Minerals and Why We Need Them

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We have taken a look at vitamins, and now we move on to minerals in our series Vitamins and Minerals from A to Zinc. There are about 3,800 known minerals, 21 of which are essential to the healthy functioning of the human body. An essential mineral is any mineral required by the body for health, that cannot be produced by the body and so has to be provided by your diet. Some minerals, such as lead, are toxic to humans.

Essential minerals can be classified into two groups, microminerals and macrominerals. Microminerals – also known as trace elements – include chromium, iodine, cobalt, boron, nickel, iron, fluorine, copper, manganese, strontium, selenium, silicon, zinc, vanadium and molybdenum. These are dietary minerals needed by the human body in very small quantities, generally less than 100 mg per day. Macrominerals are required in larger quantities and include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, chloride, potassium and sulphur. Both groups are necessary for healthy bodies.

Some minerals help regulate the water and acid-alkaline balance in the body, which is vital to support life. Other minerals provide structure to our skeletal system and promote nerve impulses, along with a multitude of other functions. Iodine is needed by the thyroid to regulate the body’s metabolism, while iron is responsible for carrying oxygen in the red blood cells. While both are vital, they are only required in trace amounts.

It is important to know that minerals do not work in isolation. All minerals interact with other minerals, vitamins and enzymes in order to optimize whatever it is they are needed for. For example, calcium works best with magnesium, vitamin D, phosphorus and many others to help build strong bones and teeth.

Minerals are not always easily absorbed and studies have shown that an amino acid bound to a mineral increases its absorption. Minerals bound to amino acids are called “chelated,” and are usually recommended. Chelated forms include aspartate, citrate, malate, fumarate, glycinate, orate, picolinate and succinate.

There is growing evidence that many disease states exist as a result of a deficiency in minerals. One of the reasons for the deficiency is soil depletion. Unfortunately, current industrial farming practices leave soils with less than optimal amounts of minerals, especially the less common trace minerals. Organically grown crops often contain higher levels of many essential minerals. We lose additional minerals when food is processed and during its storage and distribution. As well, mineral deficiency in humans is linked to the overuse of prescription drugs. Antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, laxatives, diuretics, corticosteroids and chemotherapy drugs can all interfere with the uptake and utilization of minerals in the body.

Next week, we will look at one of the most commonly supplemented minerals, calcium.

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February 2023