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Macro and Micro Nutrients

Each week, I have many conversations around the subject of health and wellness. Through these, I’ve found that quite a few of us know about macro nutrients and while some of us know of the existence of micro nutrients, a relatively small number of us are aware of the concepts of both, micro and macro nutrients, and what roles they play in our lives.

Macro Nutrients

Macro nutrients are those nutrients that our bodies need in large amounts, usually measured in in many multiples of 10 grams, and refer to carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Carbohydrates usually make up the bulk of our diets, from grains, starchy vegetables, fruits, beans etc. and provide us 4 calories of energy per gram; recommended intake is 45 to 65% of our daily calories. Proteins we get from meats, poultry, eggs, dairy, lentils and some vegetables, and provide us 4 calories of energy per gram; recommended intake is 10 to 35% of our daily calories. Fats too we tend to consume a little too much of, in today’s scenario. This we get from nuts, meats, dairy and some fruits, and which deliver 9 calories of energy per gram, the recommended intake being 20 to 35 percent.​1​

What do we need macro nutrients for?​2​

  • Carbohydrates provide fuel for the body, especially the parts that need glucose to function, including the central nervous system and parts of our brains.
  • Proteins are the building blocks of our bodies, including muscle, bone, skin, hair and other cells. Proteins aren’t used for fuel unless required under certain circumstances.
  • Fats facilitate bodily functions such as micro nutrient absorption, cell building, muscle movement and blood clotting among others.

Within these basic, high level categories are further sub categories, such as for example, simple carbs, complex carbs, different types of sugars and different types of fibre in the case of carbohydrates. Proteins are broken down into different types of amino acids of which there are 9 amino acids considered essential for the human body. Even with fats there are different kinds of fatty acids, and categories of fats that are considered healthy fats and those considered not desirable at all. All of this differentiation is out of the scope of this introductory article.

Micro Nutrients

Micro nutrients are those nutrients that our bodies require in very small quantities. These are usually required in micro grams up to a few grams each day. Different micro nutrients have different, usually vital roles to play in our health and well being and their long term deficiency can be the cause of significant concern.

Micro nutrients can be divided into vitamins and minerals, and vitamins further divided into those that are oil and water soluble. Here’s a quick read on what they do.

  • Water soluble
    • Vitamin B1 (thiamine): energy conversion​3​
    • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): energy production, cell function, fat metabolism​4​
    • Vitamin B3 (niacin): energy production​5​
    • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): fatty acid synthesis​6​
    • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): carbohydrate metabolism, red blood cell creation​7​
    • Vitamin B7 (biotin): fat, protein and glucose metabolism​8​
    • Vitamin B9 (folate): cell division​9​
    • Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): red blood cell creation, nervous system and brain function​10​
    • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid): collagen and neurotransmitter production​11​
  • Oil Soluble
    • Vitamin A: functioning of organs, eye sight​12​
    • Vitamin D: bone formation, immune function, calcium absorption​13​
    • Vitamin E: prevent cell damage, immune function​14​
    • Vitamin K: blood clotting, bone development​15​

We need to consume certain vitamins and minerals in certain minimum daily amounts. These can be found here – Dietary Reference Intakes.

References

  1. 1.
    Kubala J. How to Count Macros. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-count-macros. Published October 14, 2018.
  2. 2.
    Ferriera M. 6 Essential Nutrients and Why Your Body Needs Them. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/six-essential-nutrients. Published April 25, 2018.
  3. 3.
    ODS N. Thiamin – Health Professional. NIH: Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Thiamin-HealthProfessional/. Published July 9, 2019.
  4. 4.
    ODS N. Riboflavin. NIH: Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Riboflavin-HealthProfessional/. Published July 9, 2019.
  5. 5.
    Engel DrP. Vitamin B3 Intake Recommendation. Nutri-Facts. https://www.nutri-facts.org/en_US/nutrients/vitamins/b3.html. Published June 6, 2017.
  6. 6.
    ODS N. Pantothenic Acid. NIH: Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/PantothenicAcid-HealthProfessional/. Published July 9, 2019.
  7. 7.
    ODS N. Vitamin B6. NIH: Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional/. Published September 19, 2019.
  8. 8.
    ODS N. Biotin. NIH: Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Biotin-HealthProfessional/. Published July 9, 2019.
  9. 9.
    ODS N. Folate. NIH: Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/. Published July 19, 2019.
  10. 10.
    ODS N. Vitamin B12. NIH: Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/. Published July 9, 2019.
  11. 11.
    ODS N. Vitamin C. NIH: Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/. Published July 9, 2019.
  12. 12.
    ODS N. Vitamin A. NIH: Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/. Published October 11, 2019.
  13. 13.
    ODS N. Vitamin D. NIH: Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional. Published August 7, 2019.
  14. 14.
    ODS N. Vitamin E. NIH: Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/. Published July 10, 2019.
  15. 15.
    ODS N. Vitamin K. NIH: Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminK-HealthProfessional/. Published July 10, 2019.

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