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Macronutrients vs. Micronutrients: What’s The Difference?

Published December 03, 2018 (Revised: January 18, 2020)
Ana Reisdorf

Written By: Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD

Ana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with 13-years of experience in the field of nutrition and dietetics

macronutrients-vs-micronutrients
<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context":"http://schema.org", "@type":"BlogPosting", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD" }, "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Warrior Made", "logo": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "https://www.warriormade.com", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2020/01/macronutrients-vs-micronutrients-thumbnail-0027.jpg" } }, "headline":"Macronutrients vs. Micronutrients: What’s The Difference?", "datePublished":"2018-12-03", "dateModified": "2020-01-18", "description":"Confused about macronutrients vs. micronutrients? We break down the difference and why both are important for your health.", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2020/01/macronutrients-vs-micronutrients-thumbnail-0027.jpg" } </script> <script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "FAQPage", "mainEntity": [{ "@type": "Question", "name": "What is the difference between macronutrients and micronutrients?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Macronutrients are nutrients that provide calories (or, energy). Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. They do not contain any calories." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "What are the roles of macronutrients and micronutrients?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "The micronutrients support energy production from the macronutrients in addition to performing other metabolic functions in the body." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "Are macronutrients more important than micronutrients?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "No, in the battle of importance between macronutrients vs. micronutrients there is no winner. You need all of these critical nutrients to be healthy. The amount each individual needs is different and will vary based on your age, gender, weight, activity level, and other lifestyle factors." } }] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">What Is The Difference Between Macronutrients And Micronutrients?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">What Are The Roles Of Macronutrients And Micronutrients?</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">Are Macronutrients More Important Than Micronutrients?</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">Macronutrients vs. Micronutrients—Wrap Up</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>You eat to give your body the nutrients it needs to function optimally. </p> <p>Nutrients from food are used for energy and to help support the body’s metabolic functions. When it comes to nutrition, nutrients are divided up into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. </p> <p>Humans need the right amount of each of these to survive and thrive.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section1"> <h2>What is the difference between macronutrients and micronutrients?</h2> <p>Macronutrients are nutrients that provide calories (or, energy). Usually macronutrients are measured in grams because larger quantities are needed to meet daily needs.</p> <p>There are four main macronutrients:<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/nutritional-disorders/nutrition-general-considerations/overview-of-nutrition?qt=&sc=&alt=#v881321" rel="nofollow noreferrer">1</a></sup>:</p> <ul> <li>Carbohydrates</li> <li>Protein</li> <li>Fat</li> <li>Water</li> </ul> <p>All foods contain water and are a source of at least one other macronutrient. Many foods contain all the macronutrients.</p> <p>Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. They do not contain any calories. We need smaller amounts of these nutrients, therefore they are measured in milligrams or micrograms. </p> <p>The micronutrients support energy production from the macronutrients in addition to performing other metabolic functions in the body.</p> <p>The micronutrients include<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/vitamins-and-minerals" rel="nofollow noreferrer">2</a></sup>:</p> <ul> <li>Vitamin C</li> <li>B-vitamins</li> <li>Fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K</li> <li>Iron</li> <li>Calcium</li> <li>Magnesium</li> <li>Potassium</li> <li>Sodium</li> <li>Zinc</li> </ul> <p>Food contains varying quantities of the different micronutrients. There is no one food that contains all the vitamins and minerals needed for optimal health.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micros-vs-macros-0027.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micros-vs-macros-0027.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micros-vs-macros-0027.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micros-vs-macros-LR-0027.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="micros vs macros"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section2"> <h2>What are the roles of macronutrients and micronutrients?</h2> <p>Each macro- and micronutrient has its own individual role. Here is a breakdown of the role of each nutrient:</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-carb-0027.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-carb-0027.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-carb-0027.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-carb-LR-0027.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="macro carb"> </picture> <h3>Carbohydrates</h3> <p>Primarily used for fast acting energy. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate necessary for <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-constipation-how-to-combat-digestive-issues/" rel="noreferrer">proper digestion</a>.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://medlineplus.gov/carbohydrates.html" rel="nofollow noreferrer">3</a></sup></p> <p><i>Main sources</i>: Fruits, vegetables, and grains.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-protein-0027.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-protein-0027.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-protein-0027.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-protein-LR-0027.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="macro protein"> </picture> <h3>Protein</h3> <p>Needed to maintain the structure of muscles, organs, and other body tissues. Involved in hormones, nutrient transport, and making enzymes.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://medlineplus.gov/dietaryproteins.html" rel="nofollow noreferrer">4</a></sup></p> <p><i>Main sources</i>: Meat, dairy products, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/the-best-nuts-for-keto/" rel="noreferrer">nuts</a>.<p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-fats-0027.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-fats-0027.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-fats-0027.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-fats-LR-0027.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="macro fats"> </picture> <h3>Fats</h3> <p>Protects organs from damage and provides insulation. Can be used as an energy reserve. Makes up brain tissue. Helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://medlineplus.gov/dietaryfats.html" rel="nofollow noreferrer">5</a></sup></p> <p><i>Main sources</i>: <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/healthier-substitutes-for-vegetable-oil/" rel="noreferrer">Oils</a>, nuts, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/carbs-in-avocados/" rel="noreferrer">avocados</a>, animal protein, and dairy products.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-water-0027.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-water-0027.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-water-0027.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-water-LR-0027.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="macro water"> </picture> <h3>Water</h3> <p>Helps with digestion. Dissolves and carries vitamins and minerals throughout the body. Moistens tissues and provides lubrication. Helps flush toxins. Regulates body temperature.