- Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals, which work together to keep you healthy.
- Different types of micronutrient testing assess a wider scope of vitamins and minerals, which is not necessary for people who are not at high risk of a nutritional deficiency.
- A dietitian can help you meet your micronutrient needs through diet.
When you feel hungry, you eat macronutrients to replenish your energy stores. These include proteins, high-quality fats, and carbohydrates. Micronutrients are also naturally found in these foods and play an important role in keeping you healthy.
Standard blood tests have been used to assess micronutrient levels, but now more robust micronutrient tests and kits are available.
In this article, you’ll learn why micronutrients are important for your health, if advanced micronutrient testing is worth it, and how to stay on top of your nutritional requirements through dietary changes.
What are Micronutrients?
All micronutrients contribute to your body's biological functions. The different vitamins and minerals promote healthy cell development, blood clotting, disease prevention, and they support hundreds of other metabolic processes in the body.
Essential micronutrients need to be replenished through diet. Vitamin D is an exception because your body naturally synthesizes it when the skin is exposed to UV rays. The CDC has highlighted six essential micronutrients that support health.
- Iron. Helps with cognitive development in children. It is required to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.
- Vitamin A. Aids with immune function, normal vision, and reproduction. It helps your vital organs function properly.
- Vitamin D. Plays an important role in maintaining healthy bones, immune function, and supporting mood.
- Iodine. Your body needs iodine to create thyroid hormones, which influence metabolic function and other processes.
- Folate. A B vitamin required to make DNA and genetic material.
- Zinc. An important mineral that promotes wound healing, immune function, and cell signaling. Pregnant women have slightly higher zinc requirements to support the growing baby.
Other essential micronutrients include Vitamin C, E, magnesium, and all the B vitamins. Most people can meet their daily micronutrient requirements by eating various foods. You can increase variety by choosing different colored fruits and vegetables or trying a new whole grain.
If you think your diet could benefit from more variety but are unsure how to make changes, consider booking a virtual appointment with a registered dietitian.
What Is Micronutrient Testing?
Micronutrients operate at a cellular level, and only laboratory equipment can assess how high or low your levels are. Most micronutrient testing is done on blood samples, but specialized labs can also analyze hair or urine samples too.
Advanced micronutrient testing assesses vitamins, minerals, metabolites, antioxidants, amino acids, and carbohydrate metabolism. A proposed theory for testing every single micronutrient is to prevent a deficiency from worsening and potentially harming your health. Currently, there is very little scientific evidence that suggests that broad-sweeping micronutrient testing is better for your health than standard bloodwork tests.
Instead of only focusing on micronutrients, consider how to make changes that could support your overall health. Proven effective strategies include incorporating regular physical activity, eating a balanced diet, and managing stress levels.
What Kinds of Tests Are There?
There are several different tests used to assess your micronutrient levels. As mentioned above, most micronutrient tests require a blood sample, but sometimes a urine sample will be used instead.
- Comprehensive metabolic panel - measures 14 different substances in your blood, including blood sugar levels, calcium, sodium, and other protein-based compounds.
- Complete blood count - measures different features of your blood, including red blood cell count and size, as well as white blood cells and platelets. Cell structure or cell count abnormalities may be due to a micronutrient deficiency.
- Specialized micronutrient tests - You can visit a lab that has its own version of micronutrient testing. They can analyze 30+ micronutrients and organic compounds in the blood.
- At-home test kits - Most home kits include a lancet (a small sharp medical device) to prick your finger and provide a blood sample, which is shipped or dropped off at a lab for testing.
- Organic acids test - A urine test that assesses the concentration of organic compounds and metabolites in urine. High metabolite levels may indicate poor health, but more research is needed in this area.
Some of these may be covered by your insurance company, but you would need to review your policy. Paying out of pocket for micronutrient testing can be expensive, ranging from $99 to $200 per test.
What Do They Test?
Specialized micronutrient lab tests and at-home kits assess vitamins, minerals, metabolites, glucose function, and so much more. Here is a summary of what is being tested (this data is comparable to most micronutrient tests):
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B3
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
- Coenzyme Q10
- Vitamin E
- Fructose sensitivity
The research to support the accuracy of these tests is not shared online.
Is Micronutrient Testing Worth It?
Completing some form of micronutrient testing can bring awareness to a deficiency that may go unnoticed. It can be helpful to know your levels so you can take corrective action if needed and prevent a potential deficiency from worsening.
Certain people may find more benefits to testing than others, including people at high risk for nutritional deficiencies. This includes people who have above-average nutrient requirements, such as pregnant women or people recovering from surgery.
It also includes people who follow specialized diets. Any dietary pattern that eliminates entire food groups, such as vegetarianism, can elevate your risk of a nutritional deficiency. You can decrease the chances of a deficiency by making conscious dietary choices.
Generally, people who eat a varied diet, and don’t have higher-than-normal nutritional requirements, do not need to complete additional micronutrient testing on top of routine blood tests.
Nourish offers one on one nutrition counseling. If you want to review your diet with a nutrition expert, consider booking a virtual appointment with a registered dietitian.
How to Get Enough Micronutrients Through Diet
Eating a diet rich in variety and food choices reduces the risks of having low micronutrient levels.
- Dietary sources of iron can be heme or non-heme based. Heme iron is more easily absorbed, but non-heme food sources still contribute to your iron intake.
- Heme iron is found in animal products—mainly red meat—and smaller amounts are in poultry, fish, and eggs.
- Rich sources of non-heme iron include fortified grains, nuts, beans, and some vegetables.
- Naturally found in animal products, including organ meats, dairy products, fish, and eggs.
- Sources include cod liver oil, salmon, trout, dairy products, and fortified products, including fruit juice.
- People who live in climates with limited sunlight exposure may need to add a vitamin D supplement to meet their daily requirements.
- Iodine can be obtained from fish, seafood, dairy products, eggs, and fortified salt (iodized salt).
- Sources of folate include dark leafy vegetables, brussel sprouts, broccoli, nuts, kidney beans, and dairy products.
- Sources include oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, and whole grains.
A gut health nutritionist can help you add delicious food options to your diet that can help you meet daily micronutrient requirements. Book a virtual appointment with a registered dietitian now!
Should I Start a Supplement if I’m Low on a Micronutrient?
If you take a micronutrient test and discover your levels are low, you may benefit from starting a supplement and making dietary changes.
You should consult a physician or a pharmacist before starting a new supplement. They can give you guidelines for safe dosages and instructions on correctly taking the product.
Start By Reviewing Your Current Diet
Reviewing your current dietary habits can shed light on your nutrition intake. If you eat a varied diet and consume foods from all food groups, you are probably doing ok! If you have questions or want expert advice on how you can further improve your diet, consider working with a Registered Dietitian. They are trained in nutrition and can offer recommendations catered to your needs.
Take The Next Step
Nourish offers individualized nutrition counseling that is covered by the most popular insurance carriers. Currently, 94% of users attend nutrition sessions without paying a dollar out of pocket.
If you want to take the next step in your health journey, consider booking a virtual appointment with a registered dietitian.
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