What is the difference between macronutrients and micronutrients? Why should I even care?

If you want to live a long and healthy life, it is important to eat a nutritionally sound diet. Understanding the difference between macronutrients and micronutrients is crucial to choosing the right foods to eat. First of all, macronutrients are the structural and energy-giving caloric components of our foods that most of us are familiar with.  They include carbohydrates, fats and proteins. We all get more than enough of these every day. Micronutrients include vitamins, minerals, trace elements, phytochemicals (beta carotene, flavonoids, ect.), and antioxidants that are essential for good health. Most people’s diets are severely lacking in these.

The quantity and quality of the nutrients in your diet varies greatly, depending on not only what types of food you eat, but also the quality of those foods.  Processed foods tend to have more macronutrients than natural foods at the expense of micronutrients.  This is because processing food strips the foods of many of its vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Processing gives food a longer shelf life.  Cereal grains, breads, candy and sweets, dairy products, meat products, much of fast foods and other processed foods give you a large amount of calories without much micronutrient content – and that type of eating is responsible for most of the lifestyle diseases which affect many Americans. These “poor diet diseases” include heart disease, stroke, cancers, and many autoimmune diseases. Your goal is to load up on foods loaded with micronutrients including vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Eating a hamburger and french fries gives you a lot of macronutrients but few micronutrients. On the other hand, a colorful salad is loaded with disease preventing micronutrients. The more micronutrients you can get into your diet the better. The goal is to consume the most micronutrients you can get for the least amount of calories. This is a recipe for good health, weight loss, and a long life.

It is also important to keep in mind that there is a difference in the quality of foods you eat as well. Depending on where your food was grown, or how your meat was raised, the quality of its macro and micronutrients can be incredibly different.  Shopping for locally grown foods helps ensure that you maximize the micronutrient density of your fruits and vegetables. Organically grown fruits and vegetables tend to have a greater micronutrient density than those conventionally grown. Organic produce is also pesticide free. Eating organic grass-fed cows, organic free-range chickens, and wild caught fish will ensure that the meat you eat is healthier. It will have almost no antibiotics and hormones, it is better for the planet, and it ensures that you are building your bodies with the best possible components.  Remember, you are eating what the animals ate.

Overall, focus on getting the most micronutrients you can at every meal. This is more important than focusing on individual macronutrients. Your body craves micronutrients to remain healthy and disease free. A micronutrient rich diet is by far the healthiest diet around.

Author: drjeffgreenberg

Dr Greenberg is a clinical cardiologist who specializes in preventive cardiology, nutrition, exercise, and longevity. He favors using natural methods to improving one's health.

One thought on “What is the difference between macronutrients and micronutrients? Why should I even care?”

  1. Love getting these types of informative e-mails! I am wondering if the group of people receiving these e-mails, would be interested in sharing their favorite recipes? Perhaps there is such a group that has already been formed and I am just not aware. I would surely be interested in joining such a group….

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