Macronutrients vs Micronutrients: Know the difference and how to balance them in your diet


Both macronutrients and macronutrients are required to keep us healthy. Here is a lowdown on the importance of each.

The food that we eat every day contains both micronutrients as well as macronutrients. While micronutrients are nutrients that are needed in lesser quantities, macronutrients are those that are needed in larger portions for healthy growth. However, in this debate of macronutrients vs micronutrients, it is important to note that both are important for the body.

While macronutrients are needed to maintain our body structure, micronutrients are essential for the optimum functioning of our bodies. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are examples of macronutrients, while micronutrients are vitamins and minerals such as calcium and magnesium.

What are micronutrients?

Micronutrients are essential nutrients that the body requires in smaller quantities compared to macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. These nutrients include vitamins and minerals that play a crucial role in various bodily functions including metabolism, immune function, and overall health. โ€œMicronutrients are obtained through the diet, and deficiencies in these nutrients can lead to various health issues. Some examples of micronutrients include vitamin C, vitamin D, iron, calcium, and zinc,โ€ explains dietician Kejal Shah. Micronutrients can be found in vegetables, fruits, legumes as well as nuts and seeds. The US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention states that micronutrient deficiency is very common in the US. It states that 9 out of 10 Americans are deficient in potassium, and 7 out of 10 have calcium deficiency. Vitamin E deficiency exists in 8 out of 10 adults and 50 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin A, vitamin C, and magnesium.

What are macronutrients?

Macronutrients are nutrients that the body needs in large amounts for energy and growth. They include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. โ€œThese nutrients provide energy, support tissue growth and repair, and help with various bodily functions. Balancing macronutrient intake is important for overall health and well-being,โ€ says Shah. The National Institute of Health states that macronutrients are required to maintain body composition, energy balance, and hormone production, as well as healthy sources of energy.

Micronutrients vs Macronutrients: How do these work

Both these sets of nutrients provide a host of health benefits to the body.

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1. Vitamins

Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential for various bodily functions. They help regulate metabolism, support the immune system, and ensure proper growth and development. There are two types of vitamins: water-soluble (such as vitamin C and B vitamins) and fat-soluble (such as vitamins A, D, E, and K). Vitamin A is essential for vision, skin health, and immune function. Vitamin B helps with energy production, brain function, and red blood cell formation. Vitamin C supports immune function, enhances iron absorption, and acts as an antioxidant, and Vitamin D is important for bone health, and helps regulate calcium and phosphorus levels in the body. A study, published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioural Pediatrics, talks about the importance of avoiding micronutrient deficiency during breastfeeding as well as early childhood. It states that micronutrients are needed for not only growth but a stronger immune system as well as brain development.

2. Minerals

Minerals are inorganic substances that are necessary for various bodily functions and processes. They play a crucial role in maintaining fluid balance, nerve function, muscle contraction, and bone health. There are two types of minerals: macrominerals (required in larger amounts, such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium) and microminerals or trace minerals (required in smaller amounts, such as iron, zinc, and selenium). Calcium is essential for bone and teeth health, muscle function, and nerve transmission. Iron transports oxygen in the blood and aids energy production. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure, muscle function, and fluid balance, while magnesium supports bone health, muscle function, and energy production.

A woman holding weighing scale
While following weight-loss diets, make sure to take adequate amounts of micronutrients as well as macronutrients in order to avoid falling sick. Image courtesy: Freepik

How do macronutrients work?

Here is an explanation of how different types of macronutrients work, along with their benefits:

1. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the bodyโ€™s primary source of energy, providing fuel for physical activity and brain function. They are broken down into glucose, which is used by the body for energy production. The benefits of carbohydrates include providing energy for daily activities and exercise, supporting brain function and cognitive performance, regulating blood sugar levels and preventing fatigue and fiber-rich carbohydrates can support digestive health and prevent constipation. A study published in Advances in Nutrition suggests 130 grams per day carbohydrate consumption for adults. It adds that carbs should consist of 45โ€“65 percent of our total calories.

2. Proteins

Proteins are essential for building and repairing tissues in the body, including muscles, organs, and skin. They are made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein and are necessary for various bodily functions. They help in supporting muscle growth and repair after exercise, helping with the production of enzymes, hormones, and antibodies, and provide a feeling of satiety, which can aid in weight management and playing a role in maintaining a strong immune system and overall health. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that 17-21 percent of calories should come from protein consumption every day.

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3. Fats

Fats are important for providing energy, storing energy, and supporting cell growth and function. They are essential for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and help with hormone production. Fats help provide a concentrated source of energy for prolonged activities, supporting brain health and cognitive function, and maintaining healthy skin and hair. Fats help in insulating and protecting vital organs in the body. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 20 to 35 percent of calories should come from healthy fats.

Macronutrients vs micronutrients: Which one is more important?

Macronutrients provide energy, support growth, and repair tissues, while micronutrients are essential for metabolism, immune function, and overall health. โ€œBoth types of nutrients are important for maintaining optimal health and well-being,โ€ explains Shah. A balanced diet that includes a variety of foods rich in macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) is crucial for supporting the bodyโ€™s functions and preventing nutrient deficiencies.

An avocado egg salad
The keto diet focusses on limited the use of macronutrient carbohydrate and increasing fat intake in the body. Image courtesy: Freepik

How do diets work?

You must have noticed that people who follow diets such as keto and paleo, count macros before eating. Diets like the ketogenic (keto) diet primarily focus on manipulating macronutrient intake, specifically limiting carbohydrates and increasing fats. โ€œWhile the emphasis is on macros, it is still important to consider micronutrients for overall health,โ€ says Shah. Micronutrients play essential roles in metabolism, immune function, and overall well-being, so it is crucial to ensure adequate intake through diet or supplementation while following a macronutrient-focused diet like keto.

Are macronutrients useful for weight loss?

Yes, macronutrients can be useful for weight loss. โ€œProtein can help you feel full, support muscle mass, and increase calorie burning. Choosing complex carbohydrates and healthy fats in moderation can also support weight loss goals by providing essential nutrients, promoting satiety, and supporting overall health,โ€ says Shah. Balancing your intake of macronutrients and overall calorie intake is key for effective weight loss.

Takeaway

In summary, micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals play important roles in various bodily functions and processes, supporting overall health and well-being. Ensuring an adequate intake of these micronutrients through a balanced diet is essential for maintaining optimal health.

In summary, macronutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, play important roles in providing energy, supporting bodily functions, and maintaining overall health. Including a balanced mix of these macronutrients in the diet is essential for optimal health and well-being.



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