How Micronutrients and Macronutrients Differ

Both macronutrients and micronutrients are essential parts of eating a healthy, healing diet that supports different body functions.


All of the foods we eat fall under one of two general categories: macronutrients or micronutrients. One of these is not more important than the other, as both macronutrients and micronutrients are essential parts of eating a healthy, healing diet that supports different body functions.

Why are both macronutrients and micronutrients important, and how do they differ? “Macronutrients” are essentially the way we classify the calories found in foods into either one of three groups: carbohydrates, proteins or fats. “Macro” means big, so you can think of the “big picture” of our foods when you hear this term and remember that we need these in larger quantities. On the other hand, “micro” means small, which represents the fact that we need micronutrients like certain vitamins or minerals in smaller quantities. Macronutrients are more familiar to us than micronutrients since we hear about them all the time. Each food that we eat has a proportion of macronutrients, and the one with the highest percentage is how we classify the food. For example, grains have a high percentage of carbohydrate molecules, so we commonly refer to grains as “carbs” instead of fats or proteins.

Most foods have more than one macronutrient in them (for example, dairy products are made up of fats, proteins and carbohydrates) and various different micronutrients. Nuts, vegetables and meat are other foods that have multiple macronutrients and micronutrients, since the calories from these foods comprise different proportions of carbs, fats and proteins along with minerals, antioxidants and vitamins.

Eating all three types of macronutrients is important because they work together to give us enough sustainable energy in the form of calories. Similarly, eating enough micronutrients gives us the raw materials and building blocks we need for cellular functions, hormonal balance and so on.

When comparing macronutrients vs. micronutrients, micronutrients are the “smaller picture” of our diet. When we talk about micronutrients, we’re dissecting the small details of what we are eating — for example, the amount of vitamin E or phosphorus in a particular food.

The micronutrients called pectin (a type of phytonutrient and fibre) and the antioxidant called vitamin C are two types that could be found in a pear or apple. Compared to carbs, fats and proteins, we are usually less familiar with specific micronutrients and cannot always pinpoint easily which foods provide which kinds. But this doesn’t make them any less important.