Macronutrients and micronutrients are in everything we eat. We need both for different reasons and understanding the difference between these two groups is important when it comes to learning about how to incorporate and maintain a healthy, balanced diet that supports optimal health and well-being -- but which is which and how much do you need each day? To clear up any confusion, we have broken things down...
Macronutrients include three primary nutrients; fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Often referred to as 'macros',these nutrients are required by the body in large "macro" amounts and are measured in grams. Almost any whole food will include at least two of the three.
Macronutrients support essential functions in the body — without them, or when they aren't eaten in the proper ratio, people can experience significant health setbacks. Fats and proteins are essential in that your body cannot make them on its own, and they must be obtained through foods or nutritional supplements. Carbohydrates are the bodies preferred energy source and can be manufactured in the absence of dietary intake, however including healthy carbohydrates is important when it comes to your overall health.
Diets often focus on how many grams of each macronutrient you need and while there are basic requirements for fats and protein, instead of counting macros there is an often overlooked yet essential factor to consider -- micronutrients.
Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals, they are required in smaller "micro" amounts and are typically measured in milligrams or micrograms. The body requires micronutrients every day to function optimally, and as many cannot be produced by the body they must also be obtained from a wide variety of whole foods. Fruits and vegetables are the richest source of these essential nutrients: vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and also fiber.
Adequate intake of all micronutrients is vital for overall health as each vitamin and mineral has specific functions. Micronutrients enable our body to be healthy and process the larger macronutrients, they also assist the circulatory and immune systems, aid in bone health and brain development, and help maintain fluid balance. Other than vitamin D, which the body can make on its own with the help of sunlight, micronutrients must be obtained through dietary intake. Supplementing your whole food diet with an activated multi-vitamin and mineral is a great way to optimize daily nutrient intake.
To ensure you're getting a good balance of macronutrients and micronutrients that promote health, there are a few basic foundations to get you started:
Focus on a diet that prioritizes whole foods from all three macros: healthy fats, good quality protein and carbohydrates. Eating 7–9+ cups of colorful, fruit and vegetables per day will then provide a substantial amount of your daily micronutrient requirement. Another great way to ensure you're getting the right amount of key nutrients is to incorporate a daily supplemental protocol that covers all bases.
The foundation of health relies on nutrient-dense foods to aid in essential body functions but also nourish our cells, support healthy levels of inflammation, counteract free radical damage and promote optimal hormone balance.
In order to get both the macro and micronutrients needed daily, incorporating 2-3 cups of vegetables, about 1/2 - 1 cup of protein (palm sized) and a few tablespoons of healthy fats at each meal is a great place to start. Fruit is another rich source of micronutrients with natural sugars and fiber, so be sure to include a few servings daily based on your current health and goals. This basic rule of thumb can be applied without counting macros and will go a long way to provide your body with all the nutrients it needs for overall well-being.