrients. So, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, such as citrus fruit, are abundant in vitamins C and A. Green fruits and vegetables, including kale, spinach, asparagus and avocado, are high in vitamins K, B, and E. Purple produce, for example aubergine, red cabbage, and red grapes, are high in vitamins C and K. This is because the colour of a plant is often linked to the phytochemicals contained within them.
Leafy green vegetables are also a good source of calcium, potassium and magnesium. Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables also contain potassium. Iron can be found in legumes and leafy green vegetables too. Zinc is the hardest to get from fruit and vegetables but is in legumes; a better option is to add seeds and nuts to your plate to get this mineral, especially if you don’t eat much meat, dairy or shellfish.
Variety over the course of a week is the best way to ensure you get all the essential micro-nutrients your body needs, and you can alter your choices based on what fruit and vegetables are in season too. So, when you next go food shopping, make sure your trolley looks colourful and enjoy a healthy start to 2020.