Why are minerals important to us?
Minerals are vital elements that play a key role in virtually every reaction within the human body. For instance, minerals enable enzymes, activate chemical reactions, build good bone structure, and even promote healthy brain function.
Minerals and vitamins have a synergistic relationship. Put in this way: both vitamins and minerals have to be present together to perform their intended functions. For example, both vitamins and minerals are needed to make antioxidant enzymes that protect the body from free-radical damage. Another perfect example: without enough vitamin D, one can’t form enough of the hormone calcitriol, which in turn leads to insufficient calcium absorption from the diet. Bear in mind that vitamins are considered to be organic substances because they contain carbon while minerals lack carbon and are thus referred to as inorganic.
Some experts argue that minerals are even more important than vitamins. Many illnesses that are due to deficiencies in some vitamins may produce mild effects and are easily treatable, but deficiencies in several minerals can result in serious health conditions, and if left untreated, can rapidly lead to death. Needless to say, a healthy dietary routine that is rich in vitamins and minerals is of utmost importance.
Minerals are involved in several metabolic functions within the human body. Several minerals are components of enzymes which act as catalysts for many of the chemical reactions within the body. Minerals also regulate the normal function of human and animal organs, muscles, and tissues. For example, sodium and potassium are crucial for maintaining proper fluid balance, calcium is the primary structural component in bones and teeth, and iron is responsible for transporting oxygen, in the blood, throughout the body.
Human skin, hair, teeth, bones, and all other tissues require minerals in able to form. Minerals are also involved in several bodily functions, including controlling several systems within the body and in the production of energy. In the event that an individual is deficient in any one of the major or trace minerals, the human body will lead to a level of structural weakness, internal system dysfunction, and over time, contract some form of debilitating disease.
Macro vs. Trace Minerals
There are two groups of minerals vital to human health: macrominerals and trace minerals. Macrominerals are the minerals that the body requires in relatively large amounts and include calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur. On the other hand, the human body only requires trace minerals in much lower quantities and they include chromium, copper, iodine, fluorine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc.
The body doesn’t produce minerals. The only way to provide the human body with minerals is through a healthy and nutritious diet or mineral supplements. When a person’s diet lacks the appropriate amount of fruits, vegetables or meat, the probability of having some form of mineral deficiency is likely.
By simply limiting your dietary consumption to foods that are high in nutrients, minimally processed, and well balanced with a sound nutritional supplement routine, many of the debilitating diseases can be avoided.
Today, many people live a lifestyle that is hectic, stressful, and filled with the consumption of foods that are devoid of nutritional value. This lifestyle is not good to health and wellness and has led to an increase in several chronic and debilitating diseases. Plus, the percentages of individuals suffering from obesity have dramatically increased over the last 20 years. In situation like this, taking supplements to achieve optimal mineral level may be a wise choice.
What’s the best way to take mineral supplements?
If you take large quantities of minerals at the same time, they will compete with each other for absorption. For example, when taking more than 250 mg of either calcium or magnesium, take each one separately, and at a different time than other supplements. Combinations of smaller quantities of minerals found in multivitamins are not problematic. Powdered minerals can be mixed with cold or hot liquid, as heat does not destroy minerals. When minerals are taken with food, stomach acid enhances their absorption. Acidic substances, such as vitamin C, citrus, or vinegar, also enhance mineral absorption. If you take fiber supplements, don’t take them with minerals or other supplements, as fiber binds with nutrients and reduces absorption. In addition, some studies have shown that chelated minerals are more effectively absorbed.
Is it safe to take mineral supplements?
One way is to look for the UL (tolerable upper intake level) of a nutrient. The UL is the maximum amount of daily vitamins and minerals that you can safely take without risk of an overdose or serious side effects. For certain nutrients, the higher you go above the UL, the greater the chance you’ll have problems. With many vitamins and minerals, you can safely take a dose much higher than the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) or DV (Daily Value) without coming close to the UL. Under certain conditions, doctors may prescribe higher-than-UL dosage for therapeutic purpose.
Excessive intake of minerals could cause side effects or even be toxic. For example, too much manganese supplementation can affect your neurological system. Manganese toxicity may cause psychiatric symptoms, tremors, muscle spasms and trouble walking. Too much zinc may decrease the effectiveness of your immune system, which makes you more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections. If iodine levels become too high, thyroid gland and thyroid hormone problems can arise. The use of trace mineral supplements with concurrent medications should be discussed with your doctor.
(Source: National Institute of Health)
To help readers better understand each of the macro and trace minerals, their functions and sources, we list them below:
Did you know?
Generally speaking, yes. Chelated basically means “firmly attached”, referring to the process of stabilizing a metal ion by binding it to certain other chemical substances, usually amino acids or organic compounds. The idea is the chelated mineral doesn’t break down in the digestive process. Instead it is easily absorbed, because it gets carried to your cells bound to the amino acid. Whether a mineral is better absorbed by the body when it is in a chelated form depends upon the mineral. Scientific studies have shown that the chelated organic forms of selenium, chromium, and iron are more available than inorganic forms. With other minerals, such as zinc and copper, studies have indicated there is a similar availability with both the chelated organic and inorganic forms.
Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body, is found in some foods, added to others, available as a dietary supplement, and present in some medicines (such as antacids). Calcium is required for vascular contraction and vasodilation, muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signaling and hormonal secretion. The two main forms of calcium mineral supplements are carbonate and citrate. Calcium carbonate is more commonly available and is both inexpensive and convenient. Calcium citrate is also useful for people with achlorhydria, inflammatory bowel disease, or absorption disorders.
