What’s the Difference Between Micro and Macro Minerals?
What Are Macro Minerals?
In order to understand the difference between micro and macro minerals, you need to know what each category is and the minerals that make up each category.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, minerals are broken into two categories: macro minerals and trace minerals. All minerals are vital to keeping the body healthy. The human body uses minerals to complete a variety of jobs within the skeletal, circulatory, nervous and immune system.
Minerals are also used to make hormones and enzymes.
Macro minerals are found in the body at much larger levels and are required in higher amounts. Macro minerals include sodium, chloride, boron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus magnesium.
Looking at major minerals vs trace minerals, you’ll learn that the difference is that micro minerals are used in much smaller levels. The body only requires trace amounts of micro minerals, which include zinc, iodine, selenium, copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum.
We will start by looking at the macro mineral list to understand what each of these elements provides the body and why each is vital to overall health.
Sodium often receives a bad rap in the health community. It’s otherwise referred to as salt and is in almost every drink or food product. While there has been plenty of evidence suggesting that consuming too much sodium can be dangerous, there’s also a threat of not getting enough.
One study of more than 100,000 people without high blood pressure revealed alarming news about getting too little sodium. It showed those who consumed less than 3,000 mg a day were more likely to suffer from heart disease or die early compared to those who consumed 4,000 to 5,000 mg per day.
That being said, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends consuming less than 2,300 mg of sodium each day.
Chloride is an electrolyte. It’s responsible for keeping a proper fluid and acid-base balance in the human body. When there is a low amount of chloride in the body, it leads to hypochloremia.
Symptoms of hypochloremia include:
- Fatigue or weakness
- Fluid loss
- Difficulty breathing
- Vomiting or diarrhea, caused by the fluid loss
Most people don’t need to consume more chloride than they’re already getting, but instead, need to be more aware of their hydration levels. By drinking plenty of water and avoiding both alcohol and caffeine, it’s possible to remain hydrated and keep chloride levels where they should be.
However, some medical conditions require more attention. If you have diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease or heart disease, you might need the help of a healthcare professional to maintain proper amounts of chloride in the body.
Boron is a mineral that allows the body to metabolize key vitamins and minerals. Boron plays a vital role in bone health, but it’s also essential for maintaining testosterone and estrogen levels.
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends that healthy adults consume 1–13 mg a day. The majority of boron intake can be consumed through a healthy diet.
These are a few of the foods that are high in boron:
- Prune juice
- Grape juice
While boron deficiency isn’t common, the Office of Dietary Supplements also suggests that a lack of boron could affect brain function by reducing mental alertness.
Potassium is a mineral found in many common foods. It is considered a vital electrolyte and helps conduct electrical impulses in the body. It also assists in a number of bodily functions, including:
- Regulating water balance
- Maintaining healthy blood pressure
- Regulating muscle contractions
- Controlling nerve impulses
- Aiding digestion
- Regulating heart rhythm
- Restoring pH balance (acidity and alkalinity)
Because the body does not produce potassium, you must achieve the recommended daily intake (RDI) through your diet. The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends consuming 2,600 to 3,400 mg a day.
Foods rich in potassium include:
- Fruits — bananas, apricots, oranges, kiwi and pineapples
- Vegetables — carrots, potatoes and leafy greens
- Lean meats
- Whole grains
Calcium is essential to bodily functions as well. Just like with potassium, this mineral is not naturally produced by the body, which requires calcium to move muscles, circulate blood and release hormones.
Foods that contain calcium include:
- Dark green vegetables (spinach, broccoli and kale)
- White beans
- Calcium-fortified foods
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends most healthy adults consume 1,000 to 1,300 mg of calcium a day. A lack of calcium has been linked to osteoporosis. For some people, healthcare professionals recommend taking more calcium to prevent frail and porous bones.
Phosphorus is the second-most plentiful mineral in the human body, after calcium. Your body requires it to perform several functions, but most importantly, it repairs tissue and cells and filters out waste.
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends most adults get 700 mg of phosphorus daily. Fortunately, most people consume enough phosphorus through their daily diet. In fact, it’s more common for people to consume enough phosphorus than it is to suffer from a deficiency.
Here are a few foods that are high in phosphorus:
- Whole grains
- Dried fruit
- Carbonated beverages (due to the phosphoric acid for carbonation)
Magnesium is an essential macro mineral that plays a part in more than 300 biochemical reactions. However, the body does not create this mineral; it must be consumed through your diet or supplements.
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends most adults consume between 320 and 420 mg daily.
Some dietary sources include:
- Green leafy vegetables
Studies reveal that nearly fifty percent of people do not get enough of this mineral. Low levels of magnesium have been linked to Alzheimer’s, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
What Are Micro Minerals?
In order to completely understand the difference between micro and macro minerals, you must also understand trace minerals, in addition to major minerals. Micro minerals are just as important to the body as major minerals. However, the amount needed is much smaller.
Trace minerals have been linked to healthy bones. A deficiency in some trace minerals can lead directly to weaker bones and lower bone density.
We will look at the most common microminerals in the list below, but there are others to consider as well. The body also requires silicon, nickel, cobalt and vanadium for proper function.
Fortunately, regardless of the difference between micro and macro minerals, the majority of the consumption of all of them can be accomplished through diet. In the rare cases that a person struggles with a deficiency, it might be best to turn to a well-researched supplement instead.
Zinc is a vital nutrient that plays roles in several bodily functions. The body doesn’t produce zinc on its own either, so it must be consumed through food or dietary supplements.
