Have you ever heard someone use the term micronutrients and think to yourself what the heck, I thought they were tracking macronutrients? If so, you’re not alone. I’ve had people ask me what the difference is, and I realized there may some confusion between the two, as they are both frequently used in the health/fitness/nutrition worlds. Although they may sound very similar, they are actually quite different, which is the reason I wanted to write this short, but informative blog post.
Macronutrients are defined as the structural and energy-giving caloric components of our foods. These are the ones that most of us are familiar with–proteins, carbohydrates, and fats–that people who “track macros” ensure they hit a certain daily gram of each of the three. On the other hand, micronutrients are the vitamins, minerals, trace elements, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that are essential for good health. These include minerals such as fluoride, selenium, sodium, iodine, copper and zinc. as well as vitamins such as vitamin C, A, D, E and K, and the B-complex vitamins. Micronutrients are called so because they are only needed in small, miniscule amounts. However, their absence can be detrimental due to the important part that micronutrients play in our bodies.
If macros are the structure, micros are the support that enable our bodies to produce enzymes, hormones, and other essential substances. The quantity and quality of both types of nutrients vary greatly depending on the types of food you eat. For example, processed foods tend to have more macronutrients at the expense of micronutrients. Likewise you’ve probably seen or heard people refer to their salad or plate of veggies as “health” or “#micros” because fruits and vegetables have loads of micronutrients in them. However, while people track macros, micros are not something you need to stress out over with regards to tracking them. As long as you are filling your diet with mostly whole foods, plenty of fruits and veggies, and a good balance of foods, you should be good to go with your micros. In some cases, such as a deficiency, disease, or other physical/medical issues, there may be a reason to keep an eye on a certain vitamin or mineral; however, your medical professional would be in charge of this–nothing for you to worry about figuring out.
A balanced diet should contain a mix of all the macronutrients as well as adding in your micronutrients for the healthiest you possible. How or where you get each type of nutrient from is up to you, your lifestyle, food preferences, etc. A list of good sources of the different macro and micronutrients can be found here.