The world is full of minerals. You may know some for being beautiful gemstones, such as red rubies and blue sapphires, or precious metals like gold. But certain minerals—such as calcium, magnesium and potassium—are essential to our body. Without them we wouldn’t be able to function properly.
It’s important to know that we cannot naturally produce minerals. They are inorganic substances found in soil and water and absorbed by plants or eaten by animals. So in order to get all the minerals we need, we have to maintain a balanced diet, be mindful of our intakes, and supplement in places we may fall short. Read on to learn more about the importance of dietary minerals.
What They Are
Minerals play a role in every single part of our body, including regulating our heartbeat, carrying oxygen, and building strong bones and teeth.
Essential minerals are categorized into two groups. Marcominerals are ones you need in large amounts. They include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and chloride. Microminerals are also known as trace minerals. We need smaller quantities of them, but they are still important. Trace minerals include iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, fluoride and selenium.
Keep in mind that excessively high intakes of minerals can be potentially harmful. Also, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, children and older people may have different mineral needs, so you should consult with your doctor to see what’s best for you.
What You Can Do
Minerals can be obtained through a balanced diet. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans1, a healthy eating pattern includes:
- A variety of vegetables
- Fruits, especially whole fruits
- Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
- A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products
However, depending on your personal needs and situation, you may benefit from additional support with supplements. Here are some of our most popular mineral supplements.
Magnesium is a major mineral that’s found in our bones and muscles. It plays a part in more than 300 biochemical reactions, including those involved in muscle and nerve function, and glucose metabolism.** Magnesium also plays a role in optimal bone support.** At least half of the magnesium in our body lives in our bones, where it helps regulate calcium and is essential to mineralization.**
Findings in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 2003-2004) suggest that the diets of many Americans do not provide the recommended amounts of magnesium. While foods such as spinach, black beans and potatoes provide magnesium, older adults tend to take in less, and its absorption also decreases, so a supplement could be beneficial.**
Zinc is a trace mineral that’s involved in our ability to taste, as well as healthy vision and smell.** Zinc is important for immune function and involved in carbohydrate, protein, fat and energy metabolism.** It also assists in the formation of DNA.**
The National Institutes of Health has concluded that vegetarians, breast-feeding mothers, and breast-fed children over 7 months may require more zinc than others.
Selenium is also an important trace mineral in the body. As a component of the antioxidant enzyme, glutathione peroxidase, selenium helps to fight cell-damaging free radicals.** It also supports immune function and assists with proper utilization of iodine in thyroid function.**
Selenium is found naturally in ground beef, sunflower seeds, chicken, whole wheat, cheddar cheese, tuna and wheat germ. The amounts found in these sources may vary, which is why supplementation can be important.**
Iron has a big job in our body: helping transport oxygen.** That’s because it’s a vital component of hemoglobin, the oxygen carrier in the blood that gives red blood cells their color. Iron plays a role in delivering oxygen to the cells, including muscle cells.** It is also a key player in energy utilization.**
According to the CDC, the prevalence of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia among U.S. adults is estimated to be 14% to 20% in women and about 3% in men. The amount of iron in the body is affected by many factors including physical attributes, food restriction and exercise. An iron supplement can help provide extra support.**
Potassium is a major mineral we need for our well-being. It helps our systems stay balanced—aiding in the mineral balance of the blood and working with sodium to regulate the body’s water balance.** In addition, potassium is involved in normal heart function and essential for nerve transmission.**
The typical American diet is high in salt and low in potassium, but potassium is found naturally in leafy greens, oranges, whole wheat, sunflower seeds, potatoes and bananas. Consult with your doctor to see if you could benefit from a potassium supplement.