Are you always tired? Finding it hard to think some days compared to others? Feeling like it’s harder to work out compared to last week? One sneaky culprit for all of these problems could be a micronutrient deficiency. Micronutrients are nutrients that are absorbed in small quantities by our cells and are utilized by various metabolic pathways within the body. Optimal function of these metabolic pathways is important in regards to maintaining health. Micronutrient deficiencies occur when we do not consume enough of the nutrients required for our metabolic pathways to function properly. The result micronutrient deficiencies can be severely impacting your energy levels and cognition. Studies have shown that micronutrient deficiency can lead to decrease in optimal nervous system function (1), depression (2), fatigue (3), reproductive impairment (4) and decrease in cognitive ability (5).
The average Canadian diet does not allow for adequate intake of some essential micronutrients. . If that was not bad enough, our genes have a MAJOR influence on how these micronutrients are utilized by our pathways. Gene mutations can result in an inability to properly metabolize certain micronutrients that we ingest. So eating the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of each nutrient your body needs may not be enough if you have one of these gene mutations. These gene mutations are more common then you would think and they are responsible for a lot of common micronutrient deficiencies. Don’t panic! There are plenty of ways to achieve adequate levels of certain nutrients despite our genetic makeup. One super food that can deliver you with many essential nutrients in one powerful serving is kale.
Magnesium is a micronutrient that 47% of Canadians from ages 19-71 are deficient in. (6). This number is staggering since magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems within the body, so it is crucial to ingest an adequate amount. A contributor to magnesium deficiency might be caused by a mutation in the MRS2 gene(7). MRS2 is responsible for the transportation of magnesium across cell membranes and into the mitochondrial interspace.(8). Gene mutations in MRS2 impact the rate in which magnesium is transportation thus resulting in a lower circulating levels of magnesium. It was found that about 14.5% of the population can suffer from this genetic disposition (7). The result of the magnesium absorption was variant among studies but one study using a microbial cell model showed that “values were reduced by a factor of two or increased by 50% relative to wild‐type cells when Mrs2p was absent or overexpressed, respectively” (9). This deficiency also significantly decreased the person’s ability to do physical activity. Magnesium is involved in numerous processes that affect muscle function including oxygen uptake, energy production and electrolyte balance (10). It is especially significant in the ATP (molecule used for cell energy) synthesis in mitochondria, and enhancing oxidative capacity. Having higher magnesium give the body the ability to synthesize new mitochondria, which is induced while exercising. But to do this magnesium is required because it is a cofactor for mitochondria genetic expression, and magnesium is needed to repair mitochondria from oxidative stress (11).
Kale has over 23 mg of magnesium in a 130g serving size (17). If you eat 17 cups of kale everyday, then you can meet your magnesium requirements (400mg)! Wow… seems like too much kale, it is a good thing that you will eat other dark green vegetables to achieve this goal as well. Magnesium is prominent in green vegetables because it is required in chlorophyll to produce energy, chlorophyll gives plants their green color (12).
Another big deficiency in Canada is vitamin A levels which about 45% of Canadians have (6)! Vitamin A is critical in maintain healthy teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucus membranes, vision and skin (14). On top of that, vitamin A was shown to have a very significant genetic disorder in the retinol binding protein 4 gene with genotype rs1667255 and rs10882272 (13). You also have a 46% (15), and 37% (16) chance of getting this disposition which can decrease your absorption by 0.04 ug/L (13)! But don’t worry, kale literally has 354% of your RDA in just 130 grams serving (17) …perfect!
Other benefits of eating kale for micronutrients is to get more vitamin C, in 130 grams of kale it has 89% of the RDA (17). Vitamin C has on average a 50% deficiency in the adult population of Canada (6). Vitamin C is critical for healing wounds, repairing muscle, and bone + teeth maintenance (19). Other benefits of kale are a large array of dietary fiber (great for gut microbiota) and a lot of vitamin K, some vitamin E, good fibrous slow digestion carbs, and calcium (17)!
Of course, I am not saying only eat kale, I am saying kale is helpful for aiding in these deficiencies. It is known that incorporating a mixed variety of fruits, vegetables and supplements into your diet can significantly increase your micronutrient levels and improve the quality of your life. It is important to keep track of the number of nutrients you are ingesting from the foods you eat to ensure that you are achieving your personal RDA’s. Kale is a great superfood that helps us achieve our RDA’s for a variety of different nutrients. In some upcoming articles, we will discuss how to effectively determine your personalized RDA for a variety of different nutrients to help you achieve optimal health. Have a great day and thank you for reading this article!
Written by: Nathan Cawte
At Healthy Helix, our aim is to provide our readers with the most accurate and reliable information on health and wellness, which is why we must disclaim some uncertainties in the results of some of the genetic polymorphism presented. MRS2 polymorphism was seen to be effective on microbe models, but I could not find evidence of it in humans or GWAS, making us skeptical of the actual relevance. Kale is awesome and is said to have great health benefits, here we just outline what some of those benefits might be. That being said we do not imply taking a drastic change on your diet with kale. Lastly, science is awesome but these findings are not definite more research is needed to truly find some of these genomic impacts. Thanks!