Micronutrients vs. Macronutrients: What’s The Difference?

Macronutrients and micronutrients are terms often used by dietitians and nutrition experts to refer to your diet. Counting macros is an effective way to ensure you’re following a balanced, healthy diet.

If you’ve ever consulted a nutritionist or dietitian you’ve probably heard the words “micronutrients” and “macronutrients” bandied about – but did they actually explain what these are?

Below we breakdown micros vs macros and explain why they’re essential to your health.

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Micronutrients vs. macronutrients: the differences explained

You can probably hazard a guess as to what the main difference is just from the names – micro means small while macro means big.

Speaking to Mayo Clinic, Dr. Donald Hensrud reiterates we need both categories of nutrients in our diets but for different reasons. “We need macronutrients to help with energy and we need micronutrients to help our body be healthy and digest those macronutrients.”

Dietitians recommend tracking both macronutrients and micronutrients to ensure you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet.

Nutritionally speaking, macros are usually measured in grams, such as grams of fat or proteins. Macros are the nutritional compounds we need the most of, specifically:

Carbohydrates: found in foods such as breads, pastas, and fruits that provide 4 calories per gram

Fats: found in foods such as oils, nuts, and meats that provide 9 calories per gram

Protein: found in foods such as eggs, fish, and tofu that provide 4 calories per gram

The above food groups all play different but major roles in the way our body functions.

Differences Micros vs Macros
Carbohydrates, fats and protein are macronutrients, which make up a balanced diet / Freepik

On the other hand, micros are much smaller values in terms of nutrition usually measured in milligrams or even micrograms.

There are lots of micronutrients in the foods you eat, especially fruits and vegetables that are plentiful in vitamins and minerals. Some examples of micronutrients include:

  • Calcium
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Vitamin B-6
  • Vitamin B-12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Zinc

How it works

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends the following daily intake of macronutrients:

  • 45 to 65 percent of calories from carbohydrates
  • 20 to 35 percent of calories from fat
  • 10 to 35 percent of calories from protein

Most scientific research regarding macronutrients involves tracking a person’s diet and breaking it down into macronutrients.

Popular diets

Multiple popular diets employ a macro-based approach where they involve consuming a specific portion of each food group. Typically, the basis of these diets is portion control, not calorie counting. They’re favourable diets among health professionals because they’re relatively flexible and non-restrictive, meaning people tend to get better results as they stick at them longer. These diets can be followed to achieve different health goals ranging from building lean muscle mass to weight loss. Popular macro diets include ketogenic (keto), paleo and Weight Watchers.

Is a macro-based diet right for you?

It’s always best to talk to a nutritional expert when considering a new diet, particularly if you have underlying health concerns or issues. A dietitian or nutritionist will talk you through your goals and provide recommendations unique to you (which we’re all about here of course!).

Main image: Freepik

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