“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon” ~ Doug Larson
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Today the first installment in a short series about micronutrients
Have they all been discovered? Why is getting them primarily from our food so important? How much of each do we need? What factors reduce their efficiency? How do they interact with each other? Phytonutrients, what makes them great? Which foods are micronutrient powerhouses?
My goodness, the more I study health and nutrition, I find myself returning again and again, to some very basic truths.
I stand in awe of how wonderfully and beautifully we're made.
Eat your greens; they're good for us in every way. Not only for those we know of (but also those we've yet to discover)
Choose organic whenever possible, and eat from a wide variety of whole foods
The term micronutrients is an all-encompassing umbrella for many things we're already familiar with. Vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and amino acids. All of the “good stuff” in food that our bodies require every day for optimal health
They're referred to as micronutrients because our bodies only need them in micro (or very small) amounts. This is in contrast to macronutrients, think carbs, fats, and protein, which our bodies use as energy in the form of calories. They're required in macro or much larger quantities
Said another way, macronutrients are the components in food that provide the energy and building materials for our bodies. Micronutrients are different components in the same food that provide the “workers” to make the body function.
A Brief History
In the early 1800s, only the macronutrients had been discovered. As lab equipment grew more sophisticated, by the 1950s, our knowledge had expanded to include around 20 nutrients in total.
To date, there are about 50 micronutrients that have been identified.
A few notable milestones along the way
Calcium was first discovered in the early 1900s and was followed by the rest of the major electrolytes such as sodium, chloride, potassium, and magnesium.
In 1928 essential fatty acids were discovered, and in 1948 it was B12
There was a big stretch from the 1950s until the 1990s, when two minerals molybdenum and selenium were identified, along with additional ultra-trace minerals.
It was also in the late 1990s that the new category of phytonutrients was discovered. To date, there are ~ 2,000 known phytonutrients, although there are certainly more just waiting to be discovered.
Yet Another Case for Whole Foods
For me, this added a fresh and powerful perspective to the case for whole foods. Not only will they have all of the nutrients that have been discovered, but also those that haven't.
My mind can't help but compare whole foods to the multivitamin, with even the best of them having twenty-five nutrients. So we're comparing those twenty-five in the supplement against the fifty that are known along with the over 2,000 phytonutrients that have been identified.
Categories of Minerals
Of the fifty micronutrients that have been identified, the list includes both vitamins and minerals. The category of minerals is broken down a bit further
Macrominerals – The minerals that are found in the greatest abundance in our bodies. For example, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. Their RDAs are moderate amounts, ranging from half a gram to five grams
Microminerals – These include the trace and the ultra-trace. For example iron, selenium, silicon, zinc, iodine, and chloride
Trace Elements – These are needed in even smaller amounts than the micromineral, micrograms or less per day. In some cases, there aren't RDA's that have been established
A new muffin recipe to share, one filled with savory flavors for a different spin on your morning classic.
The sweet potato lends a quiet, natural sweetness that's perfectly complemented by its savory, herbal elements. The delicate crunch of black quinoa is a wonderful surprise.
The author notes winter squash would be a nice substitution for sweet potato, and half-cup of any left-over cooked grain would work as a stand-in for the quinoa. Toasted pecans or walnuts are a tasty addition to the mix as well.
While the recipe isn't gluten-free, it's vegan. It seems the delicate balance of ingredients requires a heartier flour to absorb the liquid.
The original also called for sprouted spelt flour, which is easier to digest and absorb. While regular spelt will work just a well, I wanted to point it out, as it was new to me and tricky to find locally. In the end, I ordered from Amazon and have been experimenting with it with great success.
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Savory Sweet Potato and Black Quinoa Muffins
- ¼ cup black quinoa, washed and soaked 12 to 24 hours in 1 cup water
- 1 cup of water
- pinch sea salt
- 2 Tbsp ground flax seeds
- ¼ cup nut milk
- ¼ cup + 1 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 Tbsp fresh sage leaves, chopped fine
- 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped + thyme sprigs for garnish
- 1 tsp fine-grain sea salt, divided
- 1 ½ cups sprouted spelt flour (or regular spelt or whole-wheat pastry flour)
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- 1 cup mashed sweet potato
- ¾ cup of water
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp tamari
- Make the Quinoa
- Soak the quinoa in 1 cup water for 12-24 hours
- Drain and rinse the quinoa
- Add the quinoa to a small pan, along with a small pinch of fine-grain sea salt and enough water to cover it by an inch or two.
- Bring to the boil over high heat.
- Reduce heat to low, cover pan and simmer for 15 minutes, or until all water is absorbed.
- Remove from heat and allow to sit, covered, for ~ 10 minutes and fluff with a fork.
- Measure out ½ cup and set aside. Save a remaining couple of tablespoons of quinoa to sprinkle over muffins
- Make the Muffins
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Line a regular muffin pan with 10 paper liners.
- Place flax and nut milk in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside to thicken while you cook the onion.
- Warm 1 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
- Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Add the sage, thyme, and a pinch fine-grain salt; reduce heat to low and continue cooking for another 5 minutes or until the onions have caramelized.
- Remove from the heat and set them aside.
- Sift flour, baking powder, and baking soda into another medium bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside.
- Add the sweet potato, water, vinegar, tamari, and remaining ½ tsp fine-grain sea salt to the flax-nut milk mix and whisk until smooth.
- Add ¼ cup olive oil; whisk again and add the flour mix. Stir gently until almost combined, and fold in cooked quinoa and onions.
- Divide batter between the lined muffin cups, filling them to the top. Garnish each muffin with a thyme sprig and a sprinkle of remaining cooked quinoa.
- Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Remove from oven; leave muffins in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.
- Once cool, any leftover muffins can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge.