Micro vs Macro - What's the difference?

Optimizing diet and nutrition is a key part of achieving overall health.  However, with what seems to be a new diet trend and fad coming out every other day, the world of nutrition lingo can become quite confusing to the average individual.  One misunderstanding I find in a lot of people is the difference between macronutrients and micronutrients, and the importance of each.  Both are needed for optimal nutrition, and understanding what each term means can help people better achieve their dietary and health goals.

Macronutrients include the three major groups of food - proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.  Each category of macro is important for different reasons. 

  • Proteins are known as the “building blocks” of life because the amino acids in the proteins are key components to building healthy lean muscle mass.  Some of the best sources of protein come from lean animal products including wild-caught fish, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, and grass-fed beef.  There are also plenty of ways to get adequate protein from plant foods, such as avocados, seeds, nuts, and leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale. 
  • Carbohydrates are found in most foods, and they are converted to glucose by the body to be used as energy at the cellular level.  While carbohydrates are important to include in a balanced diet, we must be careful because excess carbohydrates that the body is unable to use as energy are converted and stored as fat.  To prevent that conversion, carbohydrate sources should be high in fiber, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. 
  • Healthy fats protect our organs, help absorb vitamins and nutrients, have anti-inflammatory properties, and improve brain and cardiovascular function.  Some of the healthiest forms of dietary fats come from seeds, nuts, wild-caught fish, coconut and olive oil, and grass-fed meats. 

Micronutrients are the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and organic acids that are essential for proper nutrition.  These are consumed in much smaller portions that macronutrients, but are still vital for good health.  Many diseases and health conditions can be related to micronutrient deficiencies and can be reversed when proper amounts of micronutrients are supplemented back into the diet. 

  • Vitamins include Vitamin A, Bs, C, D, E, and K. 
  • Minerals essential for good health include (alphabetically, among others) boron, calcium, chloride, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc. 
  • Other important micronutrients include acetic acid, citric acid, coenzyme Q-10 and omega-3 fatty acids. 

Micronutrients are found in a wide variety of different foods, however, most Americans are deficient in at least one micronutrient.  For this reason, I recommend that everyone should take some form of multivitamin to help fill in the gaps.  The best way to find out if there is a micronutrient deficiency is via a thorough blood test.  If a deficiency is found, proper supplementation can be added to fill in the gaps before a health condition arises.

Understanding nutritional terms can be confusing, but can also be very helpful to sort through the ever-growing amount of information out there.  As always, be sure your information is coming from a trusted source.  We’re here to help!

Yours in Health, Dr. Alex

Project Wellness Company - Madison WI