When it comes to macronutrients vs micronutrients, both are equally important. If you’re trying to follow a healthy diet, it’s important to familiarize yourself with these essential nutrients. Knowing about each type of nutrient could go a long way toward helping you eat a healthier diet.
Here’s a look at macronutrients vs. micronutrients, and why both are critical for your overall well being.
What’s The Difference Between Macronutrients And Micronutrients? What You Need To Know About Different Essential Nutrients
The main difference between macronutrients and micronutrients is in the amount of each you need. The human body needs more macronutrients than micronutrients. Macronutrients include protein, fat, carbohydrates, and water. Micronutrients include a wide variety of minerals and vitamins. 1
Essential micronutrients include:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B12
What Are The Important Macronutrients? Carbohydrates, Protein, And Fat
Three essential macronutrients you get through your diet are carbs, protein, and fat. But what makes each nutrient so important to the body’s ability to function properly?
- Carbohydrates – Proper carbohydrate intake is vital in many ways. Carbs help give you the energy you need to exercise, but they also provide energy for your central nervous system. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, about 40-50 percent of your calories consist of carbohydrates. If you get regular exercise, that percentage goes up to 60 percent. Good sources of carbs include whole grains, fruit, and dairy products.
- Protein – Protein is another essential nutrient, one that helps regulate metabolism. This macronutrient is also a building block of many of the body’s tissues, as well as skin, hair, bones, and more. Food sources of protein include grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
- Fats – Fats help store energy and protect internal organs. About 20-35 percent of your calories should come from fat.3
Note: While fats are important, you have to be careful about the kind you ingest. You’ll learn more about this in the next section.
Major Differences Between Saturated Fat, Unsaturated Fat, And Trans Fat
All fats are not created alike. The three main kinds are saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and trans fat.
- Saturated fats are usually found in chicken, pork, and beef.
- Sources of unsaturated fats, the healthy fats, include fish, seeds, and nuts.
- Trans fats are usually found in margarine and whole milk, as well as snacks, such as cookies and cakes.4
Saturated fat and trans fats are bad for you. They do not support heart health. Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, do.5
Essential Micronutrients: Eating A Healthy Diet With The Right Vitamins And Minerals
Even though you might not need as many micronutrients in your diet, that doesn’t mean they’re not important. Not getting enough of them could affect your health. Iron, for example, is a micronutrient that’s especially important for young children. It plays a major role in cognitive development and the development of motor skills.6
As you saw earlier, a lot of vitamins are micronutrients. Here’s a quick look at a few vitamins and why they’re so important.
- Vitamin A – This is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it is absorbed with the fat in the food you eat. The body then stores the vitamin in your fatty tissue.7Vitamin A not only helps support good vision, it also helps ensure that your kidneys, lungs, heart, and other major organs continue to work as they should.8
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D plays a role in keeping your bones healthy because it makes it possible for the body to absorb calcium. This vitamin also supports healthy muscles and nerves, as well as a strong immune system.9
- Vitamin E – Vitamin E also supports the immune system. In addition, it plays a role in preventing blood clots. It does this by helping to widen the blood vessels, allowing blood to flow properly.10
- Vitamin B1 – Also known as thiamin, B1 is another essential nutrient your body needs in order to function properly. Your body needs to be able to convert food into energy, and vitamin B1 makes that possible. It also helps promote cell growth.11
Macronutrients Vs. Micronutrients: Daily Vitamin/Nutrient Intake
In order to eat a healthy diet, you’ll need to know the number of nutrients to consume on a daily basis. When you check the nutrition label on the products you buy in the grocery store, you’ll see a section known as Daily Value. You might see it listed as %DV , or the percentage of the daily value of a certain nutrient that product provides.12
These numbers are general, of course. They’re designed for what is considered an “average” person.13
So, what should your daily micronutrient and macronutrient intake be? Here’s a quick look at a few nutrients in each category, and how much you should be getting. Of course, you’ll want to consult your doctor for more precise information based on your weight, lifestyle, etc.
Recommended micronutrient intake
- Vitamin A – 700 micrograms (mcg) for women/900 mcg for men
- Vitamin C – 75 milligrams (mg) for women/90 mg for men
- Vitamin E – 15 mg for both men and women14
Recommended macronutrient intake
- Carbohydrates – 130 grams (g)15
- Protein – 55 g (for a 150-pound adult;.8 grams per kilogram of body weight is the RDA)16
- Fats – 44-77 g (based on a diet of 2,000 calories per day); 30 percent should be from unsaturated fat and less than 10 percent should be from saturated fat. You should avoid trans fat completely.17
There is no perfect answer to how much of a micronutrient or macronutrient you should consume each day. Your doctor can help you determine the amounts you specifically need.
Macrominerals and Trace Minerals: Why They’re Also Important
While this article focuses on micronutrients and macronutrients, it’s important to know that macrominerals and trace minerals are vital to your health as well. Like macronutrients, you need more macrominerals in your diet. Examples of macrominerals are:
Trace minerals comprise a sub-category of micronutrients. They’re still important, but you don’t need as much of them. Trace minerals include:
Remember To Talk To Your Doctor Before Changing Your Diet
If you’re trying hard to start eating healthy, you’ll want to take several things into consideration. You’ll want to consider your amino acid intake, the number of fatty acids you’re consuming, and much, much more. And remember: always speak to your doctor first before making any major dietary changes. They’ll work with you to come up with a specific plan that works the best for you.