Macronutrients and Micronutrients Explained!

Explaining Micronutrients and Macronutrients

What’s the difference between Micronutrients and Macronutrients?

We all know nutrition is key to good health and fitness. So when we talk about nutrition, we need to focus on two major categories that are Micronutrients and Macronutrients. [1]

I am sure you must have heard that your body needs Micronutrients and Macronutrients to function well. But what exactly do the words Micronutrients and Macronutrients mean? Turns out that Micronutrients and Macronutrients help you stay healthy in their own unique ways. 

Micronutrients vs. Macronutrients 

While both the Micronutrients and Macronutrients are essential for your body, they play varied roles and perform different functions. The terms, and to be precise we mean the beginning of these terms – macro and micro – give the clue about what they mean. 

Macronutrients form a larger part of your diet and need to be consumed in higher amounts in terms of their mass or the calories they contain. Micronutrients, on the other hand, are called so as they are needed by the body in trace amounts. [2]

What are macronutrients?

Nutritionally speaking, macronutrients are measured in grams, like grams of fats and proteins and they are found in three forms:

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are composed of sugars.   Monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and Polysaccharides [3] are all complicated names for different sugars.

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Carbohydrates provide a quick source of energy to the body. If not used immediately for energy, carbohydrates are converted into their simplest form which is glucose, a type of Monosaccharide. Glucose is then stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. Glycogen can be converted into glucose to provide energy when the body needs it. 

Carbohydrates also include dietary fiber which supports digestive functions.

Fats

Dietary fats are essential for energy production and the absorption of various Micronutrients (we will get to those shortly). They also help in supporting the normal structural components of cells and regulating the balance of hormones.

Excessive consumption of fats is linked to higher risk of heart diseases and stroke. 

Proteins

Proteins are considered to be the building blocks of the body, important for growth and development of tissues. Proteins also support the repair and healing processes. 

What are Micronutrients?

Micronutrients are the nutrients that we need to consume in trace amounts. Unlike macronutrients, micronutrients do not yield energy. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals – sometimes even a very little bit makes a difference. 

Micronutrients are essential to the body’s antioxidant potential. They also help in eliminating toxins that can impact your health. Micronutrients are vital for the synthesis of enzymes and other components that are needed for different functions of the body.

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There are 15 minerals and 13 vitamins that are considered essential for human health. The body’s need for micronutrients are usually measured in smaller units like micrograms (mcg) milligrams (mg), and international units (IU). [4] [5]

Some of the micronutrients our body needs to function optimally include vitamins A, B-complex, C, D, E and K, and minerals such as calcium, iron, sodium, magnesium, and potassium.  

Pregnant and breastfeeding women need to ensure they consume foods rich in iron, calcium, and folic acid as the body’s requirement for these micronutrients is higher during these phases. [6]

We need to ensure that our bodies receive a good supply of these vitamins and minerals to avoid any health issues. An adequate supply of vitamins A and B would help support their eyesight and nerve health, respectively. Calcium and vitamin D are perhaps the most important nutrients as far as women’s health is concerned. Lack of vitamin D can result in calcium deficiency and increase the risk of poor bone health, osteoporosis, and fractures in menopausal women. [7] [8]

Dietary composition of Micronutrients and Macronutrients

The dietary guidelines by concerned health authorities have recommended men and women to consume a diet rich in carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and essential vitamins and minerals to support the health and functions of all vital organs and tissues. [9] [10]

The recommended dietary composition of macronutrients based on the total calorie content of meals is:

  • 45% to 65% of total calories from carbohydrates
  • 10% to 35% of total calories from proteins
  • 20% to 35% of total calories from fats

But we all process foods differently and you should pay attention to what makes your body feel good.  The best way to make sure your diet contains an appropriate combination of macronutrients in the correct amounts is to calculate your daily calorie needs depending on your physical activities. 

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For example, bodybuilders who perform strenuous exercises have high energy needs. They also need to consume a protein-rich diet to build muscle mass and diet could contain a higher number of calories with a large percentage of them coming from proteins. 

On the other hand, if you suffer from diabetes you need to reduce their carbohydrate intake in order to maintain normal blood sugar levels. 

Let’s wrap it up!  The key things you need to know about Macronutrients and Micronutrients

  • Macronutrients make up the foods we eat to make sure our organs are functioning properly. Micronutrients contained in those foods and in nutritional supplements are needed by the body in trace amounts. 
  • Macronutrients are meant to promote growth. Macronutrients provide calories that provide energy to the body. Micronutrients don’t have calories and do not provide a source of energy to the body. [11]
  • Too many Macronutrients, especially carbohydrates and fats like trans and saturated fats, can lead to health issues such as diabetes, obesity, and heart attacks. 
  • Too many Micronutrients can also be problematic.  For example, the over-intake of vitamin A supplements or foods containing it may lead to a condition called hypervitaminosis.  Make sure you are aware of the supplements you are using and consult your doctor about the ideal amounts to be taking. 

Both Micronutrients and Macronutrients are vital for maintaining health and fitness. It is critical to get an adequate supply of these nutrients in the recommended doses to restore healthy functions and inhibit the development of diseases linked to deficiencies.  Ostego Nutrition has fantastic recipes with great ideas for getting more essential Micronutrients into your healthy body!  

References:

    1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2585731/
    2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5299688/
    3. http://www.fao.org/docrep/pdf/X2650t/X2650t02.pdf
    4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3823510/
    5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/listing_of_vitamins
    6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK132251/
    7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4046613/
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3778563/
  2. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/2015-2020_dietary_guidelines.pdf
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6413112/

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