Differences Between Macronutrients and Micronutrients
The substances that keep the human body functioning are known as nutrients. The source of any nutrient is found in the food that we eat on a daily basis. Nutrients help the body to grow, provide energy, develop new tissues protect against infections and regulate basic body functions. Hence, nutrients can be regarded as a powerhouse for the body.
Generally, there are six groups of nutrients that are essential for the efficient working of the body. Those are:
Nutrients are further divided into two main categories according to their requirement and function i.e., macronutrients and micronutrients.
The current article attempts to describe the two categories in details and differentiate between them according to their characteristics and their function in the body.
Macronutrients and Their Types
As the term suggests, macronutrients are the type of nutrients that are required in a large amount (in grams) on a daily basis. These include water, carbohydrates, lipids (or fats) and proteins.
These macronutrients are found in different proportions in foods that we consume but are equally essential for the growth and developmental processes of the body.
Carbohydrates – The primary function of this type of macronutrient is to provide energy to the body, especially to the brain. In addition, carbohydrates or carbs tend to store energy in the form of glucose (glycogen) that can later be used by the body to maintain normal blood sugar levels, hence keeping the body in order.
It is advised to eat a specific amount of carbs (based on each individual’s daily requirement) because when we eat carbs in excess, the body turns them into fat and the fat becomes stored energy, resulting in weight gain.
Carbohydrates are further divided into:
- Simple Carbohydrates
- Complex Carbohydrates
Simple carbs are sugars that are naturally found in milk and generally added to foods through raw sugar, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and glucose etc. Simple carbs are found in foods such as soda, baked treats, cookies, fruit juices, breakfast cereals and are considered as carbs that need to be avoided.
Complex carbs, on the other hand, are suggested as a healthy carb type that are more nutritious and higher in fiber and starch. Complex carbs take longer to digest, promote bowel regularity and help to control cholesterol. They are also a good source of energy and help in the maintenance of weight.
The main sources of dietary fiber from carbohydrates are fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains. Some other sources of healthy and complex carbs are oats, corn, peas, whole wheat bread and cereals.
Fats – Fat, just like carbohydrates, is an essential macronutrient for balanced functioning of the human body. If consumed in the right proportion and from right sources, fat helps in normal growth and development, stores energy, absorbs certain vitamins, maintains cell membranes and provides taste, consistency and stability to foods.
The major food sources that we get fats from are: meat, poultry, nuts, milk, butter, oils, grain products and fish. Some foods that are high in fat content are avocado, cheese, dark chocolate, whole eggs, nuts, chia seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, and full fat yogurt etc.
Proteins – Another macronutrient that is crucial to good health, proteins form the structural part of every single cell of the body. They are made up of amino acids that are further divided into essential and non-essential amino acids.
Our body needs protein in order to maintain the growth and maintenance of its tissues, to help in digestion, energy production, blood clotting, muscle contraction and through the chemical reactions that are aided by protein, the body saves itself from many diseases.
Another function of protein is to regulate hormones, provide strength and elasticity to the body, balance fluids in the body, fight infections and to provide energy just like the other two macronutrients.
Proteins can be found in abundance in foods such as eggs, almonds, chicken, oats, cottage cheese, yogurt, milk, broccoli, tuna, quinoa, lentils, fish, turkey breast, shrimp and peanuts.
Water – Water is another essential macronutrient that is crucial to the body and is required in large amounts just like other macronutrient. However, water does not provide energy but it detoxifies the body, provides hydration and remove toxins from the body.
Another category of nutrients, known as Micronutrients are as essential but required in a small amount for the body. An inadequacy or excess of micronutrients may result in various health issues therefore, their use needs to be carefully examined and they should be consumed adequately as part of the daily recommended intake.
To further explicate, we are going to shed light on some of the major types of micronutrients and their components.
Types of Micronutrients
Micronutrients include minerals and vitamins of numerous types, which are required for optimum functioning of the body.