Chloride is a major mineral nutrient that occurs primarily in body fluids. Chloride is an electrolyte. It is a negatively charged ion that works with other electrolytes, such as potassium, sodium, and bicarbonate, to help regulate the amount of fluid in the body and maintain the acid-base (pH) balance.
Magnesium is a mineral and a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation. People get magnesium from their diet, but sometimes magnesium mineral supplements are needed if magnesium levels are too low. Dietary intake of magnesium may be low, particularly among women.
Phosphorus is an essential mineral that is required by every cell in the body for normal function. Certain health conditions (such as diabetes and alcoholism) or medications (such as some antacids) can cause phosphorus levels in your body to drop too low. You need phosphorus to keep your bones strong and healthy, to help make energy, and to move your muscles.
Potassium is the third most abundant mineral in the body (after calcium and phosphorus). It is an important mineral that functions as an electrolyte. It helps the body regulate fluid, send nerve signals and regulate muscle contractions.
Your body needs some sodium to function properly because it helps maintain the right balance of fluids in your body, transmits nerve impulses and influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles. Too much sodium is not good for your health as sodium attracts and holds water, your blood volume increases, which makes your heart work harder and increases pressure in your arteries.
Sulfur seems to have antibacterial effects against the bacteria that cause acne. It also might help promote the loosening and shedding of skin. This is believed to help treat skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis or acne.
Chromium is a mineral. It is called an “essential trace element” because very small amounts of chromium are necessary for human health. There are two forms of chromium: trivalent chromium and hexavalent chromium. The first is found in foods and supplements and is safe for humans. The second is a known toxin that can cause skin problems and lung cancer. Chromium mineral supplement is taken by mouth for improving blood sugar control in people with prediabetes, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and high blood sugar due to taking steroids and HIV treatments.
Copper is a mineral. It is found in many foods, particularly in organ meats, seafood, nuts, seeds, wheat bran cereals, grain products, and cocoa products. The body stores copper mostly in the bones and muscles. Copper is used for treating copper deficiency and the anemia it may cause.
Fluoride is commonly used in dentistry to strengthen enamel, which is the outer layer of your teeth. Fluoride helps to prevent cavities. It’s also added in small amounts to public water supplies in the United States and in many other.
Iodine (I) , a non-metallic trace element, is required by humans for the synthesis of thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency can lead to enlargement of the thyroid, and is most catastrophic to the developing brain. Therefore, requirements in pregnancy and lactation are much higher.
Iron is a mineral that our bodies need for many functions. For example, iron is part of hemoglobin, a protein which carries oxygen from our lungs throughout our bodies. It helps our muscles store and use oxygen. Iron is also part of many other proteins and enzymes.
Manganese is a mineral element that is both nutritionally essential and potentially toxic. It can be found especially in seeds and whole grains. It’s required for the normal functioning of your brain, nervous system and many of your body’s enzyme systems. When combined with the nutrients calcium, zinc and copper, manganese supports bone mineral density. This is particularly important in older adults.
Molybdenum is a key trace mineral that promotes liver detoxification and benefits sulfite-sensitive individuals.
Selenium is an essential mineral, meaning it must be obtained through your diet. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that fights oxidative stress and helps defend the body from chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. It plays a critical role in metabolism and thyroid function.
Zinc is an essential mineral that your body does not make on its own. It aids growth, DNA synthesis, immune function and more. Zinc may effectively reduce inflammation, boost immune health, reduce your risk of age-related diseases, speed wound healing and improve acne symptoms.
Function and Sources
Major Minerals (macrominerals)
Important for healthy bones and teeth; helps muscles relax and contract; important in nerve functioning, blood clotting, blood pressure regulation, immune system health
Milk and milk products; canned fish with bones (salmon, sardines); fortified tofu and fortified soy beverage; greens (broccoli, mustard greens); legumes
Needed for proper fluid balance, stomach acid
Table salt, soy sauce; large amounts in processed foods; small amounts in milk, meats, breads, and vegetables
Found in bones; needed for making protein, muscle contraction, nerve transmission, immune system health
Nuts and seeds; legumes; leafy, green vegetables; seafood; chocolate; artichokes; “hard” drinking water
Important for healthy bones and teeth; found in every cell; part of the system that maintains acid-base balance
Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, processed foods (including soda pop)
Needed for proper fluid balance, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction
Meats, milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes
Needed for proper fluid balance, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction
Table salt, soy sauce; large amounts in processed foods; small amounts in milk, breads, vegetables, and unprocessed meats
Found in protein molecules
Occurs in foods as part of protein: meats, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, legumes, nuts
Works closely with insulin to regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels
Unrefined foods, especially liver, brewer’s yeast, whole grains, nuts, cheeses
Part of many enzymes; needed for iron metabolism
Legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, organ meats, drinking water
Involved in formation of bones and teeth; helps prevent tooth decay
Drinking water (either fluoridated or naturally containing fluoride), fish, and most teas
Found in thyroid hormone, which helps regulate growth, development, and metabolism
Seafood, foods grown in iodine-rich soil, iodized salt, bread, dairy products
Part of a molecule (hemoglobin) found in red blood cells that carries oxygen in the body; needed for energy metabolism
Organ meats; red meats; fish; poultry; shellfish (especially clams); egg yolks; legumes; dried fruits; dark, leafy greens; iron-enriched breads and cereals; and fortified cereals
Part of many enzymes
Widespread in foods, especially plant foods
Part of some enzymes
Legumes; breads and grains; leafy greens; leafy, green vegetables; milk; liver
Meats, seafood, grains
Part of many enzymes; needed for making protein and genetic material; has a function in taste perception, wound healing, normal fetal development, production of sperm, normal growth and sexual maturation, immune system health
Meats, fish, poultry, leavened whole grains, vegetables