Trace Minerals in Our Diet

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trace-mineralsWe have almost reached the end of our series From A to Zinc. So far we have covered five essential minerals: iron, selenium, copper, iodine and chromium. Next week we will finally reach the end and look at zinc. But this week, we will look at the trace minerals we need but are usually easily obtained with diet. These are cobalt, manganese, molybdenum, sulfur, chloride, boron, silicon, vanadium and nickel.


Cobalt is essential because helps treat illnesses such as anemia and some infectious diseases; has a role in absorption and processing of vitamin B12; aids in repair of myelin, which surrounds and protects nerve cells; and helps in the formation of hemoglobin in red blood cells. Although uncommon, symptoms of cobalt deficiency include anemia and decreased nerve function. Good sources of cobalt are shiitake mushrooms, fish, shellfish, nuts, legumes, spinach, turnips and figs.


Manganese is found in the liver, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, prostrate, adrenal gland, brain and bones. It facilitates chemical reactions, carbohydrate metabolism, strong tissues and bone, helps form thyroxine, helps regulate blood sugar levels, and is needed for antioxidant and enzyme function. Symptoms of manganese deficiency include weak bones, anemia, chronic fatigue, low immunity, hormonal imbalance and infertility. Good sources of manganese are beans, walnuts, whole grain cereals, green vegetables, cabbage and sweet potatoes.


Hard to spell and harder to say, molybdenum is only required in tiny quantities in the body but it is crucial to good health. It helps promote normal cell function, facilitate waste removal, facilitates the breakdown of some amino acids, and supports the production of red blood cells.
As molybdenum deficiency in humans is extremely rare, symptoms are not well established.
Good sources of molybdenum include legumes, whole grains and nuts.


Sulfur is found in the hair, nails, cartilage and blood. Sulfur aids in digestion, waste elimination, bile secretion, and also has a role in purification of the gastrointestinal system. Symptoms of sulfur deficiency include restricted growth, eczema, and unhealthy nails and hair. You can find sulfur in cabbage, onions, garlic, leeks, avocados, strawberries, cucumbers and peaches.


Chloride is involved in many human body processes. Chloride functions as an electrolyte; forms hydrochloric acid, a powerful digestive enzyme; aids digestion of metallic minerals; aids absorption of vitamin B12; helps maintain electrical neutrality across the stomach membrane; helps regulate blood pH and transport of carbon dioxide; promotes normal heart activity; and aids the transport of electrical impulses throughout the body. Symptoms of chloride deficiency are overly alkaline blood leading to alkalosis (which is life-threatening), poor digestion and waste retention. Good sources of chloride are seaweeds, naturally extracted salt, olives, rye, tomatoes and celery.


Boron boosts bone density, activates vitamin D, affects how the body handles other minerals, and even boosts estrogen levels in older women. Symptoms of boron deficiency can include arthritis, weak bones and osteoporosis, weaker muscles, poor concentration and memory loss, premature skin aging, worsened menopausal and PMS symptoms, and allergies. Plant-based foods including nuts, legumes, chickpeas, most vegetables, bananas, avocados, broccoli, oranges, red grapes, apples and pears are all good sources of boron.


Silicon is found in the pancreas, blood, muscles, skin, nerves, nails, hair, connective tissue and teeth. The roles of silicon in the body include promoting strong bones, promoting firmness and strength in the tissues, forming part of the arteries, tendons, skin, connective tissue and eyes. Collagen contains silicon, essentially holding the body tissues together. Symptoms of silicon deficiency are premature graying or baldness, skin irritations and rashes, and possible tooth decay. Good sources of silicon are red wine, raisins, whole grains, bran, green beans, bananas, root vegetables, spinach, and seafood.


Vanadium was named after the Scandinavian goddess of beauty, youth, and luster. Roles of vanadium in the body include regulation of sodium, the metabolism of glucose and lipids, aiding the production of red blood cells, encouraging normal tissue growth, and reducing high blood sugar by mimicking the effects of insulin. If you have vanadium deficiency, it may contribute to high cholesterol and irregular blood sugar levels leading to diabetes or hypoglycemia. Good sources of vanadium are safflower, seeds, corn, parsley, dill, green beans, carrots, cabbage, garlic, tomatoes, radishes and onions. Cooking oils such as olive, sunflower and peanut oils also contain vanadium.


Nickel is present in DNA and RNA, which means it is found in every cell of the human body.
Nickel plays a major role in helping the body absorb iron. It also has a role in preventing anemia and strengthening bones. Symptoms of nickel deficiency can include infection of the urinary tract, severe allergic reactions (usually skin rashes), anemia, hormonal imbalance, abnormal bone growth, and even impaired liver function. Fish, most nuts and seeds, cocoa, alfalfa seeds and oatmeal contain nickel.

Did you notice that most trace minerals needs can easily be met by a diet that has seeds, nuts, seaweeds, avocados, bananas, green leafy vegetables and seafood? A healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables should satisfy your daily mineral requirements. However, the  mineral concentration of any food can depend on the soil in which it is grown. If you require supplementation, please consult with a health care practitioner.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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February 2023