Everyone knows about vitamins– vitamin C, vitamin B-complex, vitamin E for good health. But what is so critical about minerals?

Minerals are the stuff of this earth; they are present everywhere. So why should we be concerned about getting enough of certain minerals, either through diet or supplementation?

Certain minerals are essential for strong bones and teeth; control of metabolism; and chemical balance. You are probably familiar with the macro minerals such as calcium, iron, iodine, sodium, and potassium. These ingredients are found in foods and dietary supplements.

There are also micro minerals, such as fluorine, copper, zinc, manganese, and selenium. While the presence of these minerals has been known for centuries, it’s only recently that medical science has begun to figure out what’s important, why, and in what quantities.

Here’s a quick rundown of the most crucial minerals, and how to include them in your daily regimen:

  • Calcium is one of the building blocks of bones and teeth. It facilitates muscle movement and blood flow; regulates hormones and enzymes necessary for digestion. It’s also critical for the conduction of nerve impulses. Calcium is found in dairy products and some nuts and vegetables. Vegetarians and vegans may need to pay special attention to ensure they’re getting enough calcium.
  • Iodine has been recognized for centuries, as deficiencies were obvious in signs like goiter, hypothyroidism, and infertility. Certain seafood products like fish and seaweed contain high concentrations of iodine; salt is often ionized to prevent iodine deficiencies in the general population.
  • Iron is notorious for its role in iron-deficiency anemia, which presents itself as low energy levels and excessive bleeding. Iron also is involved with neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine which play a role in regulating mood. Iron comes from animal products, as well as green leafy vegetables, beans, broccoli, and molasses. Many breakfast cereals and breads are enriched with iron.
  • Magnesium works with calcium to ensure healthy bones. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugars, immune reactions, and a healthy cardiovascular system. Some mental disorders have been linked with magnesium deficiencies. Magnesium is available in the diet from spinach, beans, whole grains, and fortified cereals and breads.
  • Potassium is a mineral which is also an electrolyte (which is why your physical trainer advises you to eat a banana during a workout). Potassium, which is also found in cabbage, plums, potatoes, and prunes, is critical for nerve conduction, muscle contraction, and heart function.
  • Zinc is involved in visual and reproductive health, as well as the immune system. Zinc is a key player in cellular functions like DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis. Zinc is abundant in meats, whole grains, green vegetables, and seafood, and is also found in fortified cereals.

These are major minerals which are essential to health. Other minerals include chromium, copper, boron, selenium, vanadium, sodium, molybdenum, and manganese. Some of these are required in only minute traces, but they are all essential for health.

Your best bet to ensure that you are getting all of the minerals you need on a daily basis: Eat well, favoring unprocessed food, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean protein. And take a daily supplement that gives you 100% (at least) of the minimum daily requirements.

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