9 Micronutrient Myths to Stop Believing

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Micronutrients—also known as vitamins and minerals—are the itty-bitty heroes of the body’s everyday functioning.

While we don’t require them in as ample quantities as macronutrients such as carbs, protein, and fat, these smaller-quantity nutrients have important roles to play in our health.

For instance, they help to boost immunity to preventing chronic disease. In fact, becoming deficient in them can lead to a host of diseases, such as scurvy, rickets, and osteoporosis.

With the wide variety of micronutrients supplied through food and supplements, you may have encountered some misinformation about them. Just like with macronutrients, hearsay and old wives’ tales often make their way into collective belief about micronutrients.

This article clears up some common misconceptions, both in broad terms and about a few specific vitamins and minerals.

General Myths About Micronutrients

The myths about micronutrients can have an impact on how you choose to consume them. This section discusses some of the most common myths about micronutrients in general.

Myth: Most People Need a Multivitamin for Good Health

Micronutrients in the form of multivitamins are a big business. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, half of all American adults take a multivitamin or other dietary supplement regularly.

For some people, especially those with certain health conditions or nutrient deficiencies, a multivitamin can help fill in nutrient gaps.

However, research shows that multivitamin usage is not associated with reduced risk of heart disease or cancer, does not slow mental decline, and won’t prevent early death.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), most people can get all their necessary vitamins and minerals through a healthy eating pattern. Unless directed by your doctor, it’s likely you don’t need a daily multivitamin.

Myth: It Doesn’t Matter Whether You Get Micronutrients Through Food or Pills 

If you know your diet is lacking in a certain area, it may seem logical to pop a supplement to cover your bases.

According to experts, it’s better to get micronutrients through food, not pills. Multivitamins can’t take the place of eating a variety of healthy foods.

Foods contain a matrix of nutrients, such as fiber and fats, that supplements simply can’t replicate. Try focusing on increasing your intake of healthy, whole foods before reaching for a vitamin or mineral supplement.

Myth: What You See Is Always What You Get

It’s only natural to assume, when purchasing a vitamin or mineral supplement, that you’re getting what you paid for. Unfortunately, recent research has revealed that supplements don’t always contain what they claim.

In fact, a 2018 study found that many consumers are getting more than they bargain for with supplements.

Of nearly 800 vitamin and mineral supplements, over 20% actually contained one or more undeclared pharmaceutical-grade ingredients.

Talk to your doctor before beginning any micronutrient (or other) supplement, and check the FDA’s database for recalls, market withdrawals, and safety alerts.

Myth: More Is Better

If micronutrients are so beneficial for health, why not load up on as many of them as you can? The truth is, when it comes to vitamins and minerals, more isn’t necessarily better. Many micronutrients become toxic when ingested at high doses.

Others, such as water-soluble B and C vitamins, simply get excreted when you take in too much of them. It’s best not to go overboard and to stick to the recommended guidelines for vitamin and mineral consumption.

Myths About Specific Micronutrients

Not only are there myths about vitamins and minerals as a whole, but there are myths about specific micronutrients. Below are some of the most common misconceptions about micronutrients.

Myth: Milk Is the Best Source of Calcium

The old ads didn’t lie because milk really does “do a body good” with its high calcium content of 250 milligrams per 8-ounce glass. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDI), is 1,000 milligrams per day. So, one cup of milk knocks out 25% of your daily needs.

It's important to note that dairy products aren’t the only foods that provide high doses of this important mineral.

Sardines are a surprising source of calcium at 400 milligrams (40% RDI) per 100-gram can and leafy greens like collard greens supply a sizable amount at 15% of the RDI per cup.

Vegans can also find excellent drinkable sources of calcium in fortified nondairy milks like almond and soy, which often contain comparable (or sometimes higher) amounts of calcium than cow’s milk.

Myth: Meat Is the Only Source of Iron 

The question, “But how will you get enough iron?” asked by the worried parent whose child has chosen vegetarianism is all too familiar.

While red meat is certainly an iron powerhouse, it’s by no means the only vehicle for getting enough of this mineral in your diet. There are many other options you can consume to meet you daily iron needs.

For example, foods like seafood, beans, and vegetables are great sources of iron and can even help you fight off iron deficiency anemia and boost your immunity.

Myth: Bananas Are the Best Source of Potassium

Potassium is important for regulating blood pressure, helping muscles contract, and transporting nutrients throughout the body.

Which foods are high in this micronutrient? If you’re like most people, when you think of potassium, you probably think of bananas.

But, ounce for ounce, a number of other foods outpace these tropical fruits for potassium content. Swiss chard, avocados, watermelon, and cannellini beans all offer as much or more potassium than banana per serving. 

Myth: You Can Only Get Vitamin D From the Sun

We’ve all heard vitamin D referred to as the "sunshine" vitamin. Taking in some rays fills our vitamin D reserves to regulate calcium and phosphate levels, strengthening bones and preventing rickets.

Did you know you can get vitamin D from food, too? Dairy milk has been fortified with vitamin D since the 1920s. Meanwhile, salmon, mushrooms, egg yolks, and tuna are all natural sources of this nutrient. 

According to 2019 research, people aged 20 to 39 are at greatest risk of vitamin D deficiency, but it's important for people of all ages to get enough, both through sunshine and food.

Myth: All Sodium Is Bad

Nine out of 10 Americans consume too much sodium—so, in general, it’s smart to watch your salt intake. However, sodium isn’t just a dietary bogeyman. This mineral serves critical functions like maintaining cellular fluid balance and promoting proper muscle and nerve function.

Like most nutrients, there’s a healthy middle ground for sodium consumption. According to the FDA, it’s best to keep your not to go above 2,300 milligrams on a daily basis.

A Word From Verywell

Micronutrients provide a vast array of health benefits, and by eating a varied diet, most people are able to meet the body’s daily needs. However, if you’re considering adding a vitamin or mineral supplement, always talk to your physician first.

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Article Sources
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  2. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Vitamins and Minerals. Updated February 2018.

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  4. NIH - Office of Dietary Supplements. Calcium. Updated March 26, 2020.

  5. USDA - Food Data Central. Sardines. Published April 4, 2019.

  6. USDA - Food Data Central. Collard Greens. Published April 1, 2019.

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  8. American Heart Association. 9 out of 10 Americans Eat Too Much Sodium Infographic. 2020.

  9. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Sodium in Your Diet. Updated April 2, 2020.