Vitamins – Although they are needed in relatively small amounts, vitamins are as essential as carbs, proteins and fats. They assist in maintaining normal metabolism, growth and development of various bodily functions as well as regulation of cell function.
Vitamins are further categorized into:
- Water-Soluble Vitamins
Water-soluble vitamins are those that are excreted in urine and hence, need to be taken daily in order to provide maximum benefits to the body.
Some examples of water-soluble vitamins are Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12, Biotin, Folic Acid and Pantothenic Acid. Some of the foods that are rich in water-soluble vitamins are watermelon, milk, broccoli, chicken, bananas, whole grains, eggs, legumes, strawberries and citrus fruits.
- Fat-Soluble Vitamins
Unlike water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the fatty tissues in the body for further use. Fat-soluble vitamins do not dissolve in water and are best absorbed when they are consumed alongside a source of fat.
The examples of fat-soluble vitamins are Vitamin A, D, E and K. These types of vitamins are found in foods such as beef, eggs, sweet potatoes, spinach, fatty fish, vegetable oils, leafy green vegetables, nuts, cabbage, kale and cereals.
Minerals – These types of micronutrients are found in ionized form in the body. They also interact with different functions within the body and are further divided into:
Some minerals are required in macro amounts like calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, sodium and are found in foods such as yogurt, cheese, milk, salt, legumes, seeds, vegetables, grains and meat.
- Microminerals or Trace Minerals
Micro-minerals are required in smaller amounts or traces as compared to macrominerals. They include iron, copper, fluoride, iodine, zinc, manganese, chromium and selenium, to name a few.
Some food sources of microminerals include oysters, pineapple, crab, chickpeas, cod, yogurt, fruit juice, sardines, ham, seaweed etc.
All micronutrients are extremely important for good health and proper functioning of the body. Micronutrients needs to be consumed in adequate amounts and the deficiency of any of the micronutrients whether they are vitamins or minerals can lead to a variety of dysfunctions in the body and cause various health issues.
Differences Between Macronutrients and Micronutrients
From the information that has been gathered so far, it can be safely contended that both macronutrients and micronutrients are essential for the growth, repair, maintenance of various functions in the body.
Some differences that have been drawn between the two, depending on their specific characteristics can be described as follows:
- Macronutrients are required in larger quantities whereas micronutrients are required in smaller amounts on a daily basis.
- Macronutrients are essential for major bodily functions such as growth and development of tissues, maintenance of body temperature and regulation of other life processes. Micronutrients on the other hand, help macronutrients to carry out their functions in the best way possible.
- Macronutrients help in providing energy to the body whereas, micronutrients protect and prevent the body against various diseases.
- Macronutrients are required in grams (g) on a daily basis whereas micronutrients are required only in milligrams (mg) or traces on a daily basis.
- Inadequate use of macronutrients can cause malnutrition, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other metabolic dysfunctions. On the other hand, an inadequate consumption of micronutrients can cause night blindness, liver problems, goiter and various other dysfunctions of vital organs.
The Bottom Line
All food is a source of nutrients for the body. Nutrients are further categorized into macronutrients and micronutrients. Our body needs both types of nutrients in adequate proportions to carry out its functions, and to prevent itself from diseases.
Macronutrients include carbohydrates, fats and proteins. These are required in large amounts and constitute the major proportion of our daily nutrient consumption.
Micronutrients are required in relatively smaller amounts in the body but they are no less essential as compared to macronutrients and help regulate many functions in the body. micronutrients include vitamins and minerals, which are further classified into water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, macrominerals and microminerals.
If an appropriate amount of macronutrients and micronutrients is consumed on a daily basis, they regulate the functions of the body in an optimum manner.
Contrarily, if any of the nutrients are consumed in excess or if there occurs a deficiency of any of them in the body, it usually leads to various dysfunctions and diseases in the body.
Therefore, the consumption of macro and micronutrients should be carefully examined for a healthier, fulfilled body and mind.