Illustration of fruits to highlight macronutrients and micronutrients

Macronutrients vs. Micronutrients

Medically reviewed on Aug 17, 2023 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

When it comes to healthy eating habits, a balanced diet takes center stage. But what is a balanced diet exactly? A well-balanced diet consists of a variety of essential nutrients that play a critical role in the overall function and wellness of your body. This entails incorporating a mix of both macronutrients and micronutrients.

Your body needs large amounts of macronutrients, which include fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, to function properly. Micronutrients, on the other hand, are needed in smaller amounts and include vitamins and minerals. Together, they collaborate to provide proper nutrition for the body and support various physiological processes. [1]

What Are Macronutrients?

Macronutrients, including fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, serve as the foundation of your dietary requirements. [1] As mentioned earlier, a balanced diet requires larger quantities of macronutrient intake. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Fat 101

Oftentimes, fats get a bad rap. However, only certain types of fat are bad for our bodies. There are four types of fats in the foods we eat:

  • Saturated fats – Too many saturated fats, which can be found in beef, pork, poultry, fatty dairy products, eggs, and tropical oils, can raise your cholesterol when consumed in large amounts. As such, it’s generally recommended to consume low amounts of saturated fats to avoid health risks such as heart disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a diet that consists of five to six percent saturated fats. [2]
  • Trans fats – Trans fats are found in foods like donuts, cakes, biscuits, frozen pizza, cookies, and margarine. And, like saturated fats, too much can increase your cholesterol and your risk of heart disease, as well as stroke and type 2 diabetes. Consequently, it’s generally recommended to consume trans fats rarely. [3]
  • Monounsaturated fats – Monounsaturated fats are a type of “healthy fat” that can support heart health, lower cholesterol levels, and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. They’re also often rich in vitamin E, a micronutrient and antioxidant that can help protect your cells from damage. You’ll find monounsaturated fats in a variety of plant-based oils, such as olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, and sesame oil. [4]
  • Polyunsaturated fats – Like monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats are considered healthy fat that can support heart health and healthy cholesterol levels. Oils rich in polyunsaturated fat, which include soybean oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil, also contain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which may help promote skin, heart, brain, eye, and joint health. Polyunsaturated fats are also found in walnuts, sunflower seeds, tofu, and soybeans. [5]

Protein 101

Protein is a compound that makes up the body’s muscles, bones, skin, hair, and various tissues. Food sources rich in protein can include animal protein as well as plant foods. An adequate protein intake ensures that the body receives essential amino acids, the basic units of proteins necessary for various bodily functions.

Accordingly, athletes looking to increase their strength and endurance will add more protein to their diets, often in the form of [6]:

  • Lean meats, such as beef, lamb, and pork
  • Poultry, such as chicken, turkey, and duck
  • Seafood, such as fish, crab, scallops, clam, and oysters
  • Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, and cashews
  • Legumes, such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, and tofu (soybeans)

That said, every person benefits from protein in their diets. The National Academy of Medicine recommends consuming seven grams of protein for every 20 pounds you weigh. For example, someone who weighs 180 pounds would need to eat roughly 63 grams of protein daily. [6]

For reference, one large egg contains about six grams of protein, while one four-ounce sirloin steak contains about 33 grams—about half the daily requirement of a 180-pound adult. [6]

Protein deficiencies, which are common in lower-income populations, can negatively impact muscle mass, immunity, heart health, respiration, and growth and development in children. [6]

While some people opt for protein powders for a convenient helping of protein, it’s important to note that protein powders are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meaning they can contain unhealthy ingredients, such as sugars and thickeners. [6]

Carbohydrates 101

Carbohydrates are the body’s most immediate source of energy. When ingested and digested, the body breaks down carbs into sugar molecules, also called glucose. Cells within the body then use this energy to transport molecules, move muscles, create hormones, and build cell membranes. [7]

That said, an influx of carbohydrates can also spike blood levels. Fortunately, pairing your carbs with healthy fats and proteins can help stabilize blood glucose levels and provide sustained energy to your body. [7]

You’ll find carbohydrates in a variety of foods, both healthy and unhealthy. Nutritionally deficient carbs include highly processed foods like white bread, pastries, and soda. Healthy carbs include vegetables, fruits, whole beans, and whole grains—such as quinoa, brown rice, and barley—which also contain essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. [7]

What Is “Counting Macros?”

Counting macros, which is short for macronutrients, is a type of diet strategy that involves tracking the amounts of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates eaten every day, often based on a target ratio. This ratio can differ depending on each individual’s [8]:

  • Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE)
  • Basal metabolic rate (BMR)
  • Activity level
  • Goal weight

Many people use this method to ensure that they’re eating nutrient-dense foods to support their overall health. High-macro foods include [8]:

  • Brown rice
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Chicken breast
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Avocado
  • Peanut butter
  • Olive oil

What Are Micronutrients?

