Macronutrients and micronutrients are considered to be the essential pillars of nutrition.
Every human body requires a precise balance of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water to operate. Deficiencies in any of these nutrients may lead to health complications.
Not only are macronutrients and micronutrients important in a healthy diet, but they also contribute to the regulation of cellular health and organ function.
What are macronutrients?
Macronutrients are nutrients you need in large amounts that your body does not produce inherently. You need to obtain your macronutrients through food. A healthy diet balances the proper ratio of three essential macronutrients: carbohydrate, fat, and protein.
Macronutrients are vital for optimal function and provide energy in the form of calories. Energy from carbs and protein is four calories per gram, and fat is nine calories per gram.
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates can have a bad reputation. Frequent dieters believe carbs are the enemy.
Don't fall for this myth. Carbohydrates like vegetables, whole grains, and fruit, are healthy in the right amounts and are a vital component of a good diet.
Carbohydrates include complex carbs (starch, fiber) and simple carbs like sugar. Food sources for complex carbs are grains, pasta, bread, potatoes, and vegetables. Simple carbs are found in fruit, dairy, sweets, and desserts.
As a macronutrient, carbohydrates tend to generate most of the energy in your diet relative to the other macronutrients. Even famous athletes have been known to "carbo load" before a workout or game.
What are fats?
Fat has many functions beyond providing energy for the body.
Fat facilitates the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamins A, D and E. It also serves as a building block for many hormones in the body and all of your cell membranes (the outer walls of cells that protect them). Your brain is made up mostly of fat. It comprises the membranes of the billions of neurons that make up brain tissue.
Dietary fat is typically found in two forms: saturated and unsaturated.
Saturated fat, such as butter or lard, is solid at room temperature. Medical professionals recommend limiting consumption of saturated fat to support heart health. Unsaturated fat, like oil, is liquid at room temperature and often used to replace saturated fat in your diet.
Other common forms of fat include triglycerides. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood and fat cell tissues. When you eat, unused calories are converted to triglycerides and stored in fat cells. When your body needs energy, hormones cause the release of triglycerides from fat cells so your body can use it for energy.
What is cholesterol?
The infamous cholesterol is another surprisingly significant contributor to the health of your cells. Cholesterol tends to be thought of as fat but is a waxy substance that belongs to the steroid family (though it is not a steroid itself).
Cholesterol helps your body produce cell membranes and certain hormones like vitamin D, estrogen, and testosterone while supporting cell structures.
What are proteins?
In contrast to fat, protein provides just four calories per gram. Protein contributes to the body's structural foundations.
Proteins are large, complex molecules in the body with multiple functions in the cell. They are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body's tissues and organs.
Proteins are made of 20 different amino acids combined in multiple ways to produce specific proteins your body needs, such as hormones, enzymes, antibodies, muscle, skin, hair, and nails.
Is water a macronutrient?
H2O is naturally occurring within the human body and void of actual nutritional content. So is water a macronutrient?
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, water is a macronutrient and is needed in large amounts. Water suspends water-soluble nutrients for your system's benefit. And while it contains no nutrients or calories, hydration is a key component of health and helps all organs function.
How do I calculate my macros?
According to the AMDR (Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges), macronutrients are best calculated by age. Follow this brief guide to calculate your macros:
Consult a licensed dietitian to determine your ideal caloric intake, as individual needs will vary.
The acceptable range for carb intake is 45-65% of your total calories.
The acceptable range for fat intake is 20-35% of your total calories.
The acceptable range for protein intake is 10-35% of your total calories.
Your body is always shifting and adapting to find balance. Give your body and your cells nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, unsaturated fat, and dairy (or fortified dairy alternatives).
What is a micronutrient?
Micronutrients consist of vitamins and minerals and must be consumed in adequate quantities. With some exceptions, the human body is unable to produce them in ideal amounts.
Vitamins and minerals help your body with a vast array of functions. Certain vitamins increase and maintain cellular energy, thus supporting multiple organ systems. Minerals like iron help regulate motor and cognitive function and support the blood, according to the CDC.
What are the three micronutrients?
According to Washington State University, micronutrients fall into the following four categories.
Vitamin C and Vitamin B complex are both water-soluble. Instead of being stored in the body, they dissolve in water and are carried to the body's tissues. Water-soluble micronutrients are regularly flushed out and need to be consumed daily.
Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins dissolve and are absorbed with the fat we eat and stored in the body to be accessed when needed.
Iron, calcium, sodium, potassium, and zinc are all essential to your health. Minerals are easily consumed through food and serve multiple functions, including supporting bone and heart health.
According to Harvard experts, sodium helps "conduct nerve impulses, contract and relax muscles, and maintain the proper balance of water and minerals."
Meanwhile, potassium is cited as one of the most useful minerals for the body's function. The National Institute of Health reports dietary potassium can support heart health and help reduce blood pressure.
Present in all human tissue, potassium is one of the most impactful micronutrients available.
What is a cellular nutrient?
Scientifically speaking, cellular nutrients and micronutrients are one and the same. All cellular nutrients are micronutrients. When broken down, vitamins, minerals, and even macronutrients contribute to cellular function.
As you age, cellular function is more noticeably maintained or hindered by the availability of resources. Cellular nutrients increase cells' access to resources and energy, enabling them to function in stressful conditions.
Which vitamin is best for energy?
The family of vitamins known as the “B complex” is of unique use to cells and their vitality. This group of vitamins is diverse—while structurally related, each variant of vitamin B has a unique task in the human body.
For example, vitamin B2, known commonly as riboflavin, helps synthesize tissue and bone. Alternatively, pyridoxine, or B6, supports nervous system functioning while helping break down protein and carbohydrates.
Vitamin B is energetically valuable to the body and plays a role in metabolism at the cellular level, making vitamin B one of the essential cellular nutrients on the market.
When it comes to cellular energy, vitamin B3 is a standout. Vitamin B3 increases cellular energy production by providing cells with an essential resource called NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide).
NAD+ is found in every cell in the human body. A vastly useful coenzyme, NAD+ works with enzymes in the body to facilitate chemical reactions.
Specifically, NAD+ helps mitochondria, the cell's engine, produce the energy that powers and sustains cellular function, repair, and defense.
How do I support my nutrition?
To obtain a bounty of micronutrients, choose a balanced diet that will provide a range of nutrients—from vitamin A to zinc.
Follow the adage: eat the rainbow.
Orange produce like carrots, citrus, and sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene (vitamin A) and vitamin C, which help support vision, your immune system, and even collagen production.
Deep blues and purples in nature are often associated with antioxidant properties. Antioxidant vitamins support your body's defenses by fighting free radicals. Blueberries and red cabbage are particularly nutritious.
While you introduce a higher proportion of fruits and vegetables to your routine, it may be wise to consult a dietitian.
Dietitians can determine gaps in nutrition and create a supplement regimen to address your specific needs.
A tailored plan can bolster your overall health, cater to your cells, and provide your body the essentials.