You take in a lot of nutrients throughout the day. Whether it’s through organic matter (or rather, organic compounds) like a glass of water, or an entire meal, those nutrients are working to help store and boost your energy throughout the day. But did you know that there are different categories of nutrients? It’s time to learn the difference between macronutrients versus micronutrients, which kind you’re getting (or not getting) through the foods you’re eating, and how you can get more of the good stuff to support your health with each meal.
What Are Micronutrients?
Despite the name, micronutrients are a major group of nutrients that your body needs to thrive. Just like plants absorb nutrients from the ground into their root systems to help their plant cells grow, micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that can help your body produce energy. They may also help support your immune system and bone health.1
Note: The “micro” in micronutrients refers to the amount your body needs (you need these in smaller amounts compared to macronutrients).2
To give you a better idea of what micronutrients do and where they can be found, here are just some the essential nutrients and functions vitamins and minerals provide:
- Vitamin A helps aid proper vision and organ function. Dairy and fish, as well as sweet potatoes, carrots, and spinach are great sources of vitamin A.3
- Vitamin D: Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D (found in sunlight, milk, and fish) is a great way to help support your immune system and bone growth.4
- Vitamin B: This vitamin is composed of 8 separate vitamins. It can be found in whole grains, meat, and fish. It has plenty of different functions, including converting nutrients into energy, synthesizing fatty acids, helping your body form blood cells, and more.5
- Vitamin K can be found in those delicious leafy greens and in pumpkin. It’s great for proper bone development and blood flow.6
This list barely scratches the surface of all of the micronutrients that are necessary for a healthy diet. Other important micronutrients include minerals like calcium, iron, and zinc. While many of these nutrients can be consumed via a water-soluble vitamin capsule, some nutrients should be consumed in whole foods to keep you up and running.7
What Are Macronutrients?
Macronutrients are essential nutrients you need in larger amounts in order to function. The macronutrients found in different food groups are imperative to your body and brain function, and they help give you the majority of your energy to get through the day.8
Types Of Macronutrients
There are three types of macronutrients:
- Carbohydrates: All carbs you consume (the two main types are simple and complex) are eventually broken down into glucose, which is the main energy source that allows specific organs to function. Carbs can be found in beans, nuts, and seeds, as well as grains like breads, rice, and pasta.
- Proteins: Proteins help your body grow, build, repair tissues, and protect your muscle mass. All proteins are composed of amino acids. Think of these as the “building blocks” of protein that help aid your body in its necessary functions. There are both essential amino acids and non-essential (meaning that your body can naturally create them). Protein-rich foods include poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, and even non-animal products like beans, nuts, lentils, fruits, and vegetables.
- Fats: Fats get a bad rap, but consuming the right kinds of fats is actually imperative in creating a healthy diet, as they help you store energy, protect your organs, create growth hormones, and so much more.9 There are three types of fat:
- Trans fat, or trans fatty acid, is the type of fat you want to avoid, as they are not actually nutritional. Foods rich in trans fats include fried foods, cakes, cookies, pizza, butter, and other spreads, although some natural trans fat can be found in beef and lamb products.10
- Saturated fat: These should also be consumed in smaller amounts and are typically found in foods like beef, lamb, pork, butter, cheese, and various baked goods.11
- Unsaturated fat: These are usually loosely packed, room temperature liquids like oleic acid or linoleic acid. Unsaturated fats help support heart health and healthy blood sugar, among other things. Olive oil, peanut oil, vegetable oil, avocadoes, nuts, and seeds are all sources of unsaturated fats and are necessary in creating a healthy diet.12
You need a strong balance of all three types of macronutrients to help you stay healthy and active. Make note of the macronutrients you are and are not consuming in your diet. Be sure to add some of these essentials (and maybe even some others not included on this list that are high in dietary fiber) to your grocery list the next time you go shopping. Ask your doctor about a good dietary reference intake chart if you’re uncertain which nutrients you need more or less of.
How To Support Your Metabolism Throughout The Day
In addition to consuming plenty of micro and macronutrients for the sake of a healthy diet, their consumption can also be a great way to support a healthy metabolism, as it means that your body is absorbing the nutrients from the food you’re eating. Consuming nutritious foods is important to obtain the full benefits of the foods you are eating.13 It’s also good for your body weight, large intestine, and body temperature, too, just to name a few.14
Here are just a few ways you can support a healthy metabolism throughout the day:
- Eat plenty of protein at every meal
- Drink plenty of water
- Exercise regularly
- Stand up more (it burns more calories)
- Replace saturated cooking fats with unsaturated ones, like coconut oil15
In addition to helping your body produce, use, and store energy, having a higher metabolism may help you just feel great in the long run — especially with a diet that’s packed with proteins, healthy fats, and plenty of carbohydrates.
At The End Of The Day..
A healthy diet is all about balance. Your body needs plenty of micronutrients and macronutrients in order to survive. So, it’s important to understand where to find both kinds of nutrients to ensure that you’re getting plenty of the essentials in your recommended dietary allowance.
It can be easy to not pay attention to what you’re putting in your body. But understanding the foods you eat (and the ones you should be eating) can make all the difference when it comes to your overall well-being.