What are Micronutrients and Macronutrients?

Macronutrients are essential for the day to day operation of your bodies. Macronutrients include fats, carbohydrates, and proteins which are responsible for various functions in the body.

It is important to understand the purpose of each macronutrient by knowing what core functions they play in the body. Below is a breakdown of how each works.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are mainly energy giving foods. This is because they are digested to produce glucose which is the main source of energy for the body. The glucose is also referred to as sugars. It is the energy source for both the central nervous system and muscles. Excess glucose is converted into triglycerides and stored in the cells until the body needs energy when they are converted back. The name carbohydrates come about due to their chemical composition. They contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. 

Sources of carbohydrates include grains, starchy vegetables, whole fruit and dairy among others.

Proteins

The main function of proteins is bodybuilding and acts as a repair agent. However, in particular, proteins are an important component in every cell in the body. Your hair and nails are majorly made of proteins. It is also used in making enzymes and hormones among other body chemicals. Lastly, proteins are considered an important building block for muscles, cartilage, bones, skin, and blood.

Food sources of proteins include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, soy products, and nuts.

Fats

Fats can also be considered as a source of energy for the body though it should be consumed in moderate amounts. When the body lacks carbohydrates as a source of energy, then the body reaches into the fat reserves and begins breaking down fat for energy. It is consumed in moderation because when carbohydrates are available, the fat is stored away. 

Sources of fat include fatty fish, avocado, butter, cheese, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.

Micronutrients

The term micronutrients is used to describe vitamins and minerals in general. 

Macronutrients, on the other hand, include proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

Your body needs smaller amounts of micronutrients relative to macronutrients. That’s why they’re labeled “micro.”

Humans must obtain micronutrients from food since your body cannot produce vitamins and minerals — for the most part. That’s why they’re also referred to as essential nutrients.

Vitamins are organic compounds made by plants and animals which can be broken down by heat, acid or air. On the other hand, minerals are inorganic, exist in soil or water and cannot be broken down. 

When you eat, you consume the vitamins that plants and animals created or the minerals they absorbed.

The micronutrient content of each food is different, so it’s best to eat a variety of foods to get enough vitamins and minerals.

An adequate intake of all micronutrients is necessary for optimal health, as each vitamin and mineral has a specific role in your body.

Vitamins and minerals are vital for growth, immune function, brain development and many other important functions. 

Depending on their function, certain micronutrients also play a role in preventing and fighting disease.

Water-Soluble Vitamins

Most vitamins dissolve in water and are therefore known as water-soluble. They’re not easily stored in your body and get flushed out with urine when consumed in excess. 

While each water-soluble vitamin has a unique role, their functions are related. 

For example, most B vitamins act as coenzymes that help trigger important chemical reactions. A lot of these reactions are necessary for energy production.

The water-soluble vitamins — with some of their functions — are:

  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine): Helps convert nutrients into energy (7).
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): Necessary for energy production, cell function and fat metabolism (8).
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin): Drives the production of energy from food (910).
  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): Necessary for fatty acid synthesis (11).
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): Helps your body release sugar from stored carbohydrates for energy and create red blood cells (12).
  • Vitamin B7 (biotin): Plays a role in the metabolism of fatty acids, amino acids and glucose (13).
  • Vitamin B9 (folate): Important for proper cell division (14).
  • Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): Necessary for red blood cell formation and proper nervous system and brain function (15).
  • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid): Required for the creation of neurotransmitters and collagen, the main protein in your skin (16).

As you can see, water-soluble vitamins play an important role in producing energy but also have several other functions. 

Since these vitamins are not stored in your body, it’s important to get enough of them from food.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins do not dissolve in water.

They’re best absorbed when consumed alongside a source of fat. After consumption, fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your liver and fatty tissues for future use.

The names and functions of fat-soluble vitamins are:

  • Vitamin A: Necessary for proper vision and organ function (17).
  • Vitamin D: Promotes proper immune function and assists in calcium absorption and bone growth (18).
  • Vitamin E: Assists immune function and acts as an antioxidant that protects cells from damage (19).
  • Vitamin K: Required for blood clotting and proper bone development (20).

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins do not dissolve in water.

They’re best absorbed when consumed alongside a source of fat. After consumption, fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your liver and fatty tissues for future use.

The names and functions of fat-soluble vitamins are:

  • Vitamin A: Necessary for proper vision and organ function (17).
  • Vitamin D: Promotes proper immune function and assists in calcium absorption and bone growth (18).
  • Vitamin E: Assists immune function and acts as an antioxidant that protects cells from damage (19).
  • Vitamin K: Required for blood clotting and proper bone development (20).

Sources and recommended intakes of fat-soluble vitamins are (17181920):

Macrominerals

Macrominerals are needed in larger amounts than trace minerals in order to perform their specific roles in your body.

The macrominerals and some of their functions are:

  • Calcium: Necessary for proper structure and function of bones and teeth. Assists in muscle function and blood vessel contraction (21).
  • Phosphorus: Part of bone and cell membrane structure (22).
  • Magnesium: Assists with over 300 enzyme reactions, including regulation of blood pressure (23).
  • Sodium: Electrolyte that aids fluid balance and maintenance of blood pressure (24Trusted Source).
  • Chloride: Often found in combination with sodium. Helps maintain fluid balance and is used to make digestive juices (25).
  • Potassium: Electrolyte that maintains fluid status in cells and helps with nerve transmission and muscle function (26).
  • Sulfur: Part of every living tissue and contained in the amino acids methionine and cysteine (27Trusted Source).
  • muscle function and blood vessel contraction (21).
  • Phosphorus: Part of bone and cell membrane structure (22).
  • Magnesium: Assists with over 300 enzyme reactions, including regulation of blood pressure (23).
  • Sodium: Electrolyte that aids fluid balance and maintenance of blood pressure (24Trusted Source).
  • Chloride: Often found in combination with sodium. Helps maintain fluid balance and is used to make digestive juices (25).
  • Potassium: Electrolyte that maintains fluid status in cells and helps with nerve transmission and muscle function (26).
  • Sulfur: Part of every living tissue and contained in the amino acids methionine and cysteine (27Trusted Source).

Trace Minerals

Trace minerals are needed in smaller amounts than macrominerals but still enable important functions in your body. 

The trace minerals and some of their functions are:

  • Iron: Helps provide oxygen to muscles and assists in the creation of certain hormones (28). 
  • Manganese: Assists in carbohydrate, amino acid and cholesterol metabolism (29).
  • Copper: Required for connective tissue formation, as well as normal brain and nervous system function (30).
  • Zinc: Necessary for normal growth, immune function and wound healing (31).
  • Iodine: Assists in thyroid regulation (32).
  • Fluoride: Necessary for the development of bones and teeth (33).
  • Selenium: Important for thyroid health, reproduction and defense against oxidative damage (34).