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One of the main differences between macronutrients and micronutrients is the amount that is required for optimum health. Macronutrients are required in macro, meaning large amounts, and micronutrients are only required in micro, or small amounts. Another key difference is that the macronutrients provide the body with energy, and micronutrients play an important role in detoxifying the body and warding off harmful diseases. Protein, carbohydrates, and fats are examples of macronutrients, and vitamins and minerals are examples of micronutrients.
Both types of nutrients can be obtained from the diet and supplements. Typically, all whole foods, including meat, dairy, and eggs, as well as fruits and vegetables, nuts, and seeds, contain good amounts of macronutrients and micronutrients. Unlike micronutrients, which do not contain calories, macronutrients are loaded with them in order to provide energy to every organ and cell within the body. The energy helps the organs, such as the brain, kidneys, and the heart, to operate at optimum levels. A deficiency can cause the organs to lose their vital functions and result in fatigue.
Due to the high amounts of antioxidants that they contain, micronutrients can essentially help to protect the body against many age-related diseases. They are essential in helping to neutralize free radicals and eliminate toxins from the body, which in turn promotes longevity. In addition, micronutrients help the body to create enzymes and other important components that are essential for healthy body functions.
Another difference is the fact that it is fairly easy to consume excess amounts of macronutrients from dietary sources, such as saturated fats and carbohydrates. The complications of excess consumption include diabetes and weight gain. Cavities and other dental problems can also arise due to high acid levels that result from consuming the fats and carbohydrates. The risk of receiving excess amounts of micronutrients from dietary sources, however, is very small.
Deficiencies in micronutrients are common, which is partially due to the nutrient-depleted soil in which the food is grown. To help combat this problem, micronutrient-rich fertilizers are often used on the crops to enable the plants to absorb more nutrients. In addition, many foods are fortified with these nutrients, including vitamins C and D. Salt is often fortified with iodine, which is important for optimum thyroid health. A deficiency in any of the micronutrients can lead to poor mental health, chronic fatigue, and vision problems.
@ElizaBennett - I never thought of it that way, but you're right--micronutrients aren't easy for the poor to find. The school lunch program can be a wonderful way to get nutrients into kids, but I know it can be hard to get kids to actually eat it. (Especially older kids who don't want their friends to know they get "free lunch.")
A friend of mine who's fallen on hard times and is expecting was telling me that WIC has a new Farmers Market Nutrition Program; she can get some of her food at the farmer's market. Which is great for her, but probably not so helpful for the vast majority of people who don't live in walking distance of one! Well, I guess it's a start to our nutrition problem in this country.
Another difference between macro and micronutrients is that, generally, macronutrients are cheap and easy to find and micronutrients are expensive and available in fewer places. In this country, it's possible to be overweight but actually malnourished--especially if you're poor.
Think how much fast food you can get for just a few dollars. and even when they have salad, it's the most expensive thing on the menu. Convenience stores have plenty of chips, but almost never have fruit or veggies. In big inner cities, too, I've read that grocery stores are hard to find and people have to shop at expensive bodegas that mostly have convenience foods.
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