Nutrients are vital for the sustenance of life and healthy living. We usually obtain nutrients from the food we eat and sometimes intake them in the form of nutraceuticals or supplements. To get the right amount of nutrients for body functionality, you must take adequate amounts of micronutrients and macronutrients.
What are Nutrients?
Nutrients are essential for body development and growth and are typically obtained from the food we intake. Nutrients include everything that helps body nourishment, including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins, and water. If you do not take all the nutrients in a considerate amount, you may experience malnutrition, leading to severe health conditions.
Nutrients are classified into two types
What are Micronutrients?
As the name indicates, “Micronutrients” mean nutrients required in micro or small amounts. Despite being needed in small amounts, micronutrients play an essential role in body functions and development. Vitamins and minerals are classified as micronutrients and are involved in various body processes like regulating heartbeat, and metabolism. Lack of micronutrients can lead to numerous disabilities and conditions.
Vitamins are one of the two kinds of micronutrients and are further divided into water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. All vitamins fall in either category depending on their solubility in water or fat. Water-soluble vitamins are easily excreted out of the body and need to be replenished. On the contrary, fat-soluble vitamins are not eliminated from the body regularly and are not required to be taken every day when they lie under nutritional values.
- Vitamin B (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Besides vitamins, minerals are also micronutrients required in small amounts to facilitate body processes. Minerals include iron, sodium, calcium, potassium, zinc, etc. They are also divided further into two categories; microminerals and macrominerals according to the body requirement.
All these vitamins and minerals collectively make the micronutrients and must be taken in recommended daily value to ensure you do not miss any of them. Besides micronutrients, macronutrients are also essential for proper body growth.
What are Macronutrients?
Macronutrients are those needed in a macro or larger amount than micronutrients. They essentially include proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Their need in large amounts indicates their importance in day-to-day body function and growth. Proteins are essential for muscle building, while carbohydrates and fats provide energy to the body for biochemical reactions.
The three types of macronutrients with their functions are;
Carbohydrates are broken down into sugars and stored in the body. They act as instant energy sources when needed. They are of three kinds; sugars, starches, and fiber. One of the types of carbohydrates, fibers, aid the digestive system and pass out of the body undigested. Carbohydrates are the primary energy source in the body for vital functions related to CNS and RBCs.
Proteins are the building blocks of the body and aid to body growth by breaking into amino acids. 20 amino acids are essential for the human body’s functions. Proteins help repair and build muscle and tissues apart from providing structure to organs, nails, hair, and skin. They are also responsible for maintaining an acid-base balance in the body and are used to produce hormones and enzymes.
While taking fats in large amounts is not healthy, they are a macronutrient that needs to be taken in a higher quantity than vitamins and minerals. Our body breaks down fats into fatty acids and glycerol and is involved in several body functions like:
- Acting as an energy reserve to utilize in periods of less calorie intake
- Helping in maintaining lipoprotein cell membrane health
- Protecting body organs and providing insulation in case of trauma
Difference between Micronutrients and Macronutrients
They are required in small amounts in the body and aid in body processes.
They are required in large amounts and play a significant role in body growth.
They are also called trace elements.
They are also known as major elements.
They are involved in body processes and save you from several diseases and infections by preventing malnutrition.
They provide energy and contribute to building and maintaining body structure.
Micronutrients are classified as minerals and vitamins.
Macronutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
They are required in fewer amounts in the body, less than 1mg/g.
They are available in higher concentrations of more than 1mg
Micronutrients are not categorized based on their quantity as they are required in trace amounts.
Macronutrients are categorized as Primary and Secondary macronutrients depending on their need in the body.
Micronutrients include iron, zinc, copper, manganese, chlorine, boron, molybdenum
Macronutrients are composed of many primary and secondary macronutrients (elements), including nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus in large quantities, and calcium, sulfur, and magnesium in lesser amounts.
Vegetables, fruits, eggs, green vegetables, fermented foods
Fish, cereals, potatoes, nuts, meat, legumes, yam
Conditions due to Malnutrition
Not taking enough micronutrients can cause diseases like PEM (Protein-energy malnutrition), Marasmus, and Kwashiorkor.
Macronutrient deficiency can lead to Anemia, Scurvy, Goiter, and Night blindness.
Overconsumption of any nutrient is harmful to health, and macronutrient overdose can lead to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and other related health conditions.
Micronutrient overconsumption can damage nerves and the liver.
The Bottom Line
Nutrients are critical to body development, growth, and sustenance of life. Micronutrients and macronutrients are both kinds of nutrients that contribute to body functions and processes. Micronutrients are required in small amounts per the daily recommended value, whereas micronutrients are needed in large amounts for body development. You can obtain vitamins and minerals from plant sources like green vegetables and fruits, while meats, legumes, cereal, fish, and potatoes are major macronutrient sources. Deficiency of nutrients can lead to health conditions like cardiovascular diseases, obesity, scurvy, night blindness, etc.
Anna has completed her degree in Pharmacy from the University of Hawaii. She is serving as a research assistant in a pharmaceutical company. She had a great interest in writing blogs, traveling to different parts of the US, and trying delicious recipes in her spare time.