Some of the bodily functions that zinc is needed for include:
- Gene expression
- Immune function
- Wound healing
- Enzymatic reactions
- Growth and development
- Protein synthesis
- DNA synthesis
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends that most adults receive 8–11 mg of zinc each day. Some popular food sources include:
- Pork chops
- Baked beans
- Fortified cereal
- Pumpkin seeds
Zinc deficiency can stunt growth, impair immune system functionality, and cause loss of appetite, hair loss, diarrhea, erectile dysfunction and lesions.
Iodine is a mineral that is found naturally through the ocean and soil. That’s why many plant-based foods contain iodine, as does saltwater. This mineral is also found in iodized salt. Iodine is vital to fetal development, hormone regulation and other important bodily functions.
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends most adults receive 150 to 290 mcg of iodine a day. With many food sources, including iodine, it’s easy to get this amount through good nutrition.
Foods high in iodine include:
- Fish — cod, tuna and shrimp
- Dairy products — cheese, milk and yogurt
- Iodized salt
While most processed foods have high levels of salt content, it typically is not iodized.
Selenium is an essential mineral that can be obtained through a healthy diet. It doesn’t need to be consumed in high amounts, but it is vital to proper thyroid function and metabolism. The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends most adults consume 55 to 70 mcg of selenium each day.
Some selenium-rich foods include:
- Brazil nuts
- Yellowfin tuna
- Sunflower seeds
- Chicken breast
- Shiitake mushrooms
While selenium deficiency is rare, it can lead to male infertility and types of osteoarthritis. Typically, the only adults suffering from these deficiencies are people living in selenium deprived regions, those suffering from HIV or undergoing dialysis for kidney failure.
Copper is an essential micromineral that supports a healthy metabolism, promotes healthy bones and keeps the nervous system working correctly. Copper deficiency is rare, and it’s most commonly found in people who have celiac disease or another digestive ailment. The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends that most adults consume 900 to 1,300 mcg of copper each day.
Some foods that are high in copper include:
- Beef liver
- Lamb liver
- Dark chocolate
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Tap water and some other beverages could also be sources of copper, but the amount of copper those substances contain depends on the source.
Manganese is a trace mineral that’s required to regulate brain function and proper communication among the nervous system. The body can store up to 20 mg of manganese in the bones, pancreas, liver and kidneys, but you must restore what’s lost through diet and supplements.
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends that most adults consume 1.8 to 2.6 mg of manganese daily. Manganese can be found in a variety of foods including:
- Brown rice
- Bread (whole wheat)
While manganese deficiency isn’t common, it could lead to bone demineralization, skin rashes, decreased serum cholesterol, hair depigmentation and increased alkaline phosphatase activity.
Chromium is a metallic element that has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, as well as enhance the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrate. The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends that most adults consume 25-35 mcg of chromium daily.
Some chromium-rich foods include:
- Grape juice
- Turkey breast
- Green beans
- Red wine
Chromium deficiency also isn’t common, but it’s possible that not getting enough chromium can lead to impaired glucose tolerance and less control over cholesterol.
Molybdenum is only needed in small amounts but is part of many vital bodily functions. Without it, it’s possible for deadly toxins and sulfites to build up in the body. This trace mineral is found in soil and is often present when you eat plants that grow in soil or consume animals that feed on soil-grown plants.
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends that most adults consume 45-50 mcg daily.
Some common foods that include molybdenum are:
- Black-eyed peas
- Beef liver
- Lima beans
- White rice
Molybdenum deficiency is only recorded when there is a genetic mutation present. Otherwise, the majority of adults receive what is needed through their diet.
Major vs Trace Minerals Recommended Daily Intake (RDI)
When looking at the difference between micro and macro minerals, the most obvious discrepancy is the quantity required. Most macrominerals require a much higher daily dosage than trace minerals. However, all these minerals need to be a major part of your daily diet in order to support a healthy body.
It’s much easier to become deficient in micronutrients than it is to develop a deficiency in a micro mineral. However, you likely notice a lot of overlap of foods that contain macro and microminerals. This means that if you eat a healthy diet, you should be able to get all of the nutrients, both macro and micro.
A diet rich in minerals includes leafy greens, fruits, dairy, meat, nuts and seeds. It would also require consuming less packaged and processed food, which typically contains fewer nutrients. In addition, your water source can be a valuable way to add vital nutrients to your diet.
However, if you’re unable to get these nutrients through your diet, it’s wise to look at various supplements to address any sort of deficiency.
Major and Trace Minerals Supplements
After you’ve been through this macrominerals and microminerals list, the best next step is to make a food plan that helps you get as many nutrients as possible. But, sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you may still require the extra support of a supplement in order to meet your required daily intake.
Mineral deficiencies occur slowly over time and are often caused by several factors. Two of the biggest factors are out of our control: the soil used to grow food has become mineral depleted and people have turned to more processed foods, which don’t have the same quantity of nutrients. However, there’s also the fact that some people have trouble absorbing minerals due to underlying health issues.
Whatever the cause of a mineral deficiency, it’s best to try and make up for it with dieting first. Then, if supplementation is needed, that can be added on top of a diet. And when you look at supplements, make sure you take into account the amount you are already getting through your diet. You don’t want to overdo it when dealing with essential minerals, as this can lead to health problems as well.
Supplementation can be especially valuable for several groups of people, including pregnant women, vegetarians, vegans, menopausal women and people with food allergies.
It’s also beneficial for anyone suffering from chronic health concerns. If you have questions about whether macro or micromineral supplements are right for you, speak with your healthcare professional.