Micro vs. Macronutrients: What’s the Difference?
Food provides a wide range of nutrients, from vitamins and minerals to protein. Your body needs these compounds to function at its peak. Even the slightest nutritional deficiency can affect digestion, brain function, metabolism, and hormonal balance. However, not all nutrients are created equal. Some are required in large amounts. Others should only be consumed in small doses. For this reason, they are divided into two main categories: micro and macronutrients.
What Are Macronutrients?
Macronutrients include protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Your body uses these chemicals to build and repair tissues, regulate digestion, and maintain a healthy immune function. Unlike micronutrients, these compounds are required in large doses and provide energy in the form of calories. The word “makro” (Greek) means big.
While water is needed in large amounts, it’s not considered a macronutrient because it provides no calories. Some experts claim that alcohol can be classified as a macronutrient because it delivers seven calories per gram. However, since it’s not essential to health and survival, it doesn’t really belong to this category.
Protein and carbs provide for calories per gram, while fat contains nine calories per gram. How much of each you need depends on your age, weight, activity levels, and fitness goals. For instance, athletes have higher protein and carb requirements compared to the average person.
What Are Micronutrients?
The term “micronutrients” refers to the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals in food. These compounds are required in small amounts. They play a key role in growth and development, disease prevention, immunity, hormone production, and overall health. Micronutrients have no calories. However, this doesn’t mean they are less important than protein, carbs, and fats.
The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in your diet contribute to energy metabolism and other bodily functions. They help with bone growth, hemoglobin synthesis, muscle repair, and protection against oxidative stress. For example, antioxidants slow down aging, scavenge free radicals, and reduce cancer risk. Calcium keeps your bones strong and supports metabolic function. B-complex vitamins support brain health and ward off mental diseases.
Your meals should provide a balanced ratio of micro and macronutrients. Beware that certain cooking methods, such as frying and boiling, can destroy the nutrients in food. If you’re a vegan or following a special diet, consider taking supplements. Multivitamins, fish oil, protein powder, and mineral supplements can help prevent deficiencies and boost your health.
Information for General Purposes Only
Information provided on this Web site and on all publications, packaging, and labels is for general purposes only and designed to help you make informed decisions about your health. It is not intended to substitute advice from your physician or health-care professional.