Table of Contents:
- What’s the Difference Between Macronutrients and Micronutrients?
- Having a Healthy Diet
- Nutritional Advice For Adults
- Nutritional Advice For Infants and Young Children
What’s the Difference Between Macronutrients and Micronutrients?
Nutrients are separated into two major classes, macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are nutrients that provides calories or energy for daily activities. Micronutrients are smaller nutritional categories which includes vitamins and minerals that are also vital for the maintenance of health.
Macronutrients, as the name suggests “macro” which means large, are nutrients that are required in large amounts. Macronutrients are usually measured in grams, for example, grams of carbohydrates. Each macronutrient classes provides various amounts of calories for energy production.
The three main broad classes of macronutrients are:
- It provides 4 calories per gram. Carbohydrates are found in foods such as rice, breads, pastas, and fruits.
- It provides 4 calories per gram. Proteins are found in foods such as eggs, fish, and tofu.
- It provides 9 calories per gram. Fats are found in foods such as oils, nuts, and meats.
Some diets may classify alcohol as its own macronutrient as it provides 7 calories per gram, however it has lesser nutritional values compared to the other three categories.
Micronutrients are nutrients which are required in smaller values, hence the name “micro” which means small. Micronutrients is the umbrella term for vitamins and minerals. The nutrients are measured in milligrams and micrograms, compared to macronutrients which uses grams. Aside from macronutrients, micronutrients are also crucial for health maintenance.
Micronutrients can be divided into four categories, which are:
- Water-soluble vitamins. These vitamins dissolves in water, such as Vitamin B and C. Their main functions are to produce energy, but they also aid in preventing cellular damage from metabolic stress, and the production of red blood cells. Most of these vitamins, except Vitamin B12, are not stored in the body and gets flushed out in the urine.
- Fat-soluble vitamins. These vitamins dissolves in fats, such as Vitamins A, D, E, and K. These vitamins can be stored in the liver and fatty tissues for future use. Their main functions are to strengthen the immune system, support blood clotting, protect visions and to fight inflammation.
- Microminerals are common minerals required by the body for many functions such as maintaining muscle and bone strength and controlling blood pressure. Examples of microminerals are calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium.
- Trace minerals. These minerals are required in smaller amounts than microminerals and helps with oxygen transports around the body, wound healing, nervous system support and cellular stress protection. Examples of trace minerals are iron, copper, zinc, selenium and manganese.
Having a Healthy Diet
The vast varieties of food available for consumption have also led to the development of different types of diets. For example, the Mediterranean diet, Ketogenic (Keto) diet, Paleo Diet, Macrobiotic Diet, and the list goes on. These diets involve eating a certain portion of each food group. These diets may help one to reach certain health goals, such as building muscle mass, losing weight, following a healthier diet, maintaining blood sugar levels, and many more.
While it is ideal to be striving to achieve health goals, having a balanced healthy diet is also as important in the long run. A healthy diet helps to protect against malnutrition in all its forms, as well as noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. A healthy diet consists of adequate intakes of various nutrients on a day-to-day basis. The food pyramid, or “my eatwell plate” are great examples of how to control portion sizes and ensure balanced and healthy meals.
There are also plenty of guidelines and information on daily recommended intakes for each nutrient class which also varies for different demographics. Here are some examples according to the World Health Organisation recommendations for a healthy diet:
Nutritional Advice For Adults
- At least five portions (approximately 400g) of fruits and vegetables daily, excluding potatoes, cassava, and other starchy roots.
- Free sugars should be <10% of total energy intake. Ideally <5% of total energy intake for additional health benefits.
- Fats should be <30% of total energy intakes. Unsaturated fats are preferred over saturated fats and trans-fats should be avoided as it is not part of a healthy diet.
- Daily salt intake should be <5g (one teaspoon). Iodized salt is preferred.
Nutritional Advice For Infants and Young Children
Advice for infants and children are similar to adults, but the following elements are also important:
- Infants should be exclusively breastfed for their first 6 months of life, and breastfed continuously until 2 years of age and beyond, where possible.
- From 6 months of age, breast milk should be complemented with a variety of adequate, safe, and nutrient dense foods.
- Salt and sugars should not be added into complementary food.
If you would like to know more about healthy diet plans do speak to a healthcare professional such as a nutritionist and/or a dietician. These are the people who can work closely with you to ensure that your goals are realistic, and your dietary approach is safe.
Referenced on 14.4.2021
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- A breakdown of macros and micros. (2019).
- Dietary guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, eighth edition. (2015).
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- Staubo SC, et al. (2017). Mediterranean diet, micro- and macronutrients, and MRI measures of cortical thickness.