Now that you know the importance of macronutrient intake, let's answer: what are micronutrients and why are they important? Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals our bodies require for optimal health. They play a role in the regulation of hormone and enzyme production, as well as development and growth. [9]

While the required amounts of these nutrients are small, deficiencies in essential micronutrients can have a large impact on overall wellness. For example, a diet lacking in B vitamins can cause anemia, a condition characterized by low red blood cells, which can cause fatigue, weakness, and dizziness. [9] That said, vitamin B deficiencies are rare in the United States, as most people are able to consume enough of them through the food in their diets. [10]

Fortunately, we only require minimal quantities, and it’s relatively easy to fortify our diets with these vital nutrients. Six of the most essential micronutrients include [11]:

  • Iron – Iron is a mineral that’s essential to our growth, cognitive development, and hormone production. It’s also used to create hemoglobin in red blood cells, which transports oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body. Food sources that are rich in iron include lean meats, seafood, and poultry, as well as nuts, white beans, lentils, spinach, iron-fortified breads, and breakfast cereals. [12]
  • Vitamin A – As a fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin A is stored in fat tissues within the body to support vision, immune health, reproduction, organ function, and growth and development. It’s available in fish, organic meats, dairy products, and eggs. Plant-based alternatives include yellow, orange, and red fruits and vegetables and leafy greens. [13]
  • Vitamin D – Also a fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus to support bone growth. This essential micronutrient also plays a role in immune responses and muscle and nerve functions. While you can obtain vitamin D through the sun’s UV rays, you can also find dietary helpings in fatty fish, egg yolks, cheese, beef liver, and some mushrooms. [14]
  • Iodine – Iodine is critical to pregnancy and fetal development. It’s also a critical component of certain thyroid hormones, which help regulate metabolic activity. Many crops contain iodine, since dirt is rich in the mineral. That said, most iodine-rich foods are actually relatively low in iodine. These include seaweed, fish, shellfish, dairy, eggs, beef liver, chicken, and some baby formulas. Sometimes, it’s also added to salt seasonings. [15]
  • Folate – Folate is a type of B vitamin, vitamin B9. We need daily doses of iodine to create new cells. Like iodine, it’s also critical to pregnancy, specifically to fetal brain and spinal development. Including plenty of leafy green vegetables, beans, peas, nuts, oranges, lemons, bananas, melons, and strawberries in your meals can help bolster your diet with folate. [16]
  • Zinc – Zinc, a vital trace mineral, plays a pivotal role in numerous physiological processes. It serves as a catalyst for over 300 enzymes, supporting functions ranging from immune response to DNA synthesis. Zinc's immune-boosting properties aid in defending against infections and facilitating wound healing. It also contributes to optimal growth and cognitive development, making it essential for children and adolescents. Zinc can be found in meat, dairy, nuts, and whole grains. [17]

Bolster Your Diet With Everlywell

While both are essential, the difference between macronutrients vs. micronutrients comes down to their quantities and the roles they play in the body. Macronutrients are required in larger amounts and provide the energy necessary for bodily functions and physical activities. These include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

On the other hand, micronutrients are needed in smaller quantities and are crucial for various biochemical processes, supporting overall health. Micronutrients consist of vitamins and minerals, aiding in everything from immune function and bone health to enzyme activity and cellular communication. In essence, macronutrients provide energy, while micronutrients ensure the efficiency and vitality of bodily functions.

To fortify your diet with the essential nutrients your body needs, stock your pantry with a Multivitamin Gummy from Everlywell. Each gummy contains nine essential vitamins, as well as iodine and zinc minerals. They work to encourage a well-rounded eating regimen, bolster the immune system, and enhance overall well-being.

And if you’re questioning how to approach your nutritional health, schedule a telehealth visit with one of our healthcare providers to discuss your concerns and next steps.

Fuel your body and prioritize your health with Everlywell today.

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  1. What Are Macronutrients and Micronutrients? Cleveland Clinic. Published October 5, 2022. URL. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  2. Saturated fat. AHA. Published November 1, 2021. URL. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  3. Trans Fats. AHA. Published March 24, 2017. URL. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  4. Monounsaturated fat. AHA. Published June 2, 2015. URL. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  5. Polyunsaturated fat. AHA. Published June 2, 2015. URL. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  6. Protein. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. URL. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  7. Nakrani M, et al. Physiology, Glucose Metabolism. StatPearls. Published July 25, 2022. URL. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  8. Saporita, N. What are macros, and how do you count them?. Weight Watchers. Published January 7, 2021. URL. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  9. Micronutrients. WHO. URL. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  10. Vitamin B6. National Institutes of Health. Published June 16, 2023. URL. Accessed August 15, 2023.
  11. Micronutrient Facts. CDC. Published February 1, 2022. URL. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  12. Iron. NIH. Published April 5, 2022. URL. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  13. Vitamin A and Carotenoids. NIH. Published August 12, 2022. URL. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  14. Vitamin D. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Published March 2023. URL. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  15. Iodine. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Published March 2023. URL. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  16. Folate. Mayo Clinic. Published August 10, 2023. URL. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  17. Zinc. Mayo Clinic. Published August 10, 2023. URL. Accessed August 14, 2023.
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