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002471.htm" rel="nofollow noreferrer">6</a></sup></p> <p><i>Main sources</i>: Plain water, any beverage, and all foods contain some water.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-vitamin-c-0027.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-vitamin-c-0027.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-vitamin-c-0027.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-vitamin-c-LR-0027.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="micro vitamin"> </picture> <h3>Vitamin C</h3> <p>Needed for skin and gum health. Works as an antioxidant. Necessary to make hormones.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">7</a></sup></p> <p><i>Main sources</i>: Most fruits and vegetables, especially citrus, tomatoes, and peppers.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-vitamin-B-0027.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-vitamin-B-0027.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-vitamin-B-0027.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-vitamin-B-LR-0027.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="micro vitamin"> </picture> <h3>B-vitamins</h3> <p>There are eight B-vitamins the body needs to survive. Most of these play a role in helping the body use energy for food. Others are used for brain development and nervous system function.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://medlineplus.gov/bvitamins.html" rel="nofollow noreferrer">8</a></sup></p> <p><i>Main sources</i>: Animal protein, dairy products, and nuts. </p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-nutrients-0027.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-nutrients-0027.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-nutrients-0027.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-nutrients-LR-0027.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="micro nutrients"> </picture> <h3>Fat Soluble Vitamins</h3> <p>There are four fat-soluble vitamins: A, E, D, K. </p> <ul> <li>Vitamin A is needed for vision and healthy skin. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-Consumer/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">9</a></sup></li> <li>Vitamin D is needed for hormone function and bone health. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">10</a></sup></li> <li>Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-Consumer/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">11</a></sup></li> <li>Vitamin K is used for blood clotting and bone health. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitaminK-HealthProfessional/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">12</a></sup></li> </ul> <p><i>Main sources</i>:</p> <ul> <li>Vitamin A: liver and orange-colored fruits and vegetables</li> <li>Vitamin D: sunlight, fish, egg yolks</li> <li>Vitamin E: fats, oils, nuts, and seeds</li> <li>Vitamin K: green leafy vegetables</li> </ul> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-iron-0027.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-iron-0027.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-iron-0027.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-iron-LR-0027.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="micro iron"> </picture> <h3>Iron</h3> <p>Needed for healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">13</a></sup></p> <p><i>Main sources</i>: Animal protein, beans, and legumes.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-calcium-0027.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-calcium-0027.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-calcium-0027.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-calcium-LR-0027.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="micro calcium"> </picture> <h3>Calcium</h3> <p>Needed for strong bones, blood clotting, and muscle function. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">14</a></sup></p> <p><i>Main sources</i>: Dairy products, fish with bones, and green leafy vegetables. </p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-magnesium-0027.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-magnesium-0027.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-magnesium-0027.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-magnesium-LR-0027.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="micro magnesium"> </picture> <h3>Magnesium</h3> <p>Needed for muscle contraction and bone health. Plays a role in over 300 chemical reactions in the body.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">15</a></sup></p> <p><i>Main sources</i>: Spinach, nuts, and avocados.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-potassium-0027.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-potassium-0027.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-potassium-0027.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-potassium-LR-0027.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="micro potassium"> </picture> <h3>Potassium</h3> <p>Important electrolyte that regulates water balance and heart rhythm. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Potassium-HealthProfessional/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">16</a></sup></p> <p><i>Main sources</i>: Acorn squash, salmon, and avocados. </p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-sodium-0027.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-sodium-0027.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-sodium-0027.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-sodium-LR-0027.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="micro sodium"> </picture> <h3>Sodium</h3> <p>Important electrolyte that regulates water balance along with potassium. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/salt-and-sodium/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">17</a></sup></p> <p><i>Main sources</i>: Table salt, found in most foods.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-zinc-0027.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-zinc-0027.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-zinc-0027.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/micro-zinc-LR-0027.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="micro zinc"> </picture> <h3>Zinc</h3> <p>Helps with wound healing and making enzymes. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">18</a></sup></p> <p><i>Main sources</i>: Shellfish, nuts, dairy products</p> <p>Note: The list above represents just a few of the micronutrients the body needs (there are many others that are not mentioned here), but are critically important for health.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-micro-nutrients-0027.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-micro-nutrients-0027.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-micro-nutrients-0027.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/macro-micro-nutrients-LR-0027.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="macro micro nutrients"> </picture> <h2 id="section3">Are macronutrients more important than micronutrients?</h2> <p>No, in the battle of importance between macronutrients vs. micronutrients there is no winner. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/do-micronutrients-matter-as-much-as-macronutrients/" rel="noreferrer">You need all of these critical nutrients</a> to be healthy. The amount each individual needs is different and will vary based on your age, gender, weight, activity level, and other lifestyle factors.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section4"> <h2>Macronutrients vs. Micronutrients—Wrap Up</h2> <p>Unfortunately, in our modern diets many of the processed foods we consume are high in macronutrients, (especially carbohydrates and fat) but low in micronutrients. This imbalance makes it more challenging to meet your daily micronutrient needs. </p> <p>If you limit the processed foods you consume and eat a varied diet, with a focus on protein, vegetables, and healthy fats, you will meet your micronutrient needs without much effort. </p> <p>A healthy diet is a balanced diet that provides the right amount of macro- and micronutrients that you need to feel your best.</p> </section> </